15 March 2006

A "Crash" Moment -- Part Two

Last week, I wrote about an incident that happened to me at a gasoline station that put me in a moment from the movie "Crash." I asked for input about what you would have done in a similar situation. Between replies here at JAC and in conversation with others, I was surprised that pretty much everyone would have done just as I did: shut up and say nothing.

I don't know how I feel about that: good, because others would have acted as I did; bad, because I still think it was the wrong thing to do.

Unfair treatment of others -- racism, sexism, sexual orientation discrimination, ageism and all the others -- is just wrong. And wrongs are not righted by silence.

Every time something like that happens to me, I marvel at the bravery of those people in history who stood up (or, in the case of Rosa Parks, sat down) and refused to allow discrimination to continue.


Mass Bradley said...

At The Risk Of Aienating Any and All Pals Who May Read This:
I was a fat kid, and I was beaten up by every bully in the county from when I was 9 until 15 or so.
I was BEATEN. Bloody noses, thrown into mudpuddles, pantsed, wedgied, the whole agonizing bit.
I was too fat to run, and too mortified to defend myself with any success..
These beatings, often lasting 5 to 10 minutes, I guess, were sometimes within several yards of adults--bus drivers, neighbors, sub teachers, shopkeepers.
They NEVER intervened.
Nor did my folks.
These were role-models, people who should have STOPPED evil things from happening.
I never understood why no-one helped. I began to think their silence was tacit confirmation that I was a worthless piece of shit that had no right to my self or my property or my security.
Their silence equalled agreement.
It took me sooo many years of therapy to unravel that behavior, and to realize APATHY or whatever form of doing NOTHING is the WORST CHOICE YOU CAN MAKE.
If you are feeling unsafe and don't want to put yourself at risk while another human is being hurt, OK, but RUN AND GET HELP from someone who WILL.
Sometimes all it takes is a shout of "HEY! I'm calling the cops!" or anything that will stop churlish behavior.
Often just a "May I help you out here, sir?" will shame the aggressor into backing down.
I REALIZE THIS STRAYS FROM YOUR ORIGINAL INTENT. (Forgive the all-caps; I just want all to know that I know that beating someone is VERY different from snarky remarks.)
I realize this has Little or Nothing to do with being mean to a change-addled immigrant cashier.
But it is a reeeeally slipery-slope, and the fact that that guy said he'd cheat her was really a frustrated man giving himself permission to possibly do something unkind the next time, like it was a "dress rehearsal" for future behavior...
Please forgive my hijacking this thread.
I am NOT a professional victim.
I would most certainly intervene, however, because I've seen too much random anger escalate so quickly.
I will watch your back; please watch mine, too?
Bullies beware! I'm Batman!
(I always wanted to say that!)
Thank you for letting me vent, Chris

Roy said...

Late comment here.
There is always a middle ground.
Things that seem the same are quite often not.

On the original point, a racist (or dishonest intent) comment made to me by a stranger is different than the same type of remark directed toward a person. I always ignore such remarks, and feel that is the right course of action. It is not my place to tell others how to live their life until I live perfectly.

The other strong point of "Crash" was that there is also a piety that exists against racists that often is false. Ryan Philippe’s character judges racism harshly and then acts as a racist and then worse covers it up.

If a person makes a remark to a person, that is more problematic. I usually say nothing to the person making the remark but affirm the person who is the target. That is true for just about any verbal abuse racist or otherwise. I am gay but not a person people see as gay. There is a lot of gay-bashing going on too. If a man abuses a woman where I am aware of it I will passively intervene. I agree with Mass, we must take limited responsibility for each others safety.

This leads me to Mass Bradley. I too was picked on as a kid until boys got interested in girls. I was skinny and my Mother taught me not to fight ( for which I am ever thankful). When I see bullies today of any age I act to stop or deter that action. That said, when I see boys fighting I wait to make sure that it is a bully and a victim. Fighting is a rite of passage for pre-pubescent boys and often ends in a strong friendship.

If "Crash" says anything about who we are as a people today is that we live in a lifestyle laden with so much stress that we are not able to make good decisions. Racism is almost always a defensive action against things we fear and/or can not control. I was impressed not just at the pervasiveness of racism in the movie but the intense underlying anger. An anger I felt living in Houston, but no longer feel living in a small town.

Rats confined to cramped quarters begin to eat each other.