Racism and a Honey Bun

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Dimmesdale
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Racism and a Honey Bun

Post #1

Post by Dimmesdale »

I believe I have diagnosed a racist trait in myself, based on the following incident.

I was at work at a school I sub at and it was lunch, so I headed out to the lounge vending machine for a.. honey bun. You know, one of those health annihilators that contain more saturated fat than actual dough.. -- anyway, I bumped into a black lady, and this is basically what ensued.

I got the honey bun, and upon noticing the black lady, who happened to be overweight, I immediately made a facial expression. It was a type of expression that I do not give very often. It was one of those funny, almost looney types of expressions I reserve for people who I, in other contexts, am generally much more familiar with. People, in other words, who I am comfortable being silly with, - and they with me. At least, in the past. But this time I gave out this giddy, wide-eyed expression, essentially giving away that I had gotten a prized item from the machine, like some sort of emerald I had picked out by the wayside.

In a nanosecond I got a response: "Honey Bun??!" she rejoined enthusiastically. And I, in my ponderous thoughtfulness, tempered my enthusiasm with replying "I shouldn't be eating this, but I suppose this time, why not...." I trailed off like that, as I was going to the microwave to zap my luxurious pastry.

And that was it. I do not recall anything more after that. Except it dawned on me in less than 30 seconds that I had done something racist. Or did I?

If it was anyone other than a fat black woman, would I have, with such intrepidity, indulged such an impression? It is possible. But then, with her, it seems it was virtually inevitable, or at least, highly more likely. This is based in part on my experiences with other black people, seeing certain of their ways of life and habits and such. I formed a generalization in my mind that many black people at least do have poorer diets, say, and that this is pretty much to be expected in the inner city where good food isn't all that easy to come by. Though I was working in a suburb. Perhaps this lady did not in her heart of hearts appreciate the joke. Though I think, looking on the brighter side, she may have -- as simply a testament to the absurdity of life. Life is absurd, and food is an integral part of that absurdity. We all have I think at some point joked about fast food (McDonalds immediately comes to mind) and there shouldn't be, to my eye, all that much wrong with it. A honey bun is a honey bun is a honey bun, and its deeper meaning may reside in the fact that sometimes, at the end of a stressful laborious day, you just want to indulge in a nice, sweet, cheap treat, and that this is, itself, a type of grace, a type of.. innocent laughter.

What was really inexcusable however, was my last remark. It was a cold remark, shutting down any comedic relief generated by the honey bun. It was essentially saying, "but no.... I am better than this, I am in fact better than YOU.... for I do not really need this honey bun, but am aloof from it, residing on a Mountain Peak in the Caucasus which you have no right to be on. I am endeavoring, after all, to plant my White Flag there. Who are you to intrude?" That may be a very uncharitable reading of it, but I think in some sense that's where the rub is. Somewhere, in that location. That is the callous effect of my end remark, appearing that way at least if not meant so. It was off-putting, and not at all in keeping with the pretended warmth of my exchange.

So was I really racist? Perhaps I myself will never know. What I do know however is that it had all the appearance of racism, with none of the intended malice on my part. It simply looked and, in retrospect, felt bad. Off-putting.

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Re: Racism and a Honey Bun

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Post by Purple Knight »

You drew a conclusion based on statistics and what you could observe, that this person was likely to indulge in this particular thing with you. You were also looking for a connection, not an exclusion. You were also correct. I honestly couldn't say. If we ruled out these sorts of statistical conclusions with race we'd probably be fine, but we certainly couldn't survive or function if we did it with everything. And then there's the messy question of whether ignoring that chance for a connection because she was black (which is what you'd have been doing) was more racist. It's possible that both options are racist.

What I can say is that I absolutely despise those honey buns. My wife likes them. She gave me a piece (I believe it was one of the frosted ones) and at first it tasted fine, but as I chewed it I came to realise it was made of a lump of preserved tar such as that prehistoric animals fall into, which had been cooked into a thick bubbling goo with prodigious quantities of leaky bird excrement and six thneeds, then left to dry in the sun where flies could lay eggs in it and subsequently rehydrated with equal parts toothpaste, quinine water, and juice from that huge mushroom in Fry's shower. I had to spit it out. It actually triggered a gag reflex. It's by far the worst but I get the same from twinkies, those horrid Hostess cakes, and little debbies. As far as I know I'm the only one. My reaction to your found-a-gem look would have been disgust.

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Re: Racism and a Honey Bun

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Post by Purple Knight »

I've thought about this some more and I think it's important especially to emphasise that there's no law that says you get a non-racist option. No one is entitled to that. So yes, it's possible that it's simultaneously racist to judge that someone who is fat and black is likely to want a honey bun, and also racist to fail to act upon your correct judgment and not take an opportunity for a connection, specifically because the person you made the judgment about was black.

This is one objection I hear from racists: The game is "rigged" - every option is wrong.

We need to understand that this is not a valid objection. Yes, both options can be racist. Sometimes you may be trapped in a bad situation and have no permissible option. This is not new; this is the root of the age-old saying lesser of two evils. And the fact that the other option was also wrong does not excuse the wrong you chose. You still chose to do wrong. You are still liable for the wrong you chose to commit. If you're ever in a situation where you must murder one person to save ten, you are going to have to choose which horrible thing you want to happen. Doing nothing doesn't excuse anything.

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