Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I was shopping at Aldi yesterday. Aldi is a funky, yet cool, little store. You put in a quarter to obtain a shopping cart, bring and pack your own bags, and feel a little different than you do at Genuardis (or Berkeley Bowl or Whole Foods or the Willy Street Coop ...). I like Aldi. It makes me feel thrifty, and reminds me just a little of my days living back in Emeryville and shoppin' at the ol' Pac n' Save. Sometimes reminiscing is a good thing, and sometimes ... Yesterday there was an interesting group weaving in and out of the three aisles. There were two tall and skinny young guys, both in t-shirts and both engaged in a lot of posing. One was working hard at combing his nascent fro, and the other seemed to be a contestant in his own little Mr. Universe pageant. They were accompanied by a young woman who was busy shoving a little girl in one of the freezers. This really bothered me. I was afraid for the child's life. The whole party was led by two obscenely obese women, and who knows what might have happened had they found the girl in the freezer and not recognized her. They'd either had one hell of a funeral, one hell of a barbecue, or both.
Anyway, jokes aside, this assemblage was a little frightening. To begin with they were loud. Their conversations weren't carried out with indoor voices or enlightened vocabularies, and they were generously sprinkled with unnecessarily colorful language. "Fuck you, get me some peas." "Bitch, get yo own peas." "Rayshawn." "Rayshawn!" "RAYSHAWN." "RAYSHAWN!" "WHAT!" "Get some peas." "Bitch." Maybe to end with they were loud. They did block the aisles and goof around with the meat, but who doesn't. Well, I don't. And people who do piss me off. And what pisses me off the most is that some will say I am a racist for being pissed off, and that I am failing to accept another person's unique culture. I think we, as a society, need to engage in a more active and open debate about what it means to be black (did I mention that the entourage at the source of this rant was black (Black, black, Blackamerican, whatever ... just not African American), what it means to be poor, what it means to come from an urban area, what it means to be illiterate and uneducated, what it means to be a good person, and what it means to be a bad person. Too often unacceptable behavior is excused as 'part of their culture," and any dissent is labeled as racist.
So there are two problems. The behavior itself is a problem. We live in a free society, but it only works if we all adhere to certain standards. Those standards must, of course, be open to debate and frequent alteration, but they must exist. The second, and bigger problem, is the lack of an open and free debate on any issue perceived to challenge the 'African American cultural' defense. Labeling someone who disagrees with you as a racist is reprehensible, and the stock and trade of those whose arguments are too weak to properly support.
Maybe there's a third problem. I have to put up with this fucking shit everywhere I go.

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