Monday, May 25, 2009

Arrogant Ignorance

I am so upset right now that I can FEEL my blood pressure in my ears. But I have to calm down because I need to pray.

I just came from the store where I went to pick up some cold meds and some nourishment. In spite of my cold, I was feeling pretty happy. It's a beautiful day here. The sun is out and the traffic is light because of the holiday. At the store, one of my favorite people was there. (Someday I will have to tell you about Bonita, the lady who works there & is so much like an angel sent down just for me...)

Anyway, I'm at the store cruising for some juice and fruit, chatting for a few moments with Bonita (and getting my "Hello, sweetie pie" hug from her like always), and I get to the checkout counter with a smile on my face. I'm behind a nice-looking couple who are next in line behind a lady already paying for her items. As the lady is paying, she is asking the clerk something about a product or - I don't know - something. I'm not really paying attention, but I notice the customer does have an accent. The clerk patiently listened and answered her questions before cashing her out and bagging the groceries.

What happened next hurt me so bad I was speechless.

The couple in front of me watched the first customer leave, then the woman looked at the man and made a face. "Maybe she should learn to speak the language, huh?" she commented. The man laughed and agreed that it would make life easier for the rest of us. (They were so casual and open, you'd think they were discussing something really pleasant.)

I'm standing there thinking: "These are grown people saying stuff adults try to teach children not to say." I was just stunned, and when the couple tried to rope me into their ignorance by smiling back at me, I couldn't do anything but stare at them.

Now, I'm usually quicker on my feet. Matter of fact, I usually shoot off my mouth way too fast for my own good. This time, though, I think I must have been so offended that I couldn't think of what to say. I really did feel like crying.

The clerk didn't hear the comments of the couple, and so she checked their items without a clue about their behavior. I couldn't take my eyes off of them, but they didn't seem to be aware that they had shocked or offended me with their comments.

Of course, when I got to my car and was driving home, I had thought of so many things I should have said or done. (I hate when the happens.) Since I may never see those people again, I want to get something off my chest. I want to say what I wish I'd thought of at the time:

How dare you be so arrogant and ignorant. You want to make fun of someone who doesn't speak your language; someone who sounds different than you do. Well, have you ever been somewhere out of your element? Have you ever traveled or tried to connect with a different culture? How can you be so mean to someone you obviously don't even know. You should be ashamed of your own ignorance, not insinuating that this other woman was ignorant in any way. Obviously, she's smart enough to speak more than one language. If you had to, could you say in her language what she at least attempted to say in ours? Would you even try? And what kind of people are you that rudeness and mean-ness comes so natural to you?

Finally, I guess I want to say that it scares me to see that kind of ignorance in action. I know there are such people out there in the world, but I always hate when they expose themselves. I don't know what's scarier: people like that who try to hide their views or the ones who don't feel like they have to hide the way they are.

A long time ago, my mother helped out an old woman who lived in the area. I'll call her Miss Addy. This old lady called me "Colored" and she would use phrases like "your kind" and "you people." I just could not understand why my mother would do things like stop by and offer to bring things back from the store for the old bat, or send over hot food every now and then. I don't remember what happened to bring it on, but I finally asked Mama why she bothered to be nice to someone like this. I knew that there were certain people (who seemed okay to me) who my mother would have nothing to do with. My mom told me that you judge people more by their heart and their actions than just by their actions. She said that the old lady had a good heart and bad habits; that she was often talking in a way she'd been brought up to think was okay. (Miss Addy was OLD - like, maybe 85 or 90.) Mom also said that there are people in this world who have nice manners but the wrong feelings in their heart. I didn't fully understand this. It was an aunt who translated for me. She said something like: "Miss Addy might not talk nice to you, but she wouldn't do you harm for anything. She's ignorant, not hateful. There are people who will call you "Ma'am" to your face and "Nigger" behind your back. With Miss Addy, to your face or to your back, you know what's what."

That couple at the store, they are people who hide their hatred behind their ignorance. They are the most dangerous kind of people. They are both ignorant and hateful. And I have to be careful to pray for them without hatred in my own heart.