Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Musical Monday: Your Racist Friend

The Magpie has been in touch with one of her friends from home, a girl I’ll call the Robin. The Robin is an outgoing, cheerful young lady, all Rainbows and Unicorns, who evidently got socked with her own case of The Second Week Blues at her college. She also had an experience that made me think of this great song from They Might Be Giants (3 minutes, no video so to speak):

The Robin has been having a bit of trouble finding her way at her college, it seems. Stuck with a roommate who alternates between niceness and not, and being in the unusual position of not really connecting with anyone, she’s a little desperate to make friends, but at least it seems like her decision-making is good, as we shall see.

The Robin recently spied a fellow who made an unusual sartorial decision: he sported a bow tie with a pair of suspenders. An odd choice for a teenager, but the Robin took a chance; she approached, and opened with the conversational gambit, “Bow ties are cool.”

Her guess was correct: the young man was a Whovian, i.e., a fan of Doctor Who, and she found someone to nerd out with. She must have been ecstatic, must have felt as if she was finally connecting with someone, that maybe she was in the process of building a potential friend. Finally. Rainbows and Unicorns are back!

And then the conversation continued, and the rainbows and unicorns became rainstorms and minotaurs.

According to the Magpie, as the Robin continued her conversation with her fellow Whovian, it became increasingly clear he was, in fact, racist. We didn’t hear all the details,and I won’t repeat the particularly egregious thing he said as relayed to us, but it was a doozy. The Robin even tried to give the guy some room to wiggle out and show himself to be better than that. He made a rather broad statement, to which she said, “In YOUR experience?” Nope. He was not basing his beliefs on any direct experience of his own. If he had, then perhaps he could have been argued with; perhaps he could have seen that her direct experiences undermined his beliefs. Maybe he could have seen her point of view, and been more willing to change his own. Instead, he was merely parroting some belief that came to him from somewhere. I’m not one for blaming parents for everything (as a parent, I can’t afford to do that, hah hah), but I believe that’s where most of these beliefs come from. At any rate, that was enough for the Robin. She told him off and walked away, upset and angry, still friendless, but better off in this case.

“Everyone’s a little bit racist,” sing the puppets in the musical, Avenue Q, and I suppose there’s a grain of truth to it (and I grudgingly admit it exists in me, too, though I do my best to work past it and stamp it out). Not to use biology as an excuse for abhorrent behavior, but maybe there’s some deep-seated survival instinct that makes us inherently mistrust people who look or act differently that we do. Or maybe it’s purely society that’s done it, I don’t know. I do know it’s better than when I was a kid, and it’s certainly better than 50, 60, or 100 years ago. Sadly, it’s still out there, and it’s especially disappointing to hear coming from one so young.

8 Responses

  1. Yeah, it's still out there just as sexism is. At least the general assumptions being made 50 years ago seem ridiculous to the vast majority of people.

  2. I almost expect it from older generations but it's a shame that it continues to survive and thrive in younger generations. Hopefully she will find some good friends there!

  3. Awh, I hate it when you think someone is friend-material, and then you get to know them and they're not so great after all. Must have been a very disappointing experience for the Robin. What a shame. Racism is such a dumb and ignorant thing, but I'll agree that everyone is a little racist, subconsciously. Why can't we just all be pandas? Black, white and Asian… Then the world would be at peace.

  4. That's awful! I find kids are rarely racists. So sad to find one who is. *sigh* Good for the Robin for telling him off and moving on. I hope things will look up for her soon!

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