The drive down to Georgia
was thankfully uneventful. The lady, a co-worker of my Mom's whom I was helping move, was good company, the rental truck was well-behaved (even though it lacked cruise control or a tape player for the CD adapter I borrowed from my girlfriend,) and we never got lost. I had to drive the whole way, but it wasn't bad; I was able to put myself into that special Driving Trance where the hours just seem to fly by, and we made it to Atlanta
in about 11 hours.
The really bad part about the whole thing was the lady's daughter and her family. They were really nice to me, and the most entreprenurial people I've ever met. It's a whole family of people all bent on the accumulation of wealth through wheeling and dealing. And the most racist people I've ever met.
I guess I shouldn't be suprised, this being The South, and this lady's entire family being well on the redneck side, but these people weren't your standard mulleted, trailer-park, 1981 Trans-Am driving, unfortunate facial-hair types like you think of when you think of rednecks. They had a nice house and nice stuff, a respectable business (or 2 or 3 of them, actually) and they had all kinds of nice pickup-truck-type vehicles. They even owned their own Bobcat.
But it seems like half the things out of their mouths were about black people and their lack of positive qualities, to put it kindly. It was awful. The first thing out of the husband's mouth when I got there was about how he had some nigger drivers and how cocky they were. There wasn't even any reason for him to talk about it, but he got to rag on black people, so why not? He was the only one in the family that used the n-word in front of me, and he was more redneck than the rest of them, so I guess it was to be expected. Right?
We went to Olive Garden for dinner, and the daughter told me how they had just opened the place up, and it was always busy. "You can't hardly get in because of all the black people." I don't believe I've ever heard anyone speak in italics before, but she managed it. Quite a lot, actually. Out in public, there was always a furtive look, a close-in lean, and then the italics would begin.
They live in a predominantly black neighborhood. It's tough for me to understand who else would be at the Olive Garden, given the demographics. And it's not like this is a ghetto. The place had nice homes, a busy commercial district with lots of new development, and it seemed to be full of honest, hard-working, normal, everyday people.
They complained about how the state flag didn't really include the confederate one, because the black people didn't want people to be able to vote on the issue. (I can't imagine why not.) They had had some tile work done recently in their house, and it was of low quality, "and it was even white boys that did it!" Suprise and shock, I'm sure, because we all know there are no idiot white people. There was the tired "the blacks moved in so the whites moved out" story about the area. They complained endlessly about affirmative action. It just went on and on, and by the time I was ready to go to bed, I was so worked up I couldn't get to sleep.
I guess anybody who knows about this kind of thing is thinking about now "Yeah, racists. So what? Get over it." I think my problem is that I've lived in such a happy little bubble that I had completely convinced myself that racism was a thing of the past, relegated to people who were so low on the social totem pole that the only way they could feel good about themselves was to convince themselves that somebody else was lower. But here I had nice, successful southern people, who had nothing to fear and everything to be thankful for and no reason to hate, but they hate all the same.
So now that my illusion is shattered, I kind of worry about everyone. I don't worry about my friends or family, but these people hid their feelings pretty well in public. As a black person, how would you ever really know about someone? If there are these people who talk complete shit when it's just "us whites" around, how many are there? Does everybody do it? They'd never admit it to you (assuming you are a minority) if they did, and their non-racist friends probably wouldn't say anything so as not to lose them as friends. Everybody knows that racists are by definition closed-minded, so what's the point of arguing with them about it?
That's what really got to me: my own unwillingness to say anything contrary to their beliefs. I felt filthy just sitting there and taking that stuff. I never nodded or gave any positive sign of agreement, but I never openly disagreed with them, either, and that, I feel, is as good as agreement. I get the feeling they didn't have any idea that I might not feel the same way as they do. I certainly never did anything to let them know otherwise. Well, I take that back; when they were talking about affirmative action and how dispicable it was, I said, blandly, "I get the impression that a lot of things around here are determined by race." That was my one little backhanded stab at all that disgusting stuff, and I don't know if they even caught it. I think they did, because it kind of shut them up. But this wasn't until the next day when we were driving back to the airport, and the entire night before I felt absolutely filthy.
I understand that I don't understand anything about racism. I probably never will. I can only talk to black people about it and find out what they've experienced, but it's not the kind of thing you like to bring up with someone you don't know very well. I wish I had more black friends; as it is, I know one guy, a close friend's roommate, and he's always out with a girlfriend or being in plays or whatever, so I don't usually get to see him. There're probably all kinds of horrors out there that I'll never know anything about. But I've finally glimpsed an ugly, ugly side of humanity, and it really kind of scared me.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Alec Baldwin knows.