Monday, May 31, 2010

I might be a racist

Yesterday a really nice family came into the store who also happened to be black.  We chit chatted a bit at the front about some of our summer furniture before I asked them what brought them to the store.  The woman mentioned she was just looking for some candles, so I pointed out the fragrance of the month (25% off), and then sent her to the wall of candles with the rest of the scents.  As we parted, I happened to walk past our display of watermelon candles.  Of course, the first thing I thought was “Oh, I should let her know that these are on 20% off as well,” so I picked up one of them to walk over and tell her.  But then I froze with panic and indecision: going out of my way to offer watermelon candles to the black family?  Is that questionable?  I felt like I was being honestly helpful, showing her the newest candles, but then I worried it would be misconstrued as racism by them.  Ultimately, I put the candle down and went to hide in the dishes section.  Then I thought about the whole situation later: by NOT showing them the candles to avoid looking like a racist, I was totally racist. 

Why is everyone so sensitive?  I didn’t think of that family any differently until I started to OVER think the situation.  Given the evidence, I would recommend that the way to solve the race problem is not to think too much about it.  But I still don’t think there are many people (in Saskatoon, at least) that wouldn’t notice race right off the bat.  If we suggested to the older generations to just go with their gut when dealing with minorities, I think that would cause a lot of problems.  In my case though, I need to think LESS about how I am interacting with people, since I don’t get concerned about what I say or do until I really start to analyze the situation.  And when you’re trying to sell people candles and pillows for 8 hours straight, there’s not much else to do BUT think and analyze situations. 


terriannep said...

I think this story is really funny. That probably makes me a racist too.

Lojo said...

HAHAHAHA. Too bad you don't sell fried chicken candles.

deedub said...

hahahha, I was thinking the same thing as Lojo.

It's almost unreasonable how taboo racism, sexism, etc. have become in our society. Let me state first that I don't think we should all start donning white hoods and bringing out the gas cans.
Racism is not rooted in the words said, it is what is behind the words; it is a mindset. Anything can be said with enough contempt or scorn to make it into a racist comment. It's sad that things like "liking watermelon" are demonised to a point where we have to make concession to not even mention them around "sensitive minorities."
I don't think you're racist. I would have done the same in your situation for fear of being stereotyped as a racist (hmm.. to avoid racismism?). I also wouldn't say that it was your fault, but rather something imposed on you by society. The fact that you almost showed the black family a watermelon candle before you made the connection shows that you were quite the opposite of racist ("apathist," perhaps).
It's sort of a weird situation; similar to swear words. Words like "fuck," "shit," "bitch," etc. are not inherently offensive; they are just words. Curse words are only offensive because we've set them aside to be so. Maybe if we made empty racist jokes more often, the impact of the statement would be watered-down. It's like we're not exposed to hard-core racism anymore, but we're still trying to avoid it. The end result is that things that shouldn't be a big deal are considered "extreme racism".
So, enough seriousness; I'm going to highlight acceptable and unacceptable behaviour via shock humour.

Acceptable:"These candles are 20% off!"
Unacceptable:"These candles are on sale for fo- ni- ni-"

Acceptable"These watermelon candles are so good!"
Unacceptable:"Your type loves watermelon, so you'll love this candle"

Acceptable:"mmm, watermelon! These candles are selling fast!"
Unacceptable:"Here are the watermelon candles you are probably looking for. The fried chicken candles are on backorder"

Acceptable:"Candles add a nice ambience on their own; the watermelon is a bonus!"
Real racist:"Why buy a candle when we can burn a cross on your lawn?"

twitch said...

Bahahahahaha, Dwayne.

Those last two made me LOL. And I agree, we should just make way more racist jokes and then everyone will be desensitized to such things. What are you doing right now? Want to come and get my lawn mower started? Fucking thing won't start. I'm bad at pulling the string things. I don't think I've ever successfully started something that uses the pull things. Gay.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this made me laugh till tears ran freely. I have those same questions all the time. Which makes us a) normal b)like minded or c)eerily dysfunctional.
Take your pick.

See you in the dishes section.