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It isn’t always black and white…

Defensive about the offensiveness


Last night, as I do every night, I turned on the machine that sits next to my bed on my nightstand. It produces a “white noise” that lulls me into sleep. As I lay there waiting to fall asleep, I began thinking about everything and yet nothing. The kind of thoughts you have when you are fortunate enough, for that one moment, not to be burdened with worry. The kind of worries that everyone, especially women carry around like that extra five pounds. The worrying about spouses, children, money, jobs. Even ones as mundane as if the door was locked before heading to bed, or did I remember to pick up shirts from the dry cleaners.

The thought I had this night was the number of terms in the English language that incorporate the use of the color black or white. I’m listening to “white noise”. If the power goes out, there will be a “blackout”. You get the idea. It then made me wonder how long will it be before the insanity, in my opinion, that has been sweeping this Country forces these words to be eliminated from our language because they are considered to be offensive or even racist.

Recently, I was in TJ Maxx the day before Thanksgiving. An older woman was waiting for her friend who was in the dressing room. Her friend had finished trying on the clothes and handed them to me as I was working part-time at the store. As the two women were about to exit the dressing room area, I heard them talking about the chaos that might ensue on the upcoming Friday. One of them turned to me and asked “What do stores call this Friday? Normally, that question wouldn’t have caused me any embarrassment or hesitation in answering it — however, this older woman and her friend were black. I am white. I searched my mind for any word other than “black” to describe the day. I was so overly concerned that I would somehow offend this woman that I stumbled on what should have been a very simple response. I softly answered “Black Friday, ma’am.” She then asked me if I knew why it was called that. I went on to explain about a business being in the “black” when it is profitable. I told her a business is considered to be in the “red” when it is not. Since so many people go shopping on that Friday (avoiding saying “black Friday” once again), I told her the stores are expected to have a very profitable day. She didn’t chastise me. She didn’t yell “racist”. She simply thanked me and left. A term I’d used for years had suddenly become one I didn’t want to utter. And why ? — because in this current climate everything we might say, everything we might do, even everything we might think has become a cause of concern as to who we might offend. I struggle if I have to describe to another salesgirl what the one who had been assisting me looked like if she was black. Is it racist if I describe her that way? Should I have instead said African-American? We have become so afraid of offending someone that the use of common, everyday words are now being feared.

Statues of great men have been removed because they have become offensive to many. These statues were not erected to honor the cause these men fought for, they were erected to honor the men. The Vietnam War was one of the most divisive wars this Country has ever fought. Millions were offended by our participation in it. The Vietnam Wall does not honor the war, it honors the men and the women who died.

To me there is no greater example of the ability of people to separate the honoring of a man, from the honoring of his cause, than the statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square in England. George Washington was a traitor to Great Britain. Yet he is honored with a monument in a Country that would have hung him over two hundred years ago had the Revolutionary War been a British victory. I’m sure there are descendants living in England today of British Troops who fought in the American Revolution. Perhaps some died and yet the statue is able to remain.

It is time Americans stop being so sensitive and so offended by everything. We need to look beyond the obvious and recognize that everything isn’t always black and white.

Originally published at medium.com

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