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.

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

SOL image 2014