Slave babies should be grateful? Oh no she didn’t!

Female Face - miffed“Black people in America should be thankful for the slave trade. I mean, they would have been suffering living in Africa today!”

The words rang through me like I had just been punched point-blank in the face.

There we were, my co-worker and I, having what started out as a really healthy discussion about women’s issues when somehow the conversation took an awkward turn.

I was comparing the attitudes that some people have towards race to their attitudes towards women and gays. She, Caucasian, American, mid-50s, said to me, Jamaican immigrant of mostly African descent, that she never liked the idea of being politically correct.

She raised the issue of gay veterans being barred from marching in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade. For the past twenty years, gay organizations have been legally banned from marching in the parade and recently there had been a standoff between the parade organizers and the state gay advocacy group, MassEquality.

“Why do they have to march as gays?” she lamented. “Quite frankly if I were a parent I wouldn’t want to have to expose my children to that. And what does gayness have to do with the St. Patrick’s Day parade?” she added. “I’m so tired of this P/C nonsense.”

I was quick to add, “Well, frankly, what does drinking, getting drunk, making an ass of yourself, and being arrested have to do with St. Patrick? I’m sure if he were to pay us a visit today he wouldn’t like his name associated with that either.”

My friend is very conservative, anti-liberal, anti-civil service, Christian, and single with no kids. She only watches Fox news.

I am none of those things.

But at the same time, she was in the middle of reading a book written by Bill Clinton, the bane of all conservative republicans. She doesn’t believe women with children should work, but she spent several months working in Camaroon in Africa as part of a missionary program.

I try to avoid political discussions with her because I don’t want to be rude (unless I have to). I like her because although we’re never likely to hang out together after work, she’s good company to go walking with at lunch time.

We segued from gays marching, images of buff male veterans scantily clad in hot pants and midriff-tied blouses very much in the air (woo-hoo!), to the difference between blacks in America and the ones in the Caribbean. I even told her that some black Africans today refer to westerners like myself as “slave babies” so as to distinguish themselves from our unfortunate history.

That was when the words came tumbling out of her like loose bowels, as if she had been dying to set free these truths that she had been hoarding in her mind for a moment such as this.

I thought I was going to faint. I had only heard such talk from the ultra-right and racists. I never dreamed someone I knew would ever utter those words in my presence.

Oh no, she did not go there, I thought.

As I tried to recover my balance, I said, “You can’t say those things to people, T!”

“Why not? It’s true!” was her reply.

Female Face - almost smilingLord have mercy…Seriously, if this would not have cost me my job, I would have slapped the Holy Ghost out of her. But I decided that this, like others before, was a teaching moment. That, and I can’t afford to not work for a living.

As a student of Caribbean History for many years, the knowledge of the slave trade is ingrained in my memory, so I gave her a synopsis of what went on back in the 1700s and 1800s, as it seems the Rochester, NY school system may have failed to educate her on this topic when she was growing up.

I ended with:

“The point of bringing black people over from Africa was not to save them from the torment of living in Africa. It was purely an economic decision. FREE labor. And don’t you dare even try to think that everyone was suffering back in “darkest Africa” at the time, either. There were kings and queens and their offspring who were also captured and taken as slaves. And the relentless whipping, raping, maiming, and hanging at the hands of their masters…how was that helping the slaves? And do you really believe every black person is suffering in Africa today? Because I can assure you it’s not all of them.”

We spoke about this a bit more and I’m not sure if I got through to her.

We haven’t been out walking since because the weather has not been agreeable. But I need to get this off my chest. I feel there is unfinished business between us. It’s tragic that someone can still have this idea of slave master/savior in this day and age. I mean, I know they’re out there; I just didn’t expect to actually know someone like that.

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8 replies

  1. Lol
    I don’t know why you’re shocked my dear. THIS and THIS alone is the reason why liberals and “true” conservatives can’t be friends, nor close acquaintances, IGNORANCE and it’s twin ARROGANCE.
    You were right to steer clear of these types if “real” conversations with her, because her backward opinions will either leave you in jail, then the unemployment office, or have you ripping out your hair, clinching and grinding your teeth.😁
    Believe me, I know.

    Unfortunately, since the well of “suitable” topics are almost dry, you were bound to stumble into a real conversation and now you’ll be left with no walking buddy. Yes, NO walking buddy I say. First you’ll both try, but it’ll be awkward for you both, then eventually you’ll start not walking at the same time of the day.

    I hope I’m wrong about the outcome.
    Good luck.

    Like

    • There have been a few times that I thought I would just stop walking with her. But now I really feel that I need to educate her about things like these and send her back out into the world. I think I might be doing her a disservice otherwise! Lol!

      She does admit that because she’s white she doesn’t have the black experience and I concurred. In the past I’ve have to drop some knowledge on her about her own US history and politics. She is woefully unread on some of those things. I mean, at her age she still thinks that if she ever got married, she would be obliged to quit her job.

      Anyway, it’s a work in progress. .

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  2. Wow! I mean, wow!
    I really like how you blame this woman’s schooling for her ignorance, because it’s probably right on the money. She sounds like a very nice person, actually, just tragically misinformed, thinking of Africa as a place where everyone suffers. I’m actually with her in the sense that I don’t feel much for being politically correct all the time, but my god, if you’re gonna be politically incorrect, at least know what you’re talking about! Quick question: does she read your blog (assuming she can read:P)?

    Like

    • Yeah, that’s what I said…wow! 🙂
      No, she doesn’t read my blog. No one at work knows about it. They probably wouldn’t appreciate some of the things I’ve written sometimes 🙂

      She is a nice person, or at least tries to be. But I think she’s a product of her upbringing. I found it absolutely shocking that she was reading a book written by Bill Clinton (conservatives despise him) and then in the same conversation that expression burst from her lips.

      I understand about political correctness, but her idea of not having p/c is basically to ignore other group’s struggles as if they never happened. Hence her idea about African descendants and the gay vets.

      We’re going to have a few sunny days this week. I’m going see if I’m in the mood to still go for walks with her. But I know this will come up again and probably from me.

      Thanks for stopping by (as usual!)

      Like

      • You know, I was wondering about who knew about your blog, because even though I really enjoy your office stories, I was wondering if they’d get emailed around at your office;)
        I’d like to think I’d be a fan of your work, even if I turned out to be one of the people you wrote about in a, shall we say, sarcastic manner;) In any case, I’d love to see the look on the face of that former boss who invited all his employees to his house every Friday when/if he reads your post about that!

        As for that woman who thinks you should be grateful for being a slave baby? I guess some people just take a little longer to learn things…maybe a few generations longer:S

        Like

          • Yeah, I really do enjoy it…and I think your writing is getting a lot better as time progresses. I feel you’re developing your own style and way of words that is typical of you (but that’s just my own opinion of course;))…as far as your work goes, perhaps it’s best if they don’t know…though maybe one day you’ll win the lottery and leave your workplace by sending everybody an email with a link to your site?;)

            Like

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