little prick

I was leaving the supermarket tonight, early, because they were about to have a power outage.

There was a teenaged kid working the door to keep people from entering, and we exchanged good nights.

There were two other young guys: one was another employee on a smoke break, and the other was a miscellaneous local kid in a hoodie and shorts. Maybe another employee, maybe note. This kid was telling jokes.

As I passed he said “Why are black people so tall? Because they’re Negroes.” I thought, well, that’s some dumb fifth grade humor.

Then, as I was walking to my car he said “How do you keep black guys out of your back yard? Hang one in the front.”

The door kid looked uncomfortable. “Hey, not when the store is open, okay.”

Hoodie Joker Kid said something I couldn’t hear. Door kid said again “Whatever when the store is closed, just you can’t do that stuff when we’re open, okay.”

Hoodie Joker says “You’re closed in five minutes. Anyway no one cares.”

I said “I care.”

The kids looked at me. Door kid was paralyzed. Smoke break kid just smoked. Hoodie said “Uh… sorry sir” in a tone that indicated a great lack of sorrow.

“Keep that shit inside of your house, dude.” I drove away.

I feel like I should have got up in the kid’s face and been loud, but I don’t know. I guess I communicated a combination of disapproval and advice. Maybe I just wanted to be loud and threatening because I was angry, and it would have been dumb.

I wonder if he’ll ever figure out that there’s a world outside Newport Beach where lynching jokes have consequences.

It put a shiver down my spine.

32 thoughts on “little prick

  1. 🙁
    I am sorry that you were subjected to hearing that kind of racist bullshit.
    For the record, though: I think you handled the situation far better than most people would’ve, given the same set of circumstances.

  2. This is the exact reason I hated the suburbs, and why I feel so much… safer… within Chicago city limits.
    When I moved to the burbs and went to the swanky high school, my first day of attendance I heard the following:
    How do you babysit a nigger?
    Velcro the ceiling and teach it to jump on the bed.
    There were black boys close enough to hear the joke, and my city-girl self slowly backed away – because I was *certain* a fight was about to break out. Nothing happened and I looked over at the black boys. They looked at me, then at the floor, with a “not in these parts, blondie”. and while it couldn’t have broken me as much as it had just broken them, it set the tone for the remainder of my time in hell.

  3. Interesting. I’m from the part of the country where lynching jokes do have consequences, and sadly from where some people would have thought that was funny & given him a wink.
    You did the right thing by making him feel the stupid that he is. If you’d gotten all loud and stuff he would have had something to focus on other than the message… like anger or ego. This way you just made him feel like a clueless pup.

  4. like the spike lee movie says
    Always do the right thing. (Which you did.)
    White kids these days think racism ended when MLK got shot and then resurrected on the third day. Which, of course, gives them full reign to tell nigger jokes. Don’t ask me the logic behind that one.

    1. Re: like the spike lee movie says
      City kids know that isn’t true, at least the first time they get beat up or just ostracized.
      Newport Beach kids may never know it, just rolling up the ladder of privilege.

  5. You struck exactly the right tone, IMO. Well done.
    Not that it’ll change the little fuckwit’s mind or worldview in the least, but you’ll carry away the knowledge that you put yourself publicly on the right side of the line – without creating a different sort of problem.

  6. I hate those situations. I think you handled it the best way you possibly could.
    Reminds me of sitting in various spots and hearing a guy tell a long string of Jew jokes, not realizing A REAL LIVE JEW was nearby, or having a group of kids ride their bikes by me yelling about how they got Jewed at the store just now. You do what you can.
    And to be honest, I don’t think it only happens in small towns and suburbia.

      1. The Mother’s Market guy hangs out at the coffee house. He is old and rich and evil. I believe he is 581% WASP 🙂

    1. teh joo
      While I rarely manage to put the
      <a href=
      >the full terawatt fear/shame beam on people,
      A lesser hilarity comes from:
      “Hey, I’m Jewish! Now you get to use complex etymology
      to explain why ‘jewed at the store’ has noooothing
      at all to do with Jews!”
      A greater hilarity would be a mix of
      disapproval and menace-at-a-distance. In Ignatz’s case,
      this would be:
      I care. And I bet my wife would care, because she’s
      black and grew up in the South! If she’s waiting in the car now, maybe I’ll tell her,
      she’ll flip out, maybe I’ll calm her down enough– but maybe
      and she’ll pop the trunk, get the tool kit, and PUT A FUCKING
      WRENCH THROUGH YOUR FOREHEAD. So, don’t move, you gotta wait here about two minutes
      to see how this plays out.”
      Easy swap-ins: step-dad, brother-in-law, etc.

  7. I think you handled the situation as well as could be.
    I had a substitute teacher friend many years ago and with him in mind, I would call the kid’s utterances “stuff (he) hears at the dinner table every night”. I’d like to hope he didn’t know what he was saying but perhaps I’m being naive. : /

  8. Maybe if enough people do what you just did, shaming him without giving him an excuse to dismiss you. I don’t know, in the suburban environment people seem more likely to shut down and tune it out when a loud berating puts them on the defensive.

  9. I wonder if he’ll ever figure out that there’s a world outside Newport Beach where lynching jokes have consequences.
    One can only hope.

  10. i like to respond with humor at their expense. ie “just want orange county needs, another dumb white kid that who thinks he is funny until he gets jumped by a gang of 20 latinos behind the supermarket one night.” Then again lately I just like calling white kids dumb to their faces and watching them get all confused.

    1. I did consider going inside and telling Frank, the manager, who is also a rockabilly Mexican math genius and mortuary science student, to regulate. But Frank was already having a shitty day.

  11. I wish you punched him. There, I said it. Seriously, I have zero patience or tolerance for that bullshit and I’m not opposed to going to jail over it.
    In other news, my son is befriending the five african american students in the district and telling our landlord (who is also african-american) that “all my friends are dark-skinned (last night while he was fixing the garage door) so you must be fun!” LOL. There is hope, it’s just not wide-spread hope. 🙁

  12. I think that you handled this perfectly.
    And, to cast a better light on what happened, let me just say that I really applaud Door Kid. That’s a tough thing to say to a peer. In my trainings on sexual harassment and diversity, I tell supervisors that they have to remember that it is not their job to be popular. Sometimes a supervisor must be a wet blanket. It would have been better if he’d said that it was never okay, but it was a tough thing that he said anything at all and something to feel hopeful about.

    1. Yeah, it was clear that Door Kid had better values, and wasn’t just scared. I kind of nodded to him so he knew I didn’t think he was part of the problem, and I think he was relieved.

  13. I think you handled it well. If you had gotten in his face or escalated the exchange, it would have been easier to dismiss what you were saying. Instead, you responded at the volume he had established. Way to fight the good fight. You just improved the world a little bit.

  14. I probably would have said something like “can you repeat that? i didn’t hear you. it sounded like a bunch of racist jokes, but that’s not what you were doing, was it?”. No idea what effect that would have.
    I think people (even if they are dumb kids) need to be publicly shamed for this sort of behavior, and you did that. I like to think I am good at embarrassing people for this. I actually did this once at work for someone who was making racist statements (of all people) NORWEGIANS (I grew up in Garrison Keillor-land). The guy was the head of economic development for the city i grew up in, and I was a summer student programming/dealing with some databases. And I just put that asshole in his place with one sentence, and even better, everyone in the room laughed at him and were like ‘SLAM. SHE SO GOT YOU.’. He didn’t talk to me for the rest of the summer which was a secondary awesome outcome.
    Note: I am in no way suggesting Norwegians deal with the kind of racism that african-americans do.

      1. Re: Wow. Norwegians.
        Sometimes when people here are trying to talk in code about Mexicans, saying stuff like “we just don’t need a lot of people bringing their ways into the country” etc immigration horseshit, I say “Yeah. Fuckin’ can’t stand Brazilians.”

      2. Re: Wow. Norwegians.
        And by that I mean we are silent on the subject. There is a book I like called Why I Hate Canadians (written by a Canadian of course) which among other things explores Canadian racism. I sure liked that section.
        We are currently in the middle of apologizing for cultural genocide of First Nations people in Canada via this awful awful thing called residential schools wherein First Nations kids were taken off-reserve (where they were stuck in the first place by the early conquering Europeans) and their culture literally beat out of them (also rampant sexual abuse); we will embark on a truth and reconciliation process there and the legal processes around that are just dawning on our whole country. And believe me not everyone supports even the APOLOGY.
        At least Katimavik is a good program. Hurray for Katimavik!

      3. Re: Wow. Norwegians.
        I’ve read a bit about that, especially in the Economist which covers Canada better than any media here.
        You guys are in the position of the Australians in some ways. Your genocide wasn’t successful, and now you have to deal with the other crimes. The cold scary fact here is that we pulled it off. There aren’t enough of them left for all the other sins to be acknowledged.

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