“Never cut what you can untie.”– Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)
A friend sent me this quote this morning, and, quite frankly, not a moment too soon.
I am going to try very, very carefully in the next 500 words to untie, but I’m afraid it won’t be easy.
First the back story: Last week I opened a notification from my neighborhood’s Nextdoor private social media website and read what I construed as a racially offensive comment. I wrote about it here.
To the moderator’s credit, he flagged the comment; and to the author’s credit, she removed it.
If the story had ended there, it would have been a tidy closing indeed: An unfortunate comment was made, and attention was paid.
The following two responses appeared yesterday:
“Don’t see the comment you refer to but . . . it could not have been as you designate ‘racist’; you must have misinterpreted it . What we don’t need any more of is PC police. Sad state of affairs and not helpful in solving our community problems.”
“Where did this business of racist come from? What is Newport Buzz talking about? When one calls the police, they are asked to identify the perpetrator; if answers are not forthcoming, you are questioned whether the person was white, black, Hispanic, Asian… Since when is descriptive language racist? Newport Buzz should answer for this very rude charge.”
There are plenty of responses that come to mind, but, again, I am endeavoring to untie rather than cut. The first point, and this is not a subtle one, is that the initial post referred to two human beings—who were doing nothing wrong let alone illegal—as “Hispanic types.” There is no misinterpretation at work here. The comment is racially offensive. In this context, there was absolutely zero reason to refer to anyone by their ethnicity. And while I will stop short of terming this an instance of racial profiling at work in my neighborhood, I will say that my son’s future as someone of Mexican ancestry walking the city streets I have called my home, the streets I love, gives me pause.
This is not the “’PC’ police.” This is a mother of a beautiful child who fears the very neighbors who give her a pleasant smile and a warm “hello” when she walks the street will not have the same for her son.
Community problems take many forms, and not all are as glaring as unwanted graffiti on the side of a building. Some are far more insidious—and, truthfully, sad.