Monday, January 3, 2011

There is nothing uglier than a bigot

Today's post is a serious one, unusual for me, but this has been bothering me for a while.

Saturday afternoon, January 1st, I was waiting my turn at the checkout in my neighborhood Walgreen's. I don't know what prompted the man (maybe 45-55 in age) in front of me to begin talking to the female cashier (late 60s?) about a subject that gave him an excuse to use a derogatory term for people of a certain family of nationalities. She didn't understand the term so he explained it to her. She looked over at me and I rolled my eyes. I couldn't believe he was spouting off like this in public. I thought the cashier may have been upset but no, she agreed with him! That caused him to use another term, even more degrading. He turned, smiling, to look at me as if he has said something profound and wonderful.

If my eyes had been lasers, he would have been incinerated on the spot. He did not misinterpret my disgust but rather than becoming quiet ( I knew he was too boorish to consider apologizing), he launched into a diatribe about being sick of being "politically correct" and how those people are trying to take away our God and gave his version of American history as proof of his righteousness.

He made me sick.

Arguing with someone like that is futile. I just wanted him to pay, leave, and let me do the same. The cashier kept him engaged in conversation and there were no other cashiers available. Finally that transaction ended and it was my turn. Normally I greet cashiers cheerfully but I was annoyed with her for going along with this jerk so I remained quiet until she asked if I was sober after last night (referring to New Year's Eve). She probably thought she was being pleasant and funny, but following the jerk's dialog, it offended me. I told her that question was as offensive as the previous conversation.

The cashier was not responsible for the man's opinions. Perhaps the adage of the customer being right made her agree with him, but it was a poor choice to encourage him. I would like to think these two people would not have been so insensitive in front of someone who was obviously (by appearance) from the group they were ridiculing but one cannot always tell by appearance what lineage is in your blood. Physical appearance certainly doesn't show who you love, have given birth to, been adopted by or have adopted.

I do not know what ethnicity the customer was, nor what religion he practiced, but I bet at one time that heritage was ridiculed somewhere in this country. We no longer live in isolated neighborhoods of Irish Catholics, Russian Jews, or any other narrowly defined combination of backgrounds. To say that you are tired of "political correctness" to justify your bigotry is wrong. The term "politically correct" refers to minimizing possible offenses regarding race, religion, sexuality, age and gender. To call a woman a "chick" because you've always used that term and mean no offense by it is completely different than using a racial slur said with a sneer. Use of language can evolve and terms that aren't meant to be offensive can be dropped. Attitudes like this customer's aren't as likely to evolve in his time on earth.


Blondie's Journal said...

How sad that you were subjected to this, Knitty...and on the first day of a new year. I've never been in a situation like this before but I think I would have left. I hope you have gotten it off your chest.


Knitty said...

I contacted Walgreens by email and heard from them in less than 24 hours. My goal wasn't to get the cashier in trouble, but she certainly wasn't complying with the store's diversity policy.

I thanked the man who contacted me. He said that this had been discussed with the cashier and while she downplayed her part of the conversation, she did acknowledge the exchange. The man thanked me and said he was of heritage that had been maligned.

Kelli said...

I'm proud of you for speaking up, Knitty! Good for you! Tolerating such behavior is often considered the same as condoning it. Too often we keep our mouths shut so as not to cause even more of an issue, but there comes a time when we have to decide what exactly is it that gets us angry/upset/passionate enough to speak up and be heard. I avoid confrontation as much as possible, but I'd like to think that if I found myself in your shoes I would handle it as tactfully as you did.

Sewconsult said...

You did well! What happened to being a decent person? Not only was the man rude, he was ignorant! So many have gotten to the point that they need to share their opinions. I am so tired of turning on the news and get more sniping between the political figures. We are bombarded with our leaders making ugly remarks about those "across the aisle of Congress". It's hard to watch a TV show without someone dropping a really bad 4 letter word. We wonder why the younger generation is so bad...we need to be better examples.

Changes in the wind said...

I am sorry that you had this happen...but I am proud of you for telling the cashier your feelings when you were asked.

andrea said...

it's people like you that have the COURAGE to speak up that will continue to make differences in this country; i firmly believe that just one voice CAN be heard. job well done!! and by the way...happy new year to you :)