Thursday, June 23, 2005
The other half of the story
I wrote a draft last week about growing up in a neighborhood that could have charitably been called blue collar. I published part of it as "A Christmas Story in June?" but I initially shitcanned the other, more disturbing aspect: The racism I observed as a young person. I just wasn't in the mood to deal with it, until I read about Ago-go's struggles with the same issue. Even though I've always known that racism isn't exclusive to the South, to read of a woman from Canada being treated differently when she gets a little sun really brought home just how widespread it really is.

Thank god my mom isn't a racist. That's all that saved me growing up. When I first entered high school I was friends with this kid named Dan Hatch, who lived just down the street. Dan was a decent guy, one of the few in the neighborhood I gave a drop of piss about. Dan's dad was by far the biggest racist I've ever known. There may be someone worse, but I never met him.

It started when I was about fourteen and made an anti-Reagan statement in front of Mr. Hatch. He started calling me "Liberal." He said it with contempt the way Rush Limbaugh says it now only with a backwoods country fuck accent. Eventually he decided to call me "N-word Lover" (only he, of course, said the actual word). When I look back at it now, it amazes me because the man didn't hate me. I was his son's friend and welcome in his home. He just randomly tossed around such a hateful word as a nickname for a kid who didn't annoy him that much.

He used the name as almost a term of endearment. He called me that when he was being nice to me. He'd see me in my backyard and shout, past the three yards that separated us, "Hey, N-word Lover, we're grillin' burgers. Come on over and fix yourself a plate, you liberal cocksucker." And I'd go over and eat the man's food. Not because I endorsed his social views or enjoyed being called names, but because Dan was my friend and I was a fat kid who liked free burgers. "Have some more food, N-word Lover," he'd offer. "We have watermelon for desert. I know you N-word lovers like their watermelon."

The name only bothered me in the way it bothers you when someone pokes at you repeatedly. It didn't make me mad because I didn't care about his opinion. I'd laugh an obviously fake laugh and say "I like everyone," which was bullshit; I disliked everyone, but it had nothing to do with as arbitrary a factor as skin color. I'm glad to say I don't dislike everyone anymore. Now I hate everyone.

I have no clue what makes a person think like Mr. Hatch, other than simple ignorance. I suppose any reader hoping for profound insight just wasted time with this blog, time they'll never get back. Sorry.

Dan and his family only lived in the neighborhood a few years. They moved a couple of miles away and I started going to a different high school. The last time I saw any of the Hatch family was my senior year. I was at a Winn-Dixie grocery store when I spotted the long-suffered Mrs. Hash and her daughter, who was about thirteen or fourteen at the time. The daughter was pushing a baby in a stroller. The baby, a little boy, was bi-racial. The apple fell far far from the tree.

I walked up to Mrs. Hash, a nice lady who always gave me homemade pie, and made small talk until the girl went down a different aisle.
"So," I said, "when Mr. Hatch committed suicide, who found the body?"
She kind of laughed, then said sternly "He didn't take it none too good."

I hope Mrs. Hash, though not a well spoken woman, managed to bestow upon that baby her giving, kind nature. Otherwise, the baby grew up to be a troubled young man, and Mr. Hatch could bask in his self-fulfilling prophesy.


Blogger Rob Danger said...

I don't have much to add besides the fact I think that was excellently written. My grandmother is a similar off-the-cuff racist and general biggot.
I always especially enjoy her favourite rendition of 'a christmas carol' with the lyrics changed to bash 'fags'.

Blogger MsAPhillips said...

"He didn't take it none too good."

We can only hope that this is the kind of comment circulating when someone finally leads Bush off his throne. Nice that time and reality won out in this case, and that you were around to see it.

Blogger n.v. said...

Great story, Todd. Looks like things're getting personal over here.

Blogger Cincysundevil said...

I dated a girl in law school whose parents were from Louisville. I have to do the whole "Meet the Parent's" dinner at a chain restaurant no less. So 1/2way through dinner, her old man makes a comment about "the colored boy" who lived down the street and how lazy he was now. I felt her hand grab mine immediately and squeeze with that "please don't say anything" urgency. Needless to say one of the most uncomfortable moments in my life.

Blogger yournamehere said...

I have to say in Louisville's defense there are many citizens who do not refer to non-whites as "colored". There are also many fine non-chain restaurants, but anyone who uses the word "colored" probably doesn't know about them.

About seven years ago my friend from Indianapolis came to Louisville and we saw Fiona Apple in concert. His car wouldn't start after the concert, and during the cab ride home the cabbie started making horribly racist statements. I know people from Indy already think of us as hicks and this wasn't helping the situation.

Blogger Mister Underhill said...

Damn, that's pretty crazy.

Blogger Cincysundevil said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to sound like I was typecasting everyone from Louisville the same way. The vast majority of people from Louisville are actually way more progressive than those in Cincinnati. Heck, they even have a skateboard park; that is definitely something Cincy lacks.

And besides, I had my own small measure of revenge in that story. After all, I was fucking his little girl!

Blogger ago-go said...

even though it never had (to my knowledge) i'm always scared a "meet the parents" situation will happen to me...which is why i found that movie stressful and unfunny because that is reality for me. ynh, thanks for sharing this story with us, i'm sure there are more where that came from and i'd like to hear them.

Blogger poet1b said...

On the world wide sex guide, I have read that those who talk the most racist shit ussually go for the darkest girl they can find. I would say your friends father like you for speaking your mind, and hated his own racist attitudes.

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