Last night we went to dinner at my colleague's new (to him) 20 acre farm that's about 20 minutes out of town (that's how close I live to bumblefuck!). Growing up less than 15 miles from the George Washington Bridge to NYC (and then moving from there to Philly), it was the kind of place I had only ever seen in pictures until I started driving out to the midwest to visit B's parents 5 years ago. The homestead is an expansion of a building that was originally built in the 1790s, so in the middle of his house is a big log cabin that has doors leading to various extensions that were built around it over the centuries. He has a family tree of the family that lived there from the 1790s-1912. The glass in the windows are all wavy because they were hand made.
He has a few goats, lots of chickens, some turkeys, and a bunch of rabbits, aand a veggie garden that is now more of a small farm than a garden. Also 3 kitties, 1 full grown dog and a lab/shepard mix puppy named Piper that is just the most adorable puppy I ever got to hang out with for a few hours, and at 9 weeks she is already better trained than Barkley. It was 100 degrees outside as it has been for a few weeks down here, but they had plenty of sweet tea and PLENTY of wine- I had 4 or 5 glasses by the time the night was over.
His live in girlfriend (with whom he bought the house) is awesome and I consider her an honorary OTDer; she grew up in a charismatic christian hippie cult on a farm somewhere in the mountains of Virginia - the kind of place where she referred to her "Father" as the church leader vs. her "biodad" who was just another cult member. After the cult and family broke up for various horrifying reasons (involving sexual abuse of course), she went through a religious transformation, and eventually became an atheist who now sports an awesome "FSM" sticker on her car.
So we always have a lot to talk about regarding becoming an atheist, the various stages you go through on the way, etc. Like last night we discovered that we had both gone through a pagan phase after first leaving our original religion- mine was when I was a teenager and hers was when she was in her mid 30s, but both happened right when we first went "OTD" and still believed in god but had lost faith in our religions. We both did candle lighting of various colors and trying to say magic words to change our luck and stuff like that for a few years. But now neither of us do that anymore. We talked about how for years after we didn't logically believe in god most of the time, we still prayed in our heads every once in a while when things went wrong, but how neither of us do that anymore either.
I lent her Deborah Feldman's book "Unorthodox" a couple of months ago, so she gave it back last night and
we got to talking about that for a while (my colleague was like "I'm
just glad to have that horrifying book out of my house, I kept hearing
all these horrible stories second hand from my gf"). And how no, my parents don't do everything in the book, but they do a LOT of the stuff in there, including hilchos niddah. And how I don't know if my mother uses bedikah clothes/sends them to her Rabbi, and I don't want to ask cause if she does it would be too horrible to know about (Do most right wing modern orthodox women do this? I suspect they do).
And as usual when you live in the south and have a gathering of 6 out of maybe 100 atheists in town, we got to talking about living as an atheist in the south surrounded by religious people. And dating. And how my colleague and his girlfriend went out with basically every atheist/agnostic of their age range/who uses internet dating in the region before they met each other. And her last BF lived 5 hours away. I am SO glad I didn't move here while I was single, I probably would have ended up joining the conservative or reform temple or something out of desperation (or even worse, dated religious christians!). Actually if I was single I probably would have taken a 2 year postdoc I was offered instead of moving here.
We also got to talking about this thing at my school last year, when the sociology club sponsored a guest speaker to talk about the death row (her daughter had been kidnapped and murdered and she argued for the guy to be taken off death row so that he would tell her where the body is) and she kept ranting on about "jesus christ" this and her "faith in christ" that, and it made me super uncomfortable because we're a PUBLIC school, and this was a school sponsored event, so wtf. But that I didn't know what to do so I didn't really say anything, but it felt super wrong. And later my other colleague said things like "Welcome to the south, that's just what everyone is like down here" when I talked to her about it. Which got my colleague's girlfriend talking about how she told off this person for saying "I'll pray for you" in this really nasty way. "I'll pray for you" basically means "Fuck you" in southern jesus speak. Just like "well bless his heart" means "he's an incompetent moron." It took me like a year to catch on to that one. Since they can't curse you out (since that's not very christian/southern/polite like) they've come out with a new way down here to curse you out without actually using cuss words.
Which got us talking about confronting people in general, and she told me this even more awesome story about how when my colleague was at the farmer's market, some farmer guy made a racist comment about an interracial couple there, and my colleague was like "you know, I've been buying from you every week for years, but because you just said that I'm never going to buy food from you again." And THEN he started calling out to other people passing by "This guy is a racist, I'm not buying food from him anymore cause he's a big racist, he doesn't like interracial couples! Don't buy from him unless you like racists!" or something like that for a few minutes. Awesome!
I'm relatively white looking- although I have black hair/eyes and olive skin and sometimes I've been mistaken for Latina by Latino people who have started talking to me in Spanish. My grandfather's nickname in the army was "Chico" because he looked Latino- he's actually Romanian/Jewish. But I'm white enough that white people see me and see another white person.
Like many jewish people, I don't necessarily fully identify as white, especially since white people killed my great grandparents and enslaved my grandparents for not being white enough. But I know that to other white people, I look white, and I know I get all the benefits of white privilege, and especially lately white starting-to-look-a-bit-older and dressed in middle class clothing lady privilege. I feel like I have a cloak of invisibility when it comes to getting pulled over, getting treated roughly by the cops, ever getting searched by the cops. Because I'm a white lady, and no white ladies do crimes (apparently)! And rough handling a white lady the way cops rough handle a white man or a black or hispanic lady, let alone a black or latino man, is just pretty unlikely to happen. I also of course have a leg up in the middle class job market, although not necessarily for "male" typed jobs, in which black/latina women and men of all colors who are seen as tougher or more agressive might have an easier time finding a job.
The only way to make my cloak of invisibility disappear is to look more like a hippie, because hippies are treated worse than regular white people, as I found out when I had dreadlocks and was super hippieish for a year in grad school (2006ish). It was funny, all the black people in my neighborhood started talking to me that year, all the cops and security guards started watching me, and all the white men stopped talking to me. Which I kinda liked, cause they also stopped lecturing me about smoking cigarettes. Oh yeah, try being a young white woman smoking a cigarette outdoors, and count how many condescending lectures you get from older white men. Although that's probably more of a problem in the North than the South (I wouldn't know because I quit smoking).
Getting back to my point, white people say things around other white people that they might not say around other types of people. So I've had white people say racist things to me or around me assuming I would agree with it, and I had no idea what to do. I've actually had this happen to me much more in the north than in the south (probably because I lived there longer and my family is chock full o' racists), but it also has happened to me down here a couple of times.
If I've known the person well enough or didn't care about what they thought, then I have argued with them- like when my real estate agent here went on a whole rant about muslim people coming to town I was like "You know, the more I travel around the more I find out that people are just people are just people, no matter what the leaders of those people are saying. Most people are just trying to live their lives the best way they can." I knew I was purchasing a rather large service from him, so he needed my business, and I therefore felt comfortable saying that, although it's not quite as confrontational as I wish it would be. I've also been much more confrontational with people in my family, although not nearly as much as I wish I was. But when it comes to family members I always respond to racist comments to some degree though (ranging from expressing my dissent in a polite way to full blown screaming fights), and have since I've been a teenager.
But I've also been in situations where I was with another friend at their friend's house, and then that friend of a friend said something racist, but I was like...at their house. So what do you do? I said nothing, and I hate myself a little bit for it. Later all 3 of us who were there besides this racist guy talked about how uncomfortable it made us- but in a room of 3 non racists and 1 racist, the racist view triumphed because nobody had the ovaries to confront him.
I want to be more like my colleague. I feel the same way about racists that I imagine they feel about their chosen race of hate- I fucking hate them, and every time I've come across someone who had a racist view, I've lost 100% of my respect for them. B had a guy in his social group (not close friend) in Philly who said something racist in front of me once, and every time after that that I saw him I avoided him, and did something else like go online to avoid joining in conversation with him. And he will forever be referred to as "Racist Joe" by me.
And yet I never once said anything to him about it. I'm afraid of confrontation like that. But it needs to be done, and I need to be better prepared for future situations.
When I lived in NYC, I had my ass grabbed on the subway several times. And when you're a young lady without a wedding ring (and even once you have), guys hit on you on the street everywhere. The first few times my ass was grabbed I was in total shock and by the time I realized what was happening, it was over and I couldn't figure out who had done it (The subway can be super crowded during rush hour). The third time, I grabbed that hand and started yelling at the guy and asking him what the fuck did he think he was doing, and he quickly got off at the next stop. The first few times someone tried to hit on me on the street I just said nothing and walked faster and basically ran away from them. Now if someone does that I'll yell back at them and tell them to fuck off, or ask if hitting on random women on the street ever really works with anyone...really?
I need to figure out some kind of equivalent response for when people say racist things, so I can be the one yelling at people in the farmer's market not to buy food from a racist, and so that years and years later I don't have to feel guilty about every racist remark I've heard that I've never confronted- because I'll have confronted them! That's the kind of person I want to be more like.