Sometimes or too often times I really hate people. Hate, like the knee jerk reaction. Similar to the I hate lima beans feeling. Not like the hate you see directed at people crossing the border. My mind tells me I have good reasons. Then it tells me it’s not their fault and you gotta meet people where they’re at and we all grow up under different circumstances leading to different perceptions and capitalism kills and you’re kind of a prick yourself and some people don’t read and only watch fox news so its kinda their fault anyways.
This certain sometime however, was yesterday [ed. – actually weeks ago now] and I was tossing the pigskin around with my young nephew in the street. Big brother (Bryan) was overseeing the occasion from my mother’s driveway. My mother’s driveway connects to her house which is out of town in a quiet neighborhood overlooking some ocean. You can see Mount Olympus from here so I’m pretty sure its the Pacific Ocean. We’re trying to get Jakey (the nephew) to catch the damn ball with his fingers not his body and keep his damn eyes open. When suddenly, this dude (tucked in t-shirt into an old pair of loose fitting blue jeans, some generic hat hiding a mess of balding white hair, eye glasses sitting on a round wrinkly nose) with his dog on a leash comes strolling down the oft not used road. Comfortable looking guy. All white and stuff. Unassuming, safe.
Given our proximity it seemed we were doomed for an interaction. But I don’t know anything about this man yet. He could be a totally cool old white dude. I mean why not right? Certainly plenty of cool old white dudes walk their three-legged dogs in waning hours of a beautiful northwest evening. This is America. This country belongs to dudes like that. (Actually, we the man, you just visiting)
So we’re stuck. Me, big brother, lil nephew, sister-in-law, newly born niece and stranger white man. Us stopping our game to appease this old dude and hear him tell us about his dog and how he got the dog from a shelter and how the dog loves to be around him and sleeps in his bed and blah blah blah. Niceism gets the best of us and we stand listening to words slide out of his man’s mouth. And lord knows if someone doesn’t do something they’ll just keep sliding out. We wait too long. Too many nods of the head and reaffirming “mmm hmmm”s and polite questions. Active listening wasted on a piece of bread.
He eventually gets around to explaining to us that the dog has 3 legs now because its from Iraq. And the dog was found in Iraq in a river. Why? asks my nephew innocently enough. Because they are bad people, stranger white man says, and he lost his leg so they threw him in the river. He says this real casual and amidst saying some other less crappy stuff. I’m aghast. Like in a breathtaking way. The amount of arrogance required to casually slip in racist certainties is something to behold.
You know that word unpacking that people use for talking about privilege and oppression. I sit there and look at him and I wonder how long would it take to unpack with this white stranger. How much dumb moldy shit does this guy carry around? Just decades of misinformation and unchecked discrimination. And really why do I find it so much easier to ignore him and let him keep walking so proudly and ignorantly around the neighborhood? He tells us he and the dog are self-appointed neighborhood watch. They look out for us.
Thank heaven my moms partner Connie sees whats happening from the window. Knowingly she sends Gloria out to tell us dinner is ready when it’s not she just knows that that dude talks too much. We are saved for the time being. But not before he tells us he knows the ladies that live here. One is an Asian woman right? Right, dude.
As we walk up the driveway, I ask Jakey if he heard what the man said about Iraqis being bad. Yeah I heard him. Well he’s wrong, saying all people from a certain country are bad based on the actions of individuals doesn’t make a lot of sense does it? No I guess it doesn’t. That’d be like saying all white people suck at catching footballs just because they saw you drop all those catches just now. Fuck you Uncle asa.
A week later, me and my brother walk up to the football field where Jakey is practicing. My brother is carrying his little yippy dog named Willie that weighs 3 lbs. The white dude dad wearing a safari hat and cargo shorts next to us has a german sheperd. They joke about how his dog could eat my brother’s dog. The dude tells us he was teasing Gloria that he was gonna take Willie and give him to his oriental neighbor so she could eat him. My heart breaks. Micro aggression by micro aggression.
*fuck it. don’t talk to anyone.