Racism, Prejudice, and Power Tools

     Over eight years ago, with the election of Obama as our U.S. President, came the hope that racism would finally be abolished and that we could move on as a free and equal country. Yet, with every year come new challenges to our psyches and our vocabularies. Words like 'Sex Identification' and 'Transgender' make us question, all over again, our holistic view of people as equals in our communities. Back, fifteen years ago, when something was 'gay', it was simply an oddity. Now, calling something 'gay' can inadvertently upset a friend or neighbor. With the growing acceptability of LGBT existence (due to its wider prevalence and greater understanding) came the growing unacceptability of common words from our past. Are these words important to us? Of course not.

     People should have the right to be and express whatever and whoever they believe they are, and shouldn't have to be subject to ridicule or injustice. In my experience, I have often worked side-by-side with fellow employees of open homosexuality, and have only rarely encountered anyone discriminating against those co-workers. Yet, some homosexuals often do still struggle with discrimination. Oftentimes, those who struggle are the ones more in-line with the stereotypical image of their identities. The overweight, high-pitched voice of a rosy-cheeked gay man, will surely generate a larger psychological response in a male person's sub-conscience than the deep voice of a burly line-backer shaped lesbian. Vice-versa to the female who grew up in yesteryear's  unaccustomed household.

     I don't know, perhaps we Generation Xers are all still a work in progress. I keep an open mind when it comes to people's personal identities but still somehow can't help but harbor a prejudice for people who intentionally fashion themselves to look like Furby Dolls and Wallabies. I recently saw this article on a chick who says she was born a cat; a cat! So what then, "Do we put a litter box in the ladies' restrooms?" Does saying that make me a bad person?

     I did not grow up in a racist home. In fact, I was raised in Tampa Bay, and attended very diverse public schools; much like my own children do now. Of course, throughout the daily comings and goings of thirty-six years of life, I could not have helped but learn many racial and degrading slurs. They're not something I tried to learn, just as the inappropriate parts of my secondary language study came naturally ...
     If a walk down a beach is the path to knowledge, then all the curse words are sand spurs that come with the territory. Whether their life-long memory can be attributed to the sharp pain of the spur below your foot or the secret way they attach themselves to your sock, they are bound to be picked up. Racial terms have a similar tactic, but they are learned within the primary language. Like, a spider web among the jungle of words. Poisonous or not, the web sticks to you, and you spout dirty names every time you walk through one.

     Take my neighbor, for example. Once a week, he drags his lawn equipment out onto the driveway and sets up to tackle the huge task of shaping his yard. While he sets each tool on the drive I can't help but notice how clean and organized he keeps everything. For a moment, I am envious. The push-mower, is a shiny red; the paint like brand new cherry. It has a matching color gas can, the type that is spill-proof. His weed whacker is the color of a freshly picked pumpkin. The orange of the Husqvarna is clean and streak free. Not a spot of rust would be found there during a white glove inspection. There is also a hedge trimmer. The John Deere is something to admire. Its blades sharp and its body pristine; coated in reflective olive green. The sight and sound of the job's procession can only be described as peaceful and thought-out. I enjoy it while it lasts because I know what is to come.

frustration,racism,anger,mower     Before long, my neighbor will be pulling the cord on the lawn mower, trying to re-twine the weed-eater, and cold-cranking the hedge trimmer. During the process, somewhere along the line from overgrown yard to work-of-art, the shiny red lawn mower will assume the name of a lazy person, the weed-eater a Jew, and the hedge trimmer a female dog available for sexual hire. At least a slang version of each racist stereotype will cross his lips as he struggles through his all-day chore.

     The neighbor across the street, Chuck, often sits on his front steps, drinking a beer while the spectacle ensues and calmly shakes his head when he makes eye-contact with me. Chuck is a blue-collar, black man, who, to date, has not called the law on Damion ... but who am I to say he should? Damion's racism is directed at his power tools, for God's sake. Wouldn't it be more racist of me to think that Chuck would call the cops over Damion's racial slurs, just because he is a black man who may get offended by the 'N' word? Don't get me wrong, Damion throws in the good ole fashion 'Cracker' once in a while, as well, (he likes to spread the love) but the event always renews my faith in our country's anti-racism rather than ruin it . Why? Because, in the end, all three of us involved in the experience (from our separate yards of pride) are the same. We are men that know how it feels to get frustrated and pissed off. Are we advocating that there may be a proper time and place for all of these ancient racial slurs after all? Of course not. But we relate with each other on a subconscious level, where we know deep down that sometimes,
life is just a bitch.

     Comment below and let me know what pisses you off enough to muster up a racial slur? Or is there really no call for that in today's world?

Written by Jay M. Horne 2017

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