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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Angry White Man

For the past year Stan has been dealing, on and off, with back pain.  Last year about this time I nicknamed him "Angry White Man."  In my mind, it was an appropriate way to describe him to a tee.  He was angry, irritable, snappish, bitchy (yes, bitchy) and basically a pain in the ass.  He was in pain and on prednisone, couple that with the weight gain on prednisone and it was a truly terrible combination.  Toward the end I started calling him Fat, Angry, White man ~ at least behind his back, but shhhhhh, don't tell him that.

His back pain eventually eased a little and Stan went back to life as normal.  He stopped being Angry, White Man and went back to being Stan.  I like him much better than AWM.

The other day Stan tweaked his back and tweaked it HARD!  He was in excruciating pain, writhing on the floor and not able to walk.  It was not a good sight to see.

He's back on pain meds and prednisone so I'm waiting for Angry, White Man to reappear.  So far he hasn't.  And I'm hoping he doesn't.  

As I was talking to one of his friends today, my term of "endearment" for Stan's predicament came tumbling out, and I stopped short wondering who I was offending.  (I know I'm not offending Stan, he's heard me call him AWM so many times ~ without the "fat" part, anyway.)  So I had to reel myself in and think, would I offend someone by calling Stan an angry, white man?   I hate thinking I've upset anyone with my term for Stan.  I'm just describing Stan and his behavior.  But in these overly politically correct times did I cross some sort of imaginary racial divide?  Did I say something completely and utterly taboo by calling Stan an angry white guy?

I truly hope not but it got me to thinking...

What's an OK way to describe someone?  Stan is white, that's part of who he is.  He was also angry and a man...all of the components of Stan.  But if I saw someone who was an angry black man and called them that would I offend them?  A man who is black is black.  I'm not saying anything that's not true.  If he's angry and black I'm not saying anything untrue.  So is it derogatory and if it is how did we get to be this sensitive?  Color of the skin is not something we can change (unless we're talking about Michael Jackson) so, to me, it shouldn't be considered offensive.  To me, it's just a descriptive part of who we are.  I understand the derogatory terms for color of skin shouldn't be used, but do black and white fall into those categories?

Or, am I reading more into my description of Stan than I should?

I want my kids to grow up understanding that everyone is different.  We all have different colors of skin, hair and eyes.  Those parts of us are also descriptive parts of us.

Right now, in life, I'm a very white girl with reddish hair and greenish eyes.  I wouldn't be offended if someone said "Dude...you are glow in the dark kind of white."  It's just who I am.

Years and years ago, I remember cringing in horror in the checkout line at Target.  Lucas was in the seat of the shopping cart and Zach was walking beside me, to my left.  I turned right into a lane to checkout, and that's when it happened.  Zach whispered, in that loud way only a kid can, "Mommy, we can't go in this lane.  She's a bad guy.  She's black."  I think my face must have flamed 500 shades of red as I said as calmly as I could, "Zach, that doesn't matter.  We're staying in this lane."  I paid for our things and got out of there as quickly as I could.  It wasn't until we were in the car that I had to wonder if Zach was talking about the color of checker's skin or the color of her shirt.  Unlike every other checker, ever, to work at Target she had on a black shirt.  Back when the kids were four, it was easy for them to tell the difference between the good-guys and the bad-guys.  Bad-guys always wore black.  But it was a cringe-worthy moment when Zach blurted it out for, what seemed like to me, the whole world to hear and one we corrected with a great, albeit embarrassing, teachable moment.

Now, I feel like I'm cringing all over again.  Is it because how extreme I think we've become with political correctness?  This time it was all brought to a head, in my mind, by me calling Stan AWM out loud and in a public place.  Did I cross a line or is it just in my imagination?

I want to teach my kids the right and wrong way to describe someone without offending, but I'm not sure that's possible.  I found myself amusing when I called Stan "Angry White Man."  I'm not sure other's share my amusement.  Have we become that serious about who we are?  Are we becoming incapable of laughing at ourselves a little?  Call me "Casper the friendly ghost" when referring to how white I am.  I don't care.  To me, it's not derogatory.  It's who I am.  And I think it's a little amusing.

So is it OK to teach my kids to use non-derogatory descriptors to help identify others?  I think it's OK to call someone an Angry Black Man.  I know it's not OK to describe someone as a fat, ugly witch.  That might be an accurate description, but it's not nice.   The ability to cross these fine lines is tough to navigate. I think I'm up to the task, but maybe I'm not.  Let me know what you think...did I cross a line by calling Stan AWM?  Because I want to teach my kiddos the right way to describe someone...for the love of my children, and those everywhere....

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