Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Barack." "Who's that?"

I hear and read about a lot of shocking things in the newspapers, the blogosphere, and places in between. We all do. The immersion that I have been subjected to of horrific events and radical ideas has possibly numbed my reactions to those events and ideas. Admittedly, I have become skeptical, in an irrationally hopeful manner, that someone won’t possibly do something that stupid again, or that someone couldn’t really still believe that. Life and humanity certainly have a matter of keeping hope in check.


Last night at the Bucks I asked an employee if they were voting in Wisconsin’s primary on February 19. The rest of the conversation went like this.

“Yeah, but I don’t know who I’m voting for.”

“Well, the time is approaching. Any ideas? Republican? Democrat?”

“I don’t know,” the employee said as they hunkered over a Sunday New York Times with a picture of Huckabee on the cover.

“Huckabee?” I said.

“Who are you voting for?” The employee asked.


“Who’s that?” The employee honestly wondered.

“OBAMA?” I said, certainly hoping that would strike a chord in the employee’s memory.

“Oh.” A pause. “Why are you voting for him?”

I sighed. I usually do this before a long answer. “Well, I am not really excited about any of the Republican candidates. If I had to choose one I could, but I don’t think I’m going to so I’ve taken a look at the Democrats and have sided with Obama and—“

“Isn’t he a Muslim?” The employee interjected.

I did plan on talking about how I came to Obama and how I think he stacks up against the other candidates, how I wasn’t always for him, and other stuff that would formulate a long answer, but it became clear to me I would not be given the opportunity. The conversation just hit a wall and now there was a little fire in my veins.

“No, he is not. That is a lie.” I said.

“Whatever, he’s a Muslim.”

I tried my best to defend him. “That rumor was started a long time ago and is not based on the facts. It was created by people out there that fear change, people that are racists, nut jobs that will do anything to keep him out of the White House.”

“My friend’s mom told me that he was a Muslim.”

“She’s wrong.” I said.

“Well, what is he?” The employee asked.

“He’s a Christian, has been for twenty years,” I said.

“No. I mean, I’m white. He isn’t black. What is he?” The tone of the employee’s voice was pure disgust, as if Obama’s mixed-race disqualifies him for the presidency or, for that matter, disqualifies him as a human.

“He is mixed race. His mother was white and from the United States. His dad was black and from Kenya,” I said.

The employee rolled their eyes at my answer and said, “I’m not going to vote for that.”

That? I couldn’t talk. It had been so long since I had been confronted face to face with such ignorance, stupidity, and frankly, blatant racism. All I could offer was a sarcastic “That’s a rational way to think about it.”

The conversation ended like that.

My hope took a hit, that’s for sure, but if it is suffocated under lies and killed by racism I am dead to the world, dead to change. Know hope.


Jarrod Renaud said...

That would have been me if I hadnt have met you. Im trying to keep up with this stuff now

Marissa B said...

I was working the bar at Starbucks last week and the guy I was working with, who went to a nearby church, asked me who I thought I would vote for, and I said Obama. And his reply was, "A Democrat! You can't vote for him." and I was like, "Why?" and he said, "Because he's a Muslim." and I had to control my temper and just say, "Well, actually, he isn't. One of his parents was, but that doesn't mean he is." And then he said, "Well, he grew up under the influence." and I told him, "You should read his speeches, then, because he talks about Jesus much differently than all the Muslims I know." Anyway, I was upset, but I didn't want to get angry while I was training for the job, right, so I just tried to play it cool and throw in my two cents, and still make a point. He didn't really know what to tell me, so he just put me to work making a drink instead.

Aaron said...

Holy shit. I would have flipped.