An Open Letter to My Racist Neighbor, or: My Dog is a Better Person Than You

So yesterday I witnessed the strangest and most unexpected display of racism that I’ve ever seen in real life. Since most people don’t actually think that they’re racist, you might be surprised to hear that it was you, O Racist One, who was the star of the show.

dog

This is not my dog, but I assure you that my dog is just as awesome.

Here’s a recap:

You, A White Person, became irritated at A Black Person (or otherwise darkly-hued individual of unknown ethnicity whom you assumed to be “black”) for crossing the street in front of your car. From what I could tell, the two of you engaged in a verbal argument which culminated in you (the White Person) calling him (the Black Person) the N-word. Like…a lot. Also, you threatened him with violence, called him several other terms which I will not print here (even with little stars in the place of the vowels), and said things like, “I’m not the [n-word] here. You are, you f*cking [n-word]. Do I look like a [n-word] to you?”

Um………..

If we’re taking “the n-word” to mean bad, nasty, ugly, cruel, stupid, ignorant, uneducated, immature, disgusting, or backwards, then I have to say that yes, in fact. You do look like that.

Since you and I had crossed paths many times before, exchanging pleasantries and talking about our dogs, I guess I had assumed a few things about you. You’ve never been mean to me, so I suppose I assumed you were kind. You seem to be pretty cool to your dog, so I may have imagined you were a lover of animals (like, um, humans). You don’t immediately look like a demon, and you generally don’t carry any visible weapons or severed heads, so I guess I prematurely decided that you weren’t some sort of sociopath. (But then, that’s probably what all severed-head-carrying-sociopaths want us to think.)

Really, though, I didn’t know the truth about you because I, like you, am A White Person. (Which makes me a-okay in your book, I guess.)

I’m actually not sure what you were so mad about. Were you mad because the guy walked in front of your car? You you upset because he looked at you a certain way? Was he someone who has wronged you in the past, and you saw this as the perfect moment to exact your revenge?

Here’s the thing, though: Even if this guy was, like, a total douche, or waltzed in front of your car as you were trying to park and shot you a “sorry-not-sorry” type of look which I know can be super annoying and inconvenient, and even if you felt like you just had to say something: isn’t it at all possible that you could have thought of some other way to say it?

I take it you’re not at all clever, so I’ve kindly thought of some examples:

“Excuse me, but I’m trying to park here.”

Too mellow? Okay, I hear ya. What about something like, “Hey, buddy, why don’t you move it along?”

Not really driving the point home? Alright, I didn’t want to do this, because this blog is a classy place, but how about: “Get out of my way, asshole!”

Because, see, if you had said any one of these things, I would probably be on your side. I would think, “Why, my kind, animal-loving neighbor has been inconvenienced by this inconsiderate gentleman!” I would rush to your defense.

But you didn’t do that. You didn’t defend yourself or your position with language or reason or logic or respect. You didn’t explain why you were angry or try to talk it out. You didn’t ignore the situation and move forward with your life, letting bygones be bygones and inconsiderate assholes be inconsiderate assholes.

Instead, you took the easiest, most destructive path you could think of. Like millions before you, you decided to turn a conflict of interest into a conflict of power, asserting something about him, and about you, that you mistakenly think makes you Better Than. That other dude didn’t “play the race card.” You did.

You took the coward’s way out.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t defend him, or contradict you. I was afraid of making the situation worse or scarier or further agitating you in some way. I’ve wished all day that I had said something so that he knew I didn’t feel that way about him, that I didn’t think he was scary or stupid or worthless. In fact, like you, I didn’t know anything about him at all.

I can’t imagine what it must feel to be reduced to a slur every time I bug someone. I’m White, and Heterosexual, and Middle-Class, and a few other things which put me in The Majority. Which is a pretty good place to be, especially if you happen to walk in front of some racist’s car.

Listen, if you get into a fight with A Gay Person, and your only response is to call them a faggot, you are a homophobe. If you get into a fight with A Woman, and the only insult you can think of is “bitch” or “slut,” you have a serious problem with women. If you get into a fight with A Black Guy, and all that comes to mind is the n-word, you are a racist.

Oh and also, you’re probably pretty stupid.

So anyway, the other dude walked past me, and into the evening. For all we know, this was just one of hundreds of racial minefields he navigates daily, desperately trying not to get blown up.

You looked at me, smiled, called out, “Goodnight!” and retreated into your house.

My dog tried to chase after you, but I caught her leash and walked her home.

You are not a good person, and I don’t think I want our dogs to play together anymore. I don’t want your ignorant and pathetic backwards beliefs or utter lack of rhetoric and human decency to rub off on her, because she loves everybody. Even you.

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2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Racist Neighbor, or: My Dog is a Better Person Than You

  1. I’m so glad I found your blog. My 15 year old son recently witnessed our neighbor say horribly racist things to one of his best friends who is black. Her young daughter was there to witness her racist rampage. I want to let her know how I feel about it so I decided to search the internet. I googled “open letter to my racist neighbor” and found your perfect letter. I wish I could successfully pen my thoughts and feelings as well as you. If it’s alright with you I’m going to use some of your well written thoughts for my own letter to my equally racist neighbor. Thank you for writing this.

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    • Catherine – I too, am so glad you found your way here! I’m so sorry, though, that your son and his friend were witness and victim to such an ignorant display. However, I think your son is incredibly lucky to have a mom who is willing to stand up for and teach him about tolerance, not just in words, but in actions. Bravo you. Please use my words however you find them helpful!!

      Like

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