Is it Soda or Pop? When Racism Isn’t Confronted

Is it Soda or Pop? When Racism Isn't Confronted

Is it Soda or Pop?

Today I had a realization. My family has done nothing to stop my brother’s racism. They, in fact, have let it go so often that it’s not even a second thought to them.

Over the summer, my grandparents, my cousin, Kristin, and her wife, Erica, arrived at my parents’ house from South Carolina to visit for a week. It was on my Papa’s bucket list… though, really, it was just an excuse for my grandmother to get a dog. My grandparents aren’t great people. They are needy, sexist, and love to “tease.” Though don’t you dare give it back, that would be just mean and earn you several days of being ignored. They are rude to waitstaff, and occasionally racist. I have to remind myself often that they are people of their era.

My cousin, Kristin, and her wife, Erica, are great people and have been enjoyable to have visit. They just found out they are eight weeks pregnant and Erica is very nervous for Kristin.

Today is Sunday, July 9 and tomorrow is my grandmother’s birthday. She’s always been very concerned about appearances and having attention on her. She’d cry if the appropriate attention wasn’t given to her, so we threw a small family celebration together. It wasn’t much, but it’d give the appropriate attention my grandmother seeks. My parents, grandparents, Kristin & Erica, both of my brothers and their children, and Brandon’s wife, Amanda all came. Ben’s wife, Steph, stayed home.

Brandon, my oldest brother, can be quite an ass and knows just what buttons to push, especially my buttons. He’d already made some rude comments about Ben’s wife, Steph, who he strongly dislikes. Neither of them has made an effort to get along. Brandon thinks Steph is stuck up. Steph thinks Brandon is an angry asshole. She’s not wrong. The comments are always made when Ben isn’t around so I try to stand up for Steph. She is family and while she rarely comes to family events anymore, a whole other story, I still care for her.

Despite that uncomfortable moment, the rest of the day was going decently well. Around four this afternoon, after several relaxed hours and on Brandon’s part, several beers later, Brandon made a racist comment. It was an unnecessary comment, one out of nowhere.

“Papa, when did you leave the foundation?” Ben, a lawyer, asked my grandpa.

They talked for several minutes, and I mostly ignored the conversation and played on my phone. Several minutes later, I pause and listen when I hear “Oooh pri had about 60% blacks there,” coming from my grandpa.

“Did you have to learn to talk XXX?” Brandon laughed, but I couldn’t hear any other sounds. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you what it was he said at this point.

I’m not actually sure if anyone else laughed or if Brandon was the only one. I wasn’t surprised by it. I’ve heard Brandon make comments like that before, but I couldn’t not say anything.

It took me a second to process, I must have had a look on my face. “What the fuck? What?”

He knows exactly what my face is saying.

“Brandon, that’s not okay to say. It’s racist.”

“Shut the fuck up. It is not. Don’t be a retard.”

I was furious, especially because no one else said anything. How could everyone be okay with the words he chose to use? Especially my mother, who claims to be progressive herself, fighting against racism, sexism, and homophobia and yet…here she was not saying anything to Brandon about his choice of words.

I sat there for a second only to hear my grandmother say “Glen, you should tell Libby that story about the black man who was so rude to you at work. You know, that was pretty racist of him.”

Are you kidding me!? Like this somehow makes Brandon’s racist comment okay? Two wrongs never made a right, and a black person possibly, though probably not, being racist to my grandpa makes Brandon’s comment okay?

I couldn’t sit there and not be rude or freak out. I got up and said “Ya know, I’ve had enough,” and I walked away.

I stayed away for the next almost two hours. No one came up to me. No one said I was right and he was wrong. Not even tonight. Not even when we got home. Not even four hours later when my mom accused me of being in “a bad mood” and wondering if I was going to continue my bad mood tomorrow.

“Why would I be in a bad mood?”

“I don’t know,” …she doesn’t know? Really?

 

How could nothing be said about it? How could my mom continue to allow Brandon to talk that way? Because it was easier? It wouldn’t cause problems? She didn’t want to ruin a good day? But how can allowing that language make life easier?

In the United States, we pride ourselves on being progressive. We ended slavery and we are the land of the free, home of the brave.

Many believe the southern states are the only racist part of our country, and even then, it’s not really racist. In all the other states, we like to think that we aren’t racist. The north helped free the slaves, after all.

But the north is sneaky.

We make jokes. Racist jokes. Sexist jokes. Homophobic Jokes. Rape jokes.

“Jeeze, calm down, it’s just a joke!”

“Don’t be so crazy.”

“Don’t be a bitch.”

“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”

It’s just a joke.

But it’s not really. It’s the same thing, no matter what you call it.