You guys. it's 1:30 in the morning and my neighbor is having a very loud discussion with a friend in the driveway about how he isn't a racist for using the N word. Let's listen in because this is a masterclass in white fragility. Wowwww.
First of all, both guys are mid-20's, and seem a little buzzed. They are talking so loud that they woke my kids up. @IndiaHowerton's room faces their driveway. We are not trying to eavesdrop it is literally unavoidable. But what a lesson we are being given.
I will call them Jay and Mike. Apparently, Jay used the N-word with a black friend he was driving with, who then stopped the car on the freeway and left Jay on the side of the road.
Jay is shocked!! Because he has used the N-word with this friend "hundreds of times!" He has never cared before! And now he's gonna care?! WTF!!
Jay spends some time lamenting the Black Lives Matter movement, and how it has made everyone sensitive. He is sure this would never have happened before this Black Lives Matter stuff! All of this is being discussed under a waving blue lives matter flag that hangs from his house
Mike is very sympathetic. Jay remind Mike that he only ever uses the N-word with a soft A!! But then also, in the same conversation, uses the N-word with the "er". Mike seems unfazed.
Jay reminds Mike that the black friend in question would be nothing without him. That he has given him so much money for food over the years. That wouthout his friendship, this guy would not have graduated high school.
Jay explains that all he wants is gratitude. "Like the way you would expect a son or daughter to be grateful to a parent." Mike nods in agreement.
At this point the white savior/expectation of gratitude narrative is so thick that it almost feels scripted. Like I'm watching a heavy-handed Mamet play. But no. This is real. This is how white dudebros talk to each other when they think no one is listening.
Jay gets louder. He's pissed. He was called a fucking racist!! This is bullshit! Mike tries to calm him down but appears to be in agreement with the outrage.
"He's actually making himself out to be the victim here!" @IndiaHowerton notes. She's spot on.
Jay keeps circling back to the matter of "I've used the N word with him hundreds of times!" This is the real sticking point for him. He is really, really upset that this became Not Okay.
These are the two things that are "fucking bullshit" in Jay's monologues this evening: 1. Using the N word became not okay, and 2. He was accused of being a racist. At no point has he displayed one ounce of empathy or insight into how his black friend feels.
I wish to God I could record this and play it for Jay's friend. I really do.
Jay and Mike have moved to leaning their full torsos against the trashcans at the edge of the driveway to talk. We are stifling giggles because gross. They are talking at full volume still. No awareness that every word of this can be heard without even trying.
Jay starts to express some real hurt. He's known this guy for so long. He seems really incapable of seeing his part in this. It's like watching someone squeezing a knife and sincerely wondering why his hand hurts.
Honestly, at this point I actually have a pang of empathy because he's so clueless. We talk about how this is how he was raised - how he worldview is so screwed up, how this is an opportunity for him.
I consider putting a bra on and walking over and actually trying to talk to him because I know for sure his parents would only reinforce the blame-shifting. But then I remember other interactions I've had with this kid and remind myself that would not be a good idea.
And just like that, he circles back to anger and outrage. His moment for some clarity is pushed down with defensiveness. We're back to this all being bullshit on the part of his black friend.
Here's the part that grates. This is a guy who is SURE he is not a racist. This is a guy who sincerely believes he is close friends with a black person and "does not have a racist bone in his body."
It finally ends with Mike giving Jay a really long hug. Like, the kind of hug you'd give a friend after a horrible breakup. Jay needs comfort and reassurance that he's not a Terrible Person, and Mike is there to provide it.
Mike drives off. India is still awake, and she's got the fresh outrage of a teenager who thinks the world should be better than this. I have the sad exhaustion of a mom who knows it isn't.
You can follow @kristenhowerton.
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