Listen to Your Own Explanation

As I waited for the late train in the Providence station last night, a crew of mostly-drunk young people spilled in. They were happy and loud, and I was really hoping they were waiting for the Boston train because I didn’t imagine I would enjoy sharing my ride with them.

Two young Asian men came into the station and started checking for their train.  One of the boys from the larger group started calling out directions … in what he clearly thought was a HILARIOUS imitation of how some generic Asian person would speak English. His friends thought he was too funny and added their own directions, one even upped the comedy level by switching from “English” to the classic racist standby of “ching chong”-speak.

The young Asian men found the info they needed on the departure board and headed for their train, prompting one of the crowd to say, “I think one of them must be American. He can read English.” Yeah. On all levels.

But then this happened. One of the girls in the group started talking about some guy they all apparently knew, wondering if anyone thought, as she did, that he was gay. First there was a lot of offensive improv of how gay men walk and talk. Then one guy said he just wasn’t comfortable with gay people. “After all,” he explained, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” (And aren’t we all glad to know that little rhyme has been passed down to a new generation of homophobes?)

And most of the group laughed and agreed. But the young man who started all the anti-Asian ugliness brought them all up short: “That’s stupid,” he told his friend. “God made Adam and Eve because he needed to get the ball rolling … you know, on people, had to make it so there would be more people.  That has nothing to do with how those people turn out when they’re born.”  His friend fell back on his “Adam and Steve” line, but the racist boy wasn’t having it.  “People are born the way they’re born. Period.  The only thing God did was set it all in motion. People are born the way they’re born.”

The Boston train was announced then and the whole crew headed down to the platform, still arguing the point.  (Result!) And I was left a little amazed.  Not amazed at that young man’s ability to slap down the “God made Adam and Eve,” foolishness — although I very much liked his way of doing it.  No, my amazement was about how deaf he clearly is to his own argument.

People are born the way they’re born. Period.

Yes.  Just like Asian people are born Asian.  And making fun of someone or “not feeling comfortable with” someone because they weren’t born the way you were just doesn’t make any sense.  I’m glad that boy isn’t homophobic.  I wonder if he’ll ever make the cognitive leap to include all people in his calculation, to realize that all forms of prejudice just don’t make sense.


You’ll find the full compendium of slices at Two Writing Teachers.

SOL image 2014


6 thoughts on “Listen to Your Own Explanation

  1. AAAAaaaaaaaaAAAghghHHHHH. Yes. I too am glad he’s not homophobic, AND was forthright enough to say so to his friends, but… GAH. I’m closing my mouth and my mind on what thoughts I could have on the Asian-baiting because I just don’t want to go there right now. *shakes head ferociously* Got to go do some dishes and get the energy out of my system. ;b


    1. Yes. Yes exactly. This horrible ugliness. Face to face with one ugly person, I can usually find a way to say something, but in the face of a crowd of people, most of whom are clearly drunk, I’m silenced. I hated that I felt more afraid of what response they might have to me then I felt brave enough to verbally slap them down.


      1. Sigh. I’d be silent too (which is, of course, a very Asian response, and also I think what makes Asians an easy target for a lot of people — we’re not thought of as people who fight back). I can never decide whether I’m a non-confrontational person or I just choose my battles very carefully.


        1. I try not to choose battles at all … but certainly not with groups … and never with groups that are already more than a little riled up. This is one more reason I think it would be nice to have developed that face of belligerence my mother and sister and practically famous for. I always think if only I could give that look to certain people, I could put an end to any number of bad moments.


  2. Bree @The Things We Read

    I am dumbfounded that the boy defended gay people. Given his racism, I would have thought he’d include everyone in his hatred. I really do like his argument that “people are born the way they are born.”


    1. That’s what surprised me, too. I told this story to a friend of mine, and she said he probably has a close relative or friend who is gay and that relationship has broadened his spectrum … just not far enough. And that’s what struck me in his argument. He could so confidently say that people are born how they’re born and still somehow not see that that is true … for everyone.


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