Sunday, September 18, 2011

What I should have said

"Pardon me, sir, but I have to tell you how I feel. The bar at this little restaurant is small and narrow, and when you told a racist joke to your two friends, I couldn't avoid hearing it.

You sat there, just three feet from me, perhaps four feet from that lady over there who's quietly dining alone. You told a racist joke, and then - probably because your friends didn't laugh in response - you raised your voice and told it again.

What offends me is that you assumed you were safe airing your bigotry, here, in this Pacific Palisades restaurant - did you think I shared your views? How about that lady over there? And the friend I'm with? Did you think we would hear your ugly words and laugh? Or approve them? Or - perhaps worse - did you think we would simply not mind them? Find them commonplace, routine, normal, unremarkable?

How about the Latino waitress who served your drink? Do you think she found your joke about black people funny? When an African-American server waits on you, do you joke about Chicanos?

I'm even offended for your friends. It's not fair people will think less of them for being associated with you.

I think you owe an apology to everyone in this room."

But I didn't say it. Instead, I finished my drink, paid, left a good tip and left the restaurant. Why?

It's a nice little neighborhood place; we come every month or so, and the staff recognizes us. This time, it was my friend's birthday, and they bought him a drink. I didn't want to cause a fuss. I didn't want to embarrass the waitress, the bartender, the hostess.

Was I right? Would it have made any difference if I had spoken up? What would you do?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Probably the same as you, Aunt Snow. Kept quiet for the sake of the place you know, and then felt like maybe I should have been confrontational later.

Would it have made any difference if I had spoken up?

That I don't know. My guess is everyone would have confirmed the attitudes they already possessed.

Gilly said...

I like to think I would tell the offender that his words were not acceptable in that place.

But I don't know if I would!

I'd like to think I could prod him with my crutch and say "young man, those words you use are just not acceptable here and I for one find them offensive."

But I don't know if I would dare! He'd probably have me up for assault!

But with people like that would anything anyone said make any difference?

I doubt it.

And its a very sad world that I do so.

carmilevy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
carmilevy said...

Oh, I am so sorry you had to endure this. People can be so cruel!

I'm like you: I tend to follow the path of least resistance. Later on, I pick up my pen and write. Somehow, writing about something after I've had time to mull it over seems more "me" than confronting a total stranger.

On that front, you just never know how people will react. And since I value my life, I tend to say and do nothing. Social media - as you've proven here - can be a powerful voice in its own right.

Max Sartin said...

I've had that same experience and reacted much like you - said nothing and then got home and felt angry at myself for chickening out. Why do we say nothing? It's not because we are afraid that schmuck will think less of us. I think it's because we have no idea how irrationally someone like that would react to us if we did. From simply causing an even bigger, and more offensive, scene to actual physical violence, their obvious disconnect with what is socially acceptable makes them completely unpredictable. So, like you, I just come home and blog about it, vent it that way. And from the other comments on here, seems like that's what most rational people would do. As for would it make a difference, for the most part I'd say no. If the moron doesn't get it yet, you, me or anyone else pointing most likely isn't going to make him see.

aaryn b. said...

I'm guessing you already know what I would have done...

Jocelyn said...

That's a really hard call. I suspect most of us would have done as you did--for why tip the table, as it were, when he'd only react defensively and most likey as the a$$ he seemed to be. So the point of your saying anything would have been discomfort with no change.

However, one does also want to come up with just the right quip to drop his direction while exiting the building, right?

Actually, if I'd said anything at all, I would have framed it in such a way as to undermine any rush to defense: I might have walked up, on my way out, and said, "That joke you told earlier and we all overheard? It just made me so sad and so sorry." And then I would have walked away to let him make of that what he could.

Janet said...

a great thing to do is write down what you've said here and keep a couple notes in your purse. Then, when you see or hear something like this again, you can quietly slip them a note as you leave.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. So many times I say nothing when I want to say something... a whole LOT of something!

I like Jocelyn and Janet's ideas.

Glennis said...

I do too, Spokalulu. Janet and Jocelyn can do it with nuance. I think that probably has more effect than confrontation.