This morning I got together with a group of friends in our Meetup group, the Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society. We meet regularly for brunch on Sunday mornings to talk about various topics. We've taken on some weighty topics in science, philosophy, and the humanities. This morning, we discussed current events. All of us offered topics for discussion: Events in the Ukraine, the proposed merger of Comcast and Time-Warner, and a few others. One woman who has taken part a few times asked that we discuss street crime in Philadelphia.
When she said that, I groaned inside. In past meetups, she has made comments that stopped just short of racist, and only on a technicality; her comments revealed the racism lurking just beneath her words. I knew she raised the issue of street crime to vent racist notions about who is responsible for crime.
I hoped I was wrong. I hoped that she would hold back voicing open racism, and I thought she would since one of those present was an African American woman.
Unhappily, that didn't stop her. I saw the shocked looks on the faces of others present when she uttered her ugly comments, and felt my jaw drop when she pushed back at people who challenged her. She left early, and when she did, I and another woman present took her aside, separately, to confront her.
She had her rationalizations. When she'd complained that "the blacks" had offended her, she claimed she was "just making an observation." When I called her on her comment, "Have you ever seen a white person committing that crime?" she complained that she was being denied her freedom of speech.
I'm still trying to sort this out, so my writing here will be rambling.
I'll forget for a moment how wrong her racism is, period. There is also the matter of her either assuming that a white person wouldn't be offended by her words, or her feeling that if others are offended, she doesn't care. There is the matter of her uttering racist speech in the presence of an African American woman, with no thought to how painful it must have been for that woman to hear her racist speech. I find myself wondering if hubris is a trait that accompanies racism the way some genetic traits accompany each other.