Ever seen that TV show, some ABC special I think, called What Would You Do? They set up these really crazy, often disturbing scenarios where people are being harassed, or are doing the harassing, or are in need of some type of assistance, while the cameras watch the reactions of the people around them.
Well Shaun and I love this show-although I think they may be running out of ideas because the last episode showed scenarios that I thought were pretty stupid. Anyway, I was in Target a few days ago waiting in the check out line when a lady in front of me struck up a conversation. She was a well dressed, middle-aged white woman (this detail is relevant to the story) who began talking to me about the baby (Savannah) and her own kids. It was just the regular small talk you’d have with a complete stranger.
Well then this other lady walks by with three kids who were clearly misbehaving. The stranger I’m talking to allows her gaze to follow the other lady as she struggles to get the kids under control. I must say that I had already noticed the lady earlier in the store because she was very skinny and I remember thinking that it wasn’t fair that some people could pop out 3 kids and still be rail thin. Plus I remember that one of her children was giving her the blues-despite every threat of punishment she leveled against him- and how he was too old to be acting that way, and how I’d like a chance to snatch him up myself…anyhow, I digress.
Back to the conversation with the stranger in line. So after following the drama with the woman and her kids until they were out of sight, the stranger turns to me and says “I probably shouldn’t say this, but….” Pause right here. If you have to precede your comment with the words ‘I probably shouldn’t say this’, then you really probably shouldn’t say it!!
So the woman says “I probably shouldn’t say this, but have you ever seen a SKANKY JEW?” I looked at her in confusion and said “huh?” She continued, “That woman over there. Have you ever seen a skanky jew? Normally Jews are so well put together. They have money and are well dressed. That woman looks like poor white trash.” I literally looked around for a few seconds to see if those What Would You Do cameras were watching me because NO WAY would someone carry on such an inappropriate conversation with a complete stranger.
I knew then that I should say something smart and courageous-something about how she should have indeed kept the thought to herself because it was stereotypical and insulting. But sadly I learned that I’m not so courageous because all I could think to say was “Well, I wouldn’t know if someone was Jewish or not just by looking at them.” She then said that she could tell because she had a lot of Jewish friends (I’m thinking, really? And do they know you harbor such thoughts about what it means to be them?) and plus she noted that the woman’s little boys had on yamachas. Of course I had noticed them. And I had also noticed that the woman was almost sickly thin, and was a little disheveled. I attributed it to the stress of motherhood and 3 kids doing all they could to drive her crazy. I guess the look on my face showed my displeasure with the conversation because the stranger repeated that she probably shouldn’t have said it and turned around to finish checking out her items.
Now, I’m not saying that I don’t understand why the woman felt the way she felt. Thinking of all my stereotypical images of Jewish people, homely doesn’t come to mind. But that’s just it, my images of well to do, powerful, power wielding Jews is stereotypical. But I’m informed enough to not go around judging people based on those stereotypes.
First of all, no one deserves to be judged by what others think it means to be a member of their race.
Secondly, last I checked the term ‘poor white trash’ was offensive.
Thirdly, who says something so mean spirited ABOUT a complete stranger TO a complete stranger?
And Fourthly, what in the world made her make a stereotypical, racially charged comment to a black woman of all people? I am the least likely to join in on her racist, bourgeoisie rhetoric!!
I tried to think of what Shaun would have said. No way would he have just let the comment slide like I did. He would have called her on her BS. Next time, I will too. This incident is just one way that I am being challenged to LIVE courageously.
Think about it honestly. If put in the same situation, What Would YOU Do?