Race Me

NY0207_Neely-Family-Spicy-Fried-Chicken_lgThe big news this week in golf —- don’t fall asleep writer friends — is Sergio Garcia and his comments about Tiger Woods and fried chicken.  The racist-ness of it all.  You can read the short article and see a video about it here.

Let me start with this:  I have little (no?) respect for Tiger.  Tiger has a beautiful, almost perfect, game, yes.  He’s a brilliant golfer, maybe the best who’s ever lived.  But he’s a jerk.  He doesn’t sign balls for kids.  He’s flip.  He refers to his opponents by childish nicknames.  He breezes by the gallery (the fans) like they’re not even there.  He’s above … above it all.  Superior.  Arrogant.  Entitled.  Painful.  And don’t even get me started on the cheating scandals like this one, or this one.    But this, this kind of thing, is what lets Tiger off the hook.

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Sergio, comments like yours let Tiger off the hook.  You were right with everything you said, with all of your brave comments about Tiger, before your “fried chicken” commentary undid it all.  I’m from the  midwestern south.  I love fried chicken.  I love fried chicken so much I’d request it — along with mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits — for my last-ever-on-this-earth meal.  But we all know what your fried chicken comment means, and you’re not fucking funny.

I come from, was raised in, homes where the ‘n’ word was used like “the” and “but.”  As my stepfather once said, “I don’t mean anything by it, it’s just what they are!”  And frankly, in too many cases, this … this … still is.

But even me, me with my self-enlightened ways, am not immune to falling into the trap.  I remember a long-ago dinner at home with my son where he was suddenly wearing a LeBron James bracelet — “King James” in white — LeBron new and special and uber-talented in the game of basketball.  I was serving up the salad at our table and said something about all NBA players being thugs, hoodlums, LeBron included.  My son started to cry, to protest.  He surely would have left the table if he wasn’t so much nicer than me.  He surely would have left the table if I hadn’t been falling all over myself trying to set that uncalled-for, shocking even to myself, racist statement right.  I said it.  And I said it without even knowing where it came from until it was out.  Out of my own mouth.  Some statement laying there, in wait, for me and my past.

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What comes out of your mouth that shocks you?

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27 thoughts on “Race Me

  1. jpon

    When the frustrations of the writing world get too great, it’s a struggle to keep the urge to blame someone, or some groups, inside. That’s nothing to be proud of.

  2. bonnie middlebrook

    Teri, I sat next to my 84 year old dad at my son’s graduation on Tuesday, in Palm Beach, Florida. I texted my daughter, who was sitting 3 seats away, to tell her that my dad (her grandpa), had just told me how many “blacks” he thought were graduating from my son’s school, and how many were in the audience. There was a black family sitting in the row in front of us, and the whole discussion made me wriggle in my seat, because I too grew up with the flippant use of the “n” word by my dad (and other family members). He has worked very hard to be less racist, but, as I sat there, I was frozen, with what might come out of his mouth, as he tried to have this discussion with me.

  3. Catherine

    In Italian people still use the equivalent of the ‘n’ word and I’m unable to say nothing, so I gently tell them that word is not acceptable anymore. They don’t like it but I’m just like this.

    Although I remember my eldest (white) kid being called a ‘wigger’ in school in Ghana. How to react to that?

    1. Teri Post author

      Somebody always has to be lesser than someone else, it seems. I’m so glad you speak up Cat! I can hear you doing it.

  4. LauraMaylene

    Ugh, too much. Sometimes I feel I have this switch that only flips when I’m around people I don’t know well, the “Let’s blurt out something that sounds really narrow-minded and ill-informed even though you truly feel the opposite way!” Or, more likely, it’s a something meant to be a joke but that goes far south. I’m hopeless.

    1. Teri Post author

      You are the opposite of hopeless, Laura. But I know what you mean. I met someone the other day and, in my nervousness, said something really painfully “off.” Who are these people who are good in a big room?

  5. JustAnotherEmpress

    I think we’re all profilers one way or another. And it’s getting worse what with the fragmentation, multi-tasking, social media-fueled world in which we live. Organizing, categorizing–things, people, books, ideas. Even Portlandia (which I love, btw), helps to fan the flames of my East-coast dad’s idea of his eldest daughter’s chosen home: “You guys are either all gay or anti-everything. Plus, you treat pets like children.”

    Yeah, well, I do saute up greens for my chickens, and our kids’ dogs? One is on a gluten-free diet and the other has a custom-made compression jacket to calm his nerves.

    But, at least the barbs flung our way have to do with chosen geography, not race.

    1. Teri Post author

      I am in a similar boat, Suzy. Though I’ve finally learned that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, it will be “wrong” or “crazy” to someone so I may as well do what I want.

    1. Teri Post author

      I sometimes feel like I’m so paranoid about saying the wrong thing, the awkward name or phrase, that I end up saying something much worse. Discomfort causes strange things.

  6. Averil Dean

    My dad used to use the expression “a coon’s age.” It meant that he hadn’t seen someone in a long time, or we hadn’t been somewhere in years. (It’s been a coon’s age!) I used it once or twice myself, nostalgically, as a way to remember some of his southern-boy expressions. Later I found out this was a racial slur and was mortified (I thought we were talking about racoons!), and also baffled at my dad’s use of the term. He was an incredibly fair-minded person. I’d never once heard him say anything insulting about race, to anyone, so did he misunderstand the expression himself or did he use it with full knowledge of the slur? The question continues to vex me. It seems such an important clue to my father’s character.

    1. independentclause

      I’ve recently learned that “Jimmies” is racist. My mom used to say it all the time. I don’t think she would have if she knew it was racist. I’m still trying to figure out if “calling a spade a spade” is racist.

    2. Teri Post author

      Remember when you were little and you’d play, eenie, meenie, miney, moe, catch a tiger by his toe? There was no tiger where I grew up. And I remember saying to my future first husband once that I was “jewed down” having no idea that was bad. I was 21 and had never met a Jewish person in my life. And let’s not forget the dreaded Indian giving…. The list is painful.

  7. independentclause

    I make racist assumptions in my brain on a regular basis. I hate that. But I try not to let it come out of my mouth.

    And my last meal would be fried chicken and biscuits, no doubt. Swoon.

  8. Josey

    what’s really sick as that sergio isn’t the first to make such a comment about tiger. my own hometown’s Fuzzy Zoeller made a similar comment years ago. and i wasn’t surprised b/c that’s the way people still talk around here…when they know everyone they’re talking to thinks like them. of course, fuzzy said it into a microphone. fuck em’ they wouldn’t have the opportunity to say such things if tiger wasn’t beating the shit out of them on the course. so he wins.

    speaking of racism, i just had a conversation about this book about 30 minutes ago:

    1. Teri Post author

      That’s right, Fuzzy IS from your neck of the woods. They replayed his comments over and over (of course) on the news, and even now I can remember what he said AND his arrogant, entitled facial expressions while he was saying it.

      I read WENCH when it first came out. I thought it was just okay. I felt like the originality of the story was what sold it, but the writing wasn’t quite what I’d hoped.

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