I walked into my local doughnut haunt, Barb’s Bakery, with a mission: to get several chocolate-frosted cake donuts to ring in my 34th birthday. The first disappointment of the day came when I quickly learned that they had sold out of my coveted treats. I settled on some other (and delicious, as I later experienced) fried goods and went to check out. The cashier, the somewhat smarmy chipper and genial guy I dealt with in sporadic meetings over the past year, rang me up and wished me a good day.
The doors were closing and I was almost out of there, almost ready to enjoy the sugary spoils of the day, when I heard something that baffled me:
“Put it down, homey!”
I looked around the parking lot and saw no one. The store had been empty aside from a guy that looked ripped out of a MMA class, that counter employee, and the workers cranking out the goods. My mind went into overdrive. Did I imagine that hackneyed saying? Was that somewhat racist outburst real? Was it that smug-looking cashier? The MMA reject?
I determined that I would not let that incident ruin my day. I would not walk in and confront the person who may or may not have said that idiotic thing–for doing so would lead to a he said/he said exchange that might make me look insane.
But these incidents of disbelief are nothing new for me. Having been a black man in America for the majority of my 34 years (I had a brief experimental period in college as a reverse Soul Man), I’ve learned to expect to be treated differently because of my race–whether it is a sour look in my direction, an embarrassing comment in my direction, or lofty expectations of my dancing abilities.
Despite evidence to the contrary, there is a part of me that believes that people are inherently good, that hatred is an expression of fear and helplessness. And yet, it conflicts with my generally optimistic viewpoint of life, as such incidents still mystify me and make me wonder if I’m experiencing the worst of humanity as it’s happening. I’ve chronicled my run-in with a police officer in sixth grade, which indoctrinated me into the institutionalized racism of American society. Within that same time period, an increasingly troubled classmate I had known since first grade yelled the n-word at me and my brother as we passed her and her sister in the street–not a block from home. The onset of my puberty had brought out the prejudicial tendencies in society’s bigots.
One of my friends noted that (WARNING: POLITICAL COMMENTARY ALERT) liberally minded people are more likely to believe in the greater good of society over individual actions, and conservatives are the opposite–to favor acts and results that benefit them over collective citizens. I wonder if those ingrained beliefs are at work in the recent state legislation seen in Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Kansas, Utah and Arizona regarding the “exercise of religion” in anti-gay bills.
Days after a controversial Kansas House of Representatives bill was defeated in the Senate that would have prohibited “government sanctions or lawsuits over faith-based refusals to recognize same-sex unions or to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to couples” (essentially letting the religious beliefs of business owners discriminate against gay couples), Arizona’s House of Representatives and Senate went and did the same damn thing with Senate Bill 1062.
Gay rights is an equal rights issue, and the slow acceptance of same-sex unions across the country has traditionalists scared–so scared that they’re using politics to bully those that want to have their love legally recognized. Christianity is the most widely recognized religion in the US, and my fuzzy math determines that there are more heterosexual-identifying Christians in America than there are non-Christian believers with sexual orientations that would anger up the blood of a Fox News zealot. And yet the powerful, in full-on victim-mentality mode, want to turn away the outnumbered. Know who else was an oppressed minority with radical leanings? JESUS.
If Governor Jan Brewer signs SB 1062 into law, basically allowing businesses to segregate themselves from those that differ only in their sexual preference, the mandate of segregation will expedite a slippery slope of prejudice against those that differ from the people creating these backwards laws. It will also call into question who is being oppressed: the minorities that frighten the majority because of their diversity, or the people that blindly and wrongly use their religious documents to persecute the people they believe are not in line with their faith and teachings.
That is disbelief on a macro level, a level I would never wish on anyone nor tolerate.