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The following Featured Post comes from Relationship Group 9, Thread 23.

1. What have you done to confront bigotry lately?
Mon, Oct 4, 1999 - 12:59 PM/EST

This is a confession of my lack of action.

I went to a local barber shop last week. The barbers give a pretty decent haircut and the price is low. As usual, only one barber has an open chair. Since I usually don't have the time to wait I get most of my haircuts by this guy.

He fits the stereotype "Bastan" bigot to a tee. He complains about moral decline due to Clinton's infidelities a minute after making crude remarks to a woman barber there. He questions mothers that work outside of the home. He makes thinly disguised comments about homosexuals. He touts famous Italian musicians like Sinnatra while putting down other music genres, specially ethinic ones like hip-hop, rap. This is a bitter old man, which explains why he is the least popular barber there. On this occassion he told me about the Chinese laundrymat his family frequented in Boston and how clean the laundry came out. Maybe he is telling the truth but I couldn't help but imagine this was for my benefit. Anyways I tried to stear the conversation without directly challenging him as is my habbit. I even tipped him afterwards.

When I went home and complained to my wife she scolded me first for moaning, then for continuing to support this barber with my business, thereby encouraging him. Needless to say I became a lot less self rightious. I thought I ask the group if anyone encountered similar situations and how you handled them.

2. i had one
Mon, Oct 4, 1999 - 9:24 PM/EST

Mine was a while ago. It was just after the LA
riots. I was walking down the street in Santa
Barbara. I passed a white homeless man. When I was
about 10 ft away I heard him say "nigger". I kept
walking a few feet surmising what to do. Finally,
I turned. He glanced at me furtively. I approached
him. He looked away but braced himself for the
battle which certainly must follow such a remark.
I looked at him and asked "Do you need any money?"
He grunted. I dug out 75 and held it out. He
tried to refuse it but I insisted. And then I said
"Look, we've got to make this world better. You
can't call any random black person a 'nigger'. They
might be able to help you out." I asked him his
name. Then I said "My name is Alicia. Next time
see me call me that instead."

Maybe he got the message, maybe he didn't. I could
have gotten in his face and tried to humiliate him
or worse I could have physically attacked him. But
what would be the point? I didn't allow hate to
rob me of my self respect. I felt invincible!

4. life experiences
Mon, Oct 4, 1999 - 10:45 PM/EST

I really like reading about your life experiences, even though some are not pleasant. Since I live in a small town, there isn't much to say. People keep things to themselves. I live on a very small street and I been hearing from neighbors about there is another black family moving in. This will make four families. My comment to them is always, so what. They are buying their homes are fixing them up. They are people like us working everyday. They act surprised everytime I stick up for them. When I asked them to save the paper with article of Bill and Karen story, they could not believe that she was my stepsister. I bragged to them before but they didn't listen.

People like these have selective hearing. When I hear, that the KKK is going to different towns, I hope people don't waste their time and breath on them. If people stay away and there is no audience then the KKK will not go back to that town. They thrive on the media. When they show them on the news, and people walk by with commenting, I think it sends a stronger message then yelling at them.

Alicia, I think that was the right thing to do with that person. I bet that made him do some thinking. It made you the stronger one and he is the weak one. These few weeks have made me think more than ever. I have always treated people the same but like Karen told me, everyone isn't like me. How hard is it to walk by someone and smile and say hi. Little things do matter. I don't comment on every post, but I like reading them.-Debbie

5. True Courage
Mon, Oct 4, 1999 - 11:30 PM/EST

It does take true courage to speak up. Your
story, Alicia, is truly wonderful, very powerful.
I've dealt with bigotry at the family level.
My father occasionally slips in front of me and
says something racist - usually something like
"those blacks don't have any self respect, they
move into those new apartment buildings and trash
them". He knows I don't tolerate it, not in my
house and especially not in front of my boys.

Early on I needed to clear a few things up with my
boys. My oldest came home at age 6 stating
"blacks aren't as smart as whites". Very
alarming, makes you wonder what's being talked
about on the playground. So when these things
come up, we always have a talk about where these
ideas come from, whether they make any sense, why
people say them at all and how human beings need
to act towards one another. It seem to be

6. What have you done lately
Wed, Oct 6, 1999 - 7:58 PM/EST

My father emphasized always "letting them know you're as good as they are." This has made life, often, a daily awareness battle. What he meant was demonstrate competence, don't be combative, just be and do it. It's been difficult, often feeling as if you have to "always be on stage." Today, at the post office a woman heard me talking to the postmaster. She asked questions and seemed to be surprised that I live nearby. I'm not paranoid, but I hear the quetion in the voice, the look in the eye. Always, I respond as if I've noticed nothing, friendly, informative--even when it's somewhat personal. Most folk are ignorant of their prejudice, which often is truly ignorance--not knowing- and practicing separation.

Combatting bigotry is a daily routine. I moved south a few years ago and have continuing, sometimes daily, opportunities to practice what my father taught. The "acts" are different from in the north.

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