Nothing Special, Really

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Stereotype, Personified

I finally went out drinking this past Saturday night. I don't think I had been out drinking since New Year's. Wait, I did go out once a couple of weeks ago, but I was so full from dinner, I got four beers deep and still didn't feel a thing.

I went out with Wac and some friends to a Kareoke bar in the International District (for AZ folks, it's like our Chinatown) called Bush Gardens. The kareoke was at times awful and at times bearable, but always entertaining. I even thought about getting up there myself, but it takes more than 3 Asahi's to break my nerves.

For those interested, I was going to do Whoomp!There It Is.

Anyways, before we headed home, I convinced Wac to stop by McDonalds, as I was a little bit inebriated and a little more hungry. We stopped by the McDonalds near the Space Needle, and it was jampacked this Saturday night, to the point that cars were entering the drive-thru from both sides. But it looked like everyone was being respectful and no one was trying to force their way in.

We wer about two cars from the speaker box when I hear someone yelling "Move your car, you're blocking the driveway." It sounds like they're talking to us, but we're at least two cars away from the street, so it couldn't be us. Wac mentions that I should just go inside, but I felt that we weren't doing anything wrong. The only thing that we could be blocking is the line running perpendicular to our car, but I'm not about to let her move just so some asshole can cut us off in line.

Then it becomes obvious that they're talking to us when some dude comes up and taps on our window. We roll it down just a bit and he says "You need to move your fuckin car, you're blocking people." We roll the window back up. What the hell does he mean we're blocking people? We pull forward when the line advances, and that's when people come to our windows from both sides.

"Move your damn car! You're blockin the fuckin driveway! If you don't move your fuckin car, we're gonna have problems."

I tell the guy we're in line for the drive thru, we're not blo...

"I don't fuckin care! Move your God damn car!"

We move up our car alongside the one in front of us, and it then becomes apparent to us that the SUV that was perpendicular to us wasn't in the drivethru line, but was a friend of these guys who was trying to cut through the drivethru line to get out of the parking lot.

Wac and I are shaken up. Wac firmly says "Next time, you're going inside." I feel awful. My girlfriend's upset, and I'm in a position where I can't react - the stupid but "macho" thing to do is to get out of the car and confront these people. But I know that's not the smart thing to do. I try to tell Wac that we should just leave. I don't need McDonald's that badly. But we're already in line and she decides to stay. I'm so flustered I try to order a 10 piece McNugget meal (yes I like those) and instead I order a Number 10 - the Filet O'Fish meal. I'm nearly sent over the edge.

Obviously, the issue here is that these people were completely out of line. If they would have said "Hey, can you let my buddy through, he's tryin to get out", the issue ends right there. No problem, we let them on their way, I'm calm enough to order the right meal, everyone ends up happy. But these guys resulted to yelling verbal assaults and aggression to get their way.

And they were black. Young black males, dressed in a hip-hop fashion, screaming obscenities at us, being overly hostile.

Wac and I were frustrated. We've been involved in this group called Core Audience. We're invited to select theatre presentations at the Intiman Theatre, and afterwards we meet with others from our group and discuss the issues of the play in context relevant to our society. It's been amazing and interesting, a way for us to meet people and understand other perspective that, in most other scenarios, we wouldn't even bother to consider. It's been primarly because of these discussions that I've tried to become more aware of my own prejudices. I've still got a lot of room to improve, but I felt like we've made steps in the right direction.

Yet it's so easy to consider this situation and take a couple steps backwards.

I have friends who, if I told this situation, would flat out say "See, that's why I hate black people". How am I supposed to NOT think the same way? How am I not supposed to think about this situation the next time I see any one of the black teenagers running around Downtown Seattle. Why shouldn't I retreat to my white, indie-rock, college-educated, lower middle-class safety zone?

Why shouldn't I just view this as the stereotype personified?

Because it's not about them being black and me being white.

If that was a bunch of white, Polo-wearing, collar-popped, forearm-bulging frat boys, I would have been just as flustered. It could have been a group of 40 year old fishermen from Ballard or some coked-out club sluts, but in a McDonalds parking lot at 1:30am Saturday Night\Sunday Morning, if anyone starts tapping my window, yelling obscenities at me to get me to move my car without explanation, then yes, I am going to feel threatened, regardless if I have the upper hand physically or not.

As easy as it is to make the connection between young black males wearing hip-hop clothes and the ignorance of these individuals, it's absolutely critical that I don't. What bothered me about these individuals, what put me on edge, was their actions, not their skin color. It's just as easy for someone to be white and ignorant as it is for someone to be black and ignorant. Why is it that when we see a black person dressed up like that, they're ghetto, but when we see a white person doing the same thing, they're "trying to be black."

I have no problem saying that I hate most elements of hip-hop culture today. 90% of the music is redundant, it lacks creativity, and it promotes ignorance, selfishness, misogyny and material possessions over intelligence, respect, and common decency. That doesn't mean it doesn't have value as entertainment, but that's where the value of it ends, and I dislike people who get caught up in a culture that would rather spend their time on smoking weed and tricking out their cars than actually being a respectful, decent citizen.

But none of that has anything to do with skin color.

After Saturday night, I could get caught up in hating black people, but the truth is I don't - I hate people who are ignorant and agressive for no reason. If they happen to be black, wearing a sideways Lakers hat and Sean John attire, or white with a red Mossimo sweater and a pair of Chuck Taylors, it really doesn't matter. Either way, they're still an asshole.


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