Hello, Ignorance, nice to meet you

by Staff

I’ve met ignorance, and he drives a 1982 diesel Mercedes and lives off Noyes in Pacific Beach. My roommate had a blind date with him during break. They met during a drunken moment outside of a club on Prospect, and when he called the next day, she vaguely remembered who he was and what he looked like.

He arrived at our doorstep two days later, freshly dressed in a red reindeer sweater (it was right before Christmas), with a six-pack of Michelob Light in his hand. We talked casually at first while my roommate continued to get ready upstairs; he grew up in La Jolla, owned a used-car lot, and was in a band. Then we fell into politics.

Bad idea.

“So, you’re a democrat, huh?” I nodded my head, he took a long drink of his crappy beer. “Well, you know, all democrats are either elitists like the Kennedys and Rockefellers, or they’re criminals.” Really.

“Yeah, it’s a proven fact that 99 percent of inmates are Democrats, and 99 percent of Ivy League scholars are Republican like me.”

I started laughing, “Where did you hear that?”

“It’s common knowledge and a proven fact. I read it somewhere, too.”

Telltale sign No. 1 that people have no idea what they’re talking about: they spout off percentages that are supposedly proven facts or common knowledge. Who says common knowledge is correct knowledge? Ever play telephone? Well, now instead of playing with 10 people, let’s play with 5,000. Do you think person No. 3,238 is going to know exactly what person No. 1 said? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

“But Democrats support laziness because they support blacks,” he begins again. Remember, I’ve known this guy a little more than five minutes now. “At the used-car lot that I own, I even gave loans to 12 blacks last year who the bank wouldn’t give loans to. And out of those 12, not one paid me and I had to go and repossess every car.

“But the Mexicans who I gave loans to, they paid me every month on time in cash. Now those are some loyal people, but you can’t tell me that I shouldn’t distrust blacks.”

“Well,” I started, “maybe you judged character wrong, not skin color.”

“No,” he said matter-of-factly, “that just proved to me how those blacks really are, now let’s say that you’re black …”

I had been waiting for this one. “I am.” And he stopped cold. He had mistakenly believed I was Mexican because of my brown hair and brown skin, and was trying to butter me up that way. He didn’t even take into consideration the possibility that “those blacks” he was going off on included me.

“Hey, I’m not a racist. You don’t even look black …” Of course I don’t look black, my father is black and he doesn’t even look black, but it was people like you who decided one drop was all that was needed to change someone from “white” to “colored.”

He tried again, “Some of my best friends are black …” But of course they are. Telltale sign No. 2: people can’t possibly be prejudiced if they have friends that are of another race. He had no problem complaining about blacks, up until the moment he found out I was included in “those people” he was talking about.

Telltale sign No. 3: his chameleon racist colors. I think of it more as selective bigotry. When you have to justify your racist comments with blanket statements of what color your friends are, you’re not only lying to others, but you’re also lying to yourself.

See, Mr. Ignorance, I know you wouldn’t think twice about what you had just told me if I was white, and some degrading terms like “nigger” or “wetback” probably would slip into conversation without a second thought. But when you have to watch what you say depending on what race the person is to whom you’re speaking, then you need to start admitting your problem and doing something about it.

And what’s really sad, Ignorance, is that I don’t blame you completely for your whacked opinions, because you had to have formed your opinions somewhere. I’m sure you didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey, you know, I just don’t like black people.” No, you probably came home from school and heard your dad or mom or grandparents or someone say how lazy blacks are. And you probably never had many minority friends growing up in a well-to-do neighborhood like La Jolla. Your parents probably avoided the “bad parts of town” like southeast San Diego or the border. And maybe you were absent the day they talked about slavery or Japanese internment camps. So I don’t completely blame you, but I do blame you for accepting stereotypes as fact and for not trying educate yourself and rise above it.

Luckily for my roommate, her date ended 15 minutes later when he said some women shouldn’t be allowed to work. Unluckily for me, I must continue to work harder to overcome the “proven fact and common knowledge” that ignorance still holds over me.

Tracina Travis is an English senior and writes a biweekly Thursday column. Her e-mail address is travis@mail.sdsu.edu.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email