Today, I did something I was raised to do. Something that every adult in my childhood told me I should do, something I’ve been told to do over, and over. I did something that people have called for, all especially the last couple of years, something that others have said, not enough people do. Today I stood up for my beliefs, I stood up looked hatred in the eye, and told it that it wasn’t welcome here. I stood up for what I believe was both morally and ethically right. And that is why I am wrong.
It doesn’t take a genius, or any research beyond opening the daily paper to see that racial tensions in America are high. Where I live, Spokane, WA. Is on the border of the Idaho panhandle, which is a place that will quickly snap you back to reality, should you think that racism is dead. We are very close to the former home of the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist group that in the mid 90’s was considered one of the largest, and most dangerous hate groups in the country. While they have been kicked off the property following a lawsuit that bankrupted the group, they are still around, and now are starting a new compound further north in Priest River, Idaho. Many of the former, and current members of the group, still live here. These members still find ways to harass people of color in our area, quite frequently.
Racism has never sat well with me, and let me explain to you why. I grew up in a nice neighborhood in Spokane. We were a successful middle class family, not rich, but living comfortably. My dad worked his ass off to make sure that my 4 siblings and I would be comfortable, and happy. Five kids are not cheap to raise, so he worked long long hours at the family business to provide for us. My parents always have, and still do want the best for all of us. They sent us to private schools with reputations for turning out bright kids, with good futures ahead of them.
Here is the problem with private grade schools, they are full of kids that are rich, kids who have the newest and coolest toys, clothes, shoes, and so on. Then there were the middle class kids. We rode the school bus, wore hand me downs, and, in my case, carried a super sweet Police Academy (the movie) lunchbox/thermos set. Yet another problem with going to private schools is, being the fat kid.
I digress, but I feel I should point out a little something about semantics. I say that I was the fat kid, but my class was a bit of an anomaly, we had 4 or 5 of us fat kids. Why do I need to explain this? When I explained this to a younger member of my family, they responded, “What do you mean the fat kid?” It seems nowadays portly children are kind of the norm, and to think I missed a normal childhood by 20 short years.
So I was a fat kid in a school with a lot of athletic kids, I was also a nerd. I wasn’t interested in sports, which was okay, as I was the one always picked last. I had shown some promise in my first couple of grades at the school, but by third grade, I had solidified my position as resident fat kid.
The wonderful job description for grade school fat nerdy kid is as follows:
Get picked last for any game/be called names that are oh so clever “fatass”/don’t get invited to birthday parties or sleepovers/get tripped in hallway, playgrounds/get punched and kicked by kids of all ages/be told by teachers that you are so fat that you are a disgrace
What isn’t listed in that job description are the added bonus perks of crippling anxiety, and depression with suicidal thoughts at the ripe old age of 10. But how does any of this relate to what this article is about? Well, allow me to bring this around full circle.
I noticed very early on, that a large majority of the other students in that school, and even some of the faculty didn’t care for or about me. I realized that I only had 6 or 7 friends at that school, that I wasn’t related to. What I hadn’t realized back then, and really hadn’t figured out until I was in my mid-twenties, was that the kids I did get along with, and considered real friends were the black, Mexican, and natives that went to school with me.
In seventh grade things came to a head for me, thankfully my parents started to understand that the bullying was as bad as I was saying, and that it wasn’t just some exaggeration, and they pulled me out of that private school, the next semester, I started at a public Junior High. I knew going in that it would take a little time before I made any friends, so I was prepared for that. I was meeting some kids in classes, and spent my first lunch in that cafeteria with the kid that was showing me around the school for the day.
Day 2, lunchtime. I saw only one person that I knew, we lived close to each other, and were not exactly friends. When we would play roller hockey in the streets we would always end up fighting, but I digress, so I knew that I wouldn’t be eating with him, soon I found some seats open in the middle and front of the cafeteria and sat down for lunch, alone. True story, the first seat I took was next to the group of special needs kids, one of them told me, that was were they sit, and I needed to move, the seat I moved from was never used, they just didn’t want me in their group.
Needless to say, the depression started to kick in, hard! It was another day that I left school despondent, and went home to cry myself to sleep, and consider if life was really worth living. The next day at school was kind of a blur,and all I remember of the first half of the day, was this sickening feeling, it was starting all over again, now I was just going to have more people hate me. That day at lunch, I again ate alone, this time at a table with more people at it, so I wouldn’t stick out. And then Snap showed up.
Snap, his nickname, was a light skinned dude that I had a few classes with. I can still remember the look on his face, and the tone and sound of his voice asking “Why the hell you sitting way over here
“I don’t, I don’t know anyone here to eat with.” I stumbled over the words
“Fuck that,” said Snap “tomorrow meet me at the doors to the cafeteria, you’re sitting with us.”
That was it, no discussion, he didn’t ask, he told me that I was eating with him.
Snap had figured me out quicker than anyone I have ever met, he knew I was too shy and awkward to actually meet him, so as I left my last class before lunch, he was waiting for me. “Lets go.” As we waited in line to get our lunches, we started talking about little things, what kinds of music we liked, what our favorite shows were, the basic 12 year old boy stuff. Occasionally he would introduce me to someone else in line.
After we grabbed our lunches, and our needed dipping sauces and other condiments we walked to a long table, as we went to sit down next to eachother,Snap announced to the table, “This is Tug, he’s pretty cool and he is going to start eating with us!” (Pretty cool!! Did he really just say that?!?) I looked up and down the table and realized that I had never been in a room with this many black people, let alone at a table with them.
It took a while for everyone to warm up to me, but I finally had friends. And not people that just claimed to be my friends, but real true friends! When anyone tried to flip me shit about my weight, or make fun of me for any reason, they were there for me. These guys taught me how to stand up for myself, how to fight, when to fight, when to run, and when to stand my ground.
My friends in Junior High, taught me about loyalty, and the power of a group standing together as one, rather than ignoring others problems.
What I came to realize, 15-20 after that day in the cafeteria, is that a lot of white people treated me like shit. Like they were better than me, not all white people, but many, but black kids, native kids, and Hispanic kids always showed me nothing but respect, they treated me like a human being, which was something that I hadn’t had in a long, long, long time. For years, I had jokingly yelled out in bars, “I hate white people!” but now I was starting to realize that it was kind of true.
This is probably the longest way possible for me to tell you why it is that racism makes me so angry.
So, today a nurse came into my hospital room praising Trump, then while speaking about Obama, he explained that he felt it was unfair that Larry Wilmore, speaking at the correspondent’s dinner, called Obama “his n***a” the nurse turned to me and said “but if I call him n****r, I am a racist.”
This was it, it was time to shit, or get off the pot, this is time to test my convictions, and morals. And I am proud to say I passed with flying fucking colors.
I told him not to worry, that wouldn’t make him a racist, because he already was one. I told him that I am related to biracial people, from cousins, to nieces and a nephew. I asked him how he could possibly think it was a good idea to say these things in front of me, and how dare he do it while working and representing the hospital. I told him that he was no longer my nurse, and if he laid a finger on me, I would take it as a sign of aggression. I told him that I was calling the charge nurse, and would be writing to the personnel department. As he silently turned and walked out of the room, I couldn’t help but wonder how we thought that was going to go, would Trump, emulating Putin appear in the room, riding a Pegasus that farted rainbows and glitter, topless, and defend him using the best words? How surprised was he when the guy with a feeding tube in his nose got out of bed to tell him he was wrong?
After he left, I called the charge nurse. The look on her face was one of pure shock, she started apologizing, and telling me how inappropriate. She explained to me that she was just covering a shift, so she called another charge nurse from another floor, and called her boss at home to handle this, they asked me to write a statement, which I did, (I will post that after some editing) and they have assured me that this situation would be handled.
What truly shocked me was the reaction that I got. I posted about the incident on Facebook, and not surprisingly got quite a few virtual pats on the back. I am in no way trying to down play those, I appreciate all of the positivity I was greeted with, but I was truly shocked to see people start to stand up for this guy. I was told that I should have been more graceful, or just ignored it. I was told (by a black girl) that it has no effect on me so I shouldn’t get upset, and should just move on. I was told that I stood up to this guy because I am a liberal crybaby and had my feelings hurt. I still am having trouble grasping this. When did we start feeling bad for racists? When did we decide that we should all just look the other way?
I guess you could call this venting, or ranting, or whining, but I am calling this my call to action. When you see something, or hear something like this, stand up to it. Don’t be violent, don’t just name call, but tell people that it is wrong, that they are wrong.this doesn’t apply just to racism, but to homophobes, islamophobes, women beaters, child abusers, animal abusers,etc…
And to anyone that is a victim of these assholes, please know that myself and others like me, will always have your back. We are all one people, one species, one community one tribe, and one love.
Please folks, let’s start loving our neighbors again. Maybe we all need a little yoga followed by going to the gun range…