I Have Issues…

So, I’m in Idaho. That’s where my lovely new job has sent me on my first assignment. Everyone has made jokes about potatoes. I have given everyone who’s mentioned them the confused puppy look. My thoughts went instantly to white supremacists, skinheads and underground nuclear warheads. That would have been a fun game of word association.

Well, with hate crimes on the brain, I sit next to an Arab gentleman on the airplane. He is reading the Koran. My first thoughts, honestly…ashamedly: “Oh f*cking-sh*t! For the love of God!” (I know those 2 sentiments don’t exactly go together, but it’s that kind of day.) I have never claimed to have lived 34 years in this racist society and gotten by unscathed. As embarrassed as I was, I was also scared beyond belief. Then, he kept staring at me. I was watching him in my peripheral vision. He would snap his head forward every time I would turn to see what the hell he wanted. This didn’t make me any more at ease. I’d also start plotting the perfect position to curl into so that I’d feel the least amount of pain when we crashed to my death each time we hit pockets of unbelievable turbulence. My pessimism is on full blast today.

While I was waiting for the hotel shuttle at the airport, I thought about all of the horrible things I could be falsely accused of out here and how no one would believe me and then I’d have to call the Boise police, which was certain not to go well for the black girl, so I’d just keep quite and succumb to whatever injustice befell me just to avoid making waves. It doesn’t help that all day I’ve been reading Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon which revisits life in America for blacks in the 1st half of the 20th century. Sigh.

From the plane I send the following text message: “Oh man! I’m the only person with bigot of color up on this plane. I feel like I’m going to a Klan Rally. Pray for me!” Freudian slip: bigot was supposed to be a bit. Who’s the bigot, right?

It has been a very sobering day. Fear is powerful. Today I have experienced how easily it becomes a lens that distorts. I see how difficult it can be to convince someone looking through that lens that they aren’t seeing what they think they are seeing. The truth is that everyone in Idaho has been as friendly as anyone anywhere else. (And much more friendly than what I encountered in Minnesota.)

I’ve only met one person from Idaho in my life. I was teamed up with him in a small group and I made the same assumption about him that I made about everyone else in this state, that he’d hate me. He was such a nice guy. We hung out that weekend I spent in Seattle a year and a half ago. We actually had a chance to talk about the assumptions we made about each other and how glad we were (and embarrassed) to find out that our assumptions were wrong. I realized that my assumption that he’d hate me only served to justify my prejudice towards him. I wish I’d remembered that earlier today. It would have been a much better flight.

OK, there you have it. I suck sometimes too. Prejudice is funky, from anybody. Even me.


14 thoughts on “I Have Issues…

  1. If you dapimp then Idaho (slaps knee)…I figured if you can be racist (which you aren’t) then I can make piss-poor jokes about Idaho.

    Enjoy your visit because you will either never return there – or you’ll love it and want to move there. You’ll probably take the latter ya damn gypsy (LOL). At any rate, don’t trip. Enjoy the journey. Have fun.

  2. I had a mini-version of your experience today. A co-worker and I drove to West Virginia and spent the day at one of the client’s computing centers. As we stopped at an actual roadhouse looking for breakfast this morning, I have to admit that I stared in through the glass first looking for any faces of color or, more importantly, confederate flags.

    Not only were the two ladies in this place extremely friendly and helpful, (though they weren’t open for lunch yet and don’t serve breakfast), EVERY single person we encountered smiled and greeted us, without fail. I’ve never visited a happier town.

    I was relieved like you wouldn’t believe. May you have a similar experience.

    And I really do want potatoes.

  3. I hope you are nejoying Idaho and your new job. I hear that the people there are quite friendly (wink wink)

  4. @ BJB

    {rimshot} I got that joke a couple of times along with all the potato ones.

    It is beautiful out here. I wouldn’t move here because there just isn’t enough diversity, but it’s gorgeous. I’d visit again (on my way to Seattle).

    @ Katrice

    I am relieved. Folks are quite friendly here. It’s almost like being in the South in some ways.

    @ Debbie

    In a perfect world. I hate that these thoughts cross my mind, but they do. The things I fear are still very much a reality in the good ole USA.

    @ Let’s Pretend

    Idaho is gorgeous. The new job is great. Really friendly, competent folks. 😉

  5. Good luck in your new job, Lex. I hope the trip goes perfectly, and that you even enjoy being there.

    I’m really sorry that you have to be on guard for bigotry, but anyone who doesn’t like you is either crazy or stupid. Maybe both.

  6. LOL!!!! This so goes in line with my assement and treatment of diverse populations class. We all make assumptions unfortunately. 😦 We did a discussion on the porcupine and mole living together in a mole tunnel. The pros and cons and how they can peacefully co-exist. Should the porcupine change in order to not harm the mole with its quills? SHould the mole be territiorial over their tunnels and not share the space? What if they had porcumoles? Who would they associate with? The discussion was eye opening and disturbing. What does this say for America and it’s many people? To know how a classmates feels about a new “people” coming into their area. Why do they take the part of the mole and I myself relegate to the part of the porcupine? Food for thought…

  7. Racism is real and shocking even for those of us who consider ourselves ‘enlightened’..
    Glad its working out fine so far. Good luck. That predictive text mistake on your cellphone is hilarious tho 🙂

  8. As disgusting as it is, racism still exists. Honestly, I would have had the same thoughts about Idaho, even though I know better.. and I’m white! Richard Butler put a big stinking rotten mark on an otherwise beautiful state.

    If it’s any consolation (which it’s not), I think Aryan Nations has something like five members now.. and they all have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.



  9. My husband had to go to Idaho for a meeting when we were first dating. He’s tall, bald and wears a trench coat. Everyone assumed he was a skinhead. It’s just nuts.

  10. When I hear Idaho, I think potatoes. I never thought of white supremacy or skinheads. I always thought that was Montana. Maybe it’s both. But what do I know? I’ve only lived in PA and NY.

  11. Lexy, I know this is going to sound odd (given this post), but I’m SO DAMN PROUD OF YOU!

    Seriously. EVERYONE is somewhat racist. The key difference, I think, lies in how we respond to it. Your willingness to accept that you were somewhat bigoted, and honesty in refusing to hide behind explanations, justifications, etc. marks you as an exceptional person.

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