two days ago my bossman Darin told me about this story where a dad had picked up his young kid in the laundromat and stuffed him in a washing machine and closed the door [presumably as a joke or to teach him a lesson] but once the door locked the washing machine jumped into life and they couldn’t stop it or get him out until someone who worked at the place ran up and unplugged it and eventually managed to save the child. The child was apparently mostly fine [except maybe for the trauma suffered by your dad almost killing you in a washing machine]…
then yesterday i was at the gym, running on the treadmill in front of a wall of tvs and the incident came on two different channels which were showing news. sure enough the dad stuffed the kid into the machine and it suddenly starts and both parents frenetically try to stop the machine and the guy comes and stops it. it happened just as i had been told, except one thing really took me by surprise.
i decided to test out my theory on two people as we walked to the office yesterday and so i mentioned that i had seen the story on the tv and asked what colour the parents were. without hesitation they both answered “white” which is exactly what i had imagined. only thing is i had been wrong. what surprised me about the video was that it looked like a so-called african-american family [athough definitely a family of colour] and what surprised me was that in my head only a white family would be stupid enough to do something like that.
does that make me racist? it definitely would if it had gone the other way… but that made me think along with a lot of this Brett Murray ‘The Spear’ painting stuff that has been going on in South Africa and this amazing article which called a lot of it for what it was.
Four lines from that article carry the heart of where this whole racism-calling thing has gotten a little bit out of control:
I’m not shouting at you because you’re black, I’m shouting because you’re a maniac on the roads who is a danger to society.
I’m not complaining to your manager because you’re black. I’m complaining because you’re an incompetent moron who is incapable of doing her job properly.
I’m not firing you because you’re black. I’m firing you because you’re a thief.
I’m not confronting you because your black, I’m shouting at you because you’re a messy pig who expects other people to clean up your mess.
Each of those incidents [maniac on road, incompetent at job, thief, litterer] if they had occurred with someone of the same race calling out someone of the same race it would have been an incident of whatever is in brackets [parenthesis to the americanese] but because it was a white person calling a black person that [and i’m guessing vice versa] it suddenly becomes a race thing.
there is a lot more to say on this issue but hopefully this incident has at least got people thinking about it. are stereotypes racism or do they exist, much like cliches, because they are true a lot of the time? and while it is unfair to generalise with a stereotype or cliche and judge everyone as that thing, it is maybe not necessarily racist to be aware of or mention them.
i don’t think it was a big deal that i assumed the washing machine dad was white. i think it just was what it was. we could progress a lot further in this world, life, country if we started looking a lot more at what is as opposed to what could be suggested/read into/taken as…
[late add: found out today that it was a babysitter and her boyfriend and not the kids parents who put the baby into the machine – story is here]