Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quick Hit -- The Hate that Spam Produced

I love my big brother -- but I'm about to put him on blast. His crime? Cavorting with a known racist and forwarding a faulty email.

My brother is a light-hearted guy who loves a good joke and I give him a lot of credit for being extremely tolerant of others. We have different mothers and were raised in separate households -- his formative years were spent largely in Southern California's Orange County. So he's this wonderfully charming mix of "hang loose" surfer dude and card-carrying, gun-loving, animal-hunting Republican. It's no coincidence that when our grandfather died he left his guns to my brother (and to me, nothing, but that's another story...)

Anyway, I got a forwarded email from him the other day about a pre-teen girl in Butte, Montana who shot and killed two Spanish-surnamed, "illegal alien" would-be home invaders. The end of the missive proudly proclaims that "calling an illegal alien an 'undocumented immigrant' is like calling a drug dealer an 'unlicensed pharmacist.'"

Sounds harrowing, doesn't it? But -- wait for it -- it turned out to be completely bogus. I figured the story bogus but, of course, had to check it out. Went to my trusty dusty which confirmed that the story was false. I'd planned to do what I usually do in these situations -- which is to gently tell the sender (my brother) that what they're forwarding is an urban myth and gently (but strongly) urge that they stop forwarding such nonsense.

Then I saw that the person who sent my brother the email had the same name as a friend of his who I'd met nearly a decade earlier. A young, not particularly well-educated white guy with whom my brother worked. I took a disliking to him and his wife immediately because within minutes of meeting, he and his wife both began to tell me how much they hated Mexicans. Really. We're all out at a club and I'm trying to enjoy my customary Cape Codder, and I'm listening to this little cretin go on and on about how Mexicans were the scourge on the earth and didn't deserve to be here and they're taking jobs, yadda, yadda. Old, ridiculous invective.

I remember initially being more stunned than angry. But then I did get angry because he wouldn't let it go. No other substantive conversation from him other than how horrible "the Messicans" were. I challenged him about as much as you can over bad booze and techno but no one else -- including my brother -- challenged him at all. I met him another time, no alcohol involved at all (not that that's an excuse) and it was the same. Pure, unambiguous hate toward Mexicans.

I wasted no time in telling my brother how outrageously offensive and unambiguously racist his friend was. I couldn't understand how or why they were even friends -- particularly considering that my brother wasn't keeping him around in hopes of reforming him. Particularly considering that our family has some multicultural branches that include -- you guessed it -- Mexicans!

Can you imagine being "friends" with someone like this? The sheer audacity of this guy? Somehow it's ok to be racist in front of the Black people because you're not actually denigrating my group? Really? How does one -- a person of color especially -- ever trust somebody like this? Because this is exactly the kind of guy who, when all the Blacks are out of the room, won't think twice about calling them a sack of niggers behind their backs.

I spoke on it and left it alone. I told my big brother flat out that unless this guy had changed, or that my brother had cut him off completely, I didn't want to hear about him. I hadn't thought about this neanderthal in years until I saw this email. And sadly, with the arrival of this "us" vs. "them" email, it looks like nothing has changed.

I told my brother -- again -- and I'll say it to anybody else who thinks this is cute: You are lame for having racist friends. You are participating in your own oppression by keeping people like this around. Get rid of them immediately. Decolonize your mind and shed your own internalized oppression so that you understand why the white dude who is openly racist towards Mexicans will, one day, turn on you. And to Black folk and other people of color who continue to harbor racial and ethnic prejudices toward one another, and think it's acceptable to indulge white racism to your face I say STOP IT. It is hate speech and it is dangerous and you are the worst kind of oppressed coward for sitting by and letting it happen.

Considering the hate crime that just took place at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. that just cost a brother his life, do you really want to be the person who said nothing? The person who didn't challenge the racism and the hate simply because it was not directed toward you?

And finally -- stop forwarding those ridiculous emails. You are making the Baby Jesus and my inbox cry a little everytime you do. is your friend, people. And so is a healthy heap of common sense.

Speaking of Cape Codders...boy, could I use one now.