mind expanding nonsense

Are you out of your frickin’ mind Hansi?” “You got to stop writing these blog posts when you’re thoroughly baked.” Well all I can say is No to the former, and I’ll consider it to the latter. This may sound really politically incorrect (or totally correct depending on your politics), but the thing is I had this big brain fart flash, and came up with this cool title. So the trick is how does one ‘fondly remember’ racial slurs without being offensive, let alone come across as a total bigot? Tall order.

I grew up in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles in the fifties and sixties (here we go again with more nostalgic flash-backs) and heard a lot of racial slurs. At that time the Crenshaw area was composed fairly evenly of Whites [that be me], Blacks, and Japanese. And although everybody sorta got along, racial slurs were commonly used when describing people of other races, as well as religions, cultures and just about everything else.  Hey, that’s what we learned. I didn’t know my first grade pal, Tommy James, was an ‘N Word’, until someone told me. I just thought Tommy was a cool guy who could play kick-ball really good so you always wanted him on your team (no sports stereotyping intended). I had no clue he was one of those folks who were threatening to move west out of Central L A and into Our neighborhoods and drive down property values with their “Block Busting”.

Now all wasn’t wonderful in Lily-White land, cause although we made up a strong third of the population, some of us living in the Baldwin Hills were Jewish [that not be me]. Some of my best buddies were Jewish, and to tell ya the truth I kinda envied them. See at about age thirteen, when I was in Junior High, all my buds were getting bar-mitzvahs .

Again, not a clue what that was all about, but I did know that they got all lot of expensive gifts when you were mitzvah’d at the local bar. I certainly had an open mind towards that. Their thirteen year old girls were mostly getting nose jobs.

We had two Japanese families living on our block and another around the corner. I had an affinity towards them, cause although they were born here in the States [like me], they had a certain ‘foreignness’ to them [like Hansi has]. So the big dilemma when we played guns was who’d we fight? Couldn’t fight the Japs, that would offend them, and fighting the Krauts, well that hit a little too close to home for me. We did a lot of Davey Crockett at the Alamo and fought Mexicans. Everybody was happy except the Mexicans, but there weren’t any beaners nearby to complain.

So where did I learn to use racial slurs? Where else but in the gutter where ya also learned everything you needed to know about sex. It was a learned behavior, and its use socially reinforced by my ethnic peers and role models. And I became desensitized to its impact by its common usage among them; hey everybody used the N word back then. But I found something out when in High School; one of my best friends turned out to be black [ that sounds stupid, inferring that he suddenly turned into a Negro overnight or something, but I’ll leave it in], and my best bud in Junior High was Jewish ; that they weren’t evil scum like I heard, but pretty much just like me, and maybe even a little higher on the old socioeconomic latter ladder [damn you Spell-check] than myself. What was America coming to?

So were does the fondling come in?. [With your mind of course…,I really meant fondness; it’s Spell-check’s fault]. Maybe in being able to unlearn a behavior, and admit that I was wrong…just once mind you. But wrong in my assumption and views of other people. I went into their homes, they came to mine…no difference. They were just like me! So there ya have it, and you can call me a liberal communist-pinko who wants to socialize everything form Medicare to Social Security, but that’s the way I see it. But I also discovered that when making a racial slur, I was either angry, pissed off or fearful. And those were not fun mind states to be in.  Not at all peaceful.

Somehow all the racial slurs for white folks never seemed to bother me. When they called me a “Cracker” all I could wonder is did they mean graham or soda. And Pecker-wood; well I just didn’t see how having one’s pecker turn wooden  (a ‘woodie?’) was a bad thing, unless of course it was a prosthesis.


Comments on: "Fondly Remembering Racial Slurs" (17)

  1. I really miss Don Imus. It was the last bastion of “white guys can deride others” humor. But some really did cross the line and for minorities I suppose all of it did. Since my grandchildren are of mixed race and ethnicities, however, I have grown to resent that genre of humor and it does not seem so funny. It is ironic that racial slurs against white teachers in this Miami Dade school system is shrugged off and not even considered a punishable offense. On the other hand, did you hear the one about the 3 Polish……

  2. I remember the days before almost everything one said was considered offensive to one group or another. Seems to me this country is entirely too politically correct. Certain words didn’t seem so bad back when I was a kid. But that was long ago.

  3. You were lucky. I grew up in a lily-white neighborhood, and never went to school with a person who wasn’t either. As far as I can remember, there were no Jews. We only knew of blacks from a party or two, and a few Mexicans, who I thought were “cute.” So my education took a lot longer. It wasn’t until I went to college that I started to unravel my own racism, which had been given a healthy help by parents and family. Sigh….if only people would just meet others without pre-judging.

  4. Snoring Dog Studio said:

    This was one of your best posts, Hansi. I’ve traveled around the world and lived in a lot of places, which sometimes helps purge the urge to use derogatory names for other cultures. But I think it wasn’t until I was getting my Master’s – during which I was required to read some feminist stuff and some rhetoric of language stuff – when I finally became a lot more aware of how language and images are used to denigrate cultures and ethnicities. Seems to me that a lot of folks who are concerned that we’ve become too politically correct have yet to understand the way language can be used to do real harm. Yeah, I tolerate pretty much none of that kind of language and imagery now.

    • Thanks, I didn’t know how this one would come off. Language is pretty powerful, and once a word is uttered, it cannot be taken back, but endlessly be repeated on Utube.

  5. Hansi,
    I never had your cultural advantages growing up but I was astounded with my kids experiences in racially diverse LA. Our district was 50% asian and many of them were non-native. I was happily naive in the belief that my kids were growing up in an environment that would foster indifference to race, much as you describe in your younger days. In high school all the races ghettoized themselves. Black friends from elementary school only hung out in the black corner of the school yard and asians (actually the asians weren’t satisfied with one ghetto, there were at least three). I don’t know where it came from. We never cared or differentiated our kids friends by race. It just happened.
    How did your experiences influence your decision on where to raise your kids?

    • The decision of where to raise my kids just happened. I don’t live in L A anymore; haven’t for over 40 years. I live 60 miles north, on the coast. It’s pretty much just white and Hispanic in my area.

  6. We’ll have to start calling you Hansi Wallenda for walking this tightrope so elegantly!

    Totally true and the big bottom line problem is that we seem to be more worried about getting rid of the words (remember the guy who lost his job for using “niggardly” in a memo?) than we are about getting rid of the inequality/hatred that the words are supposed to be symptomatic of. There is a connection between the two, but only up to a point and if we spend all our energy trying to cure the sympton (nasty words) the disease can go on unchecked.

  7. Powerful post and powerful drawings. Great work.

    This bit esp, “But I also discovered that when making a racial slur, I was either angry, pissed off or fearful.”

  8. geezerpussrex said:

    I, too, grew up in Southern California and was both clueless and overly sensitive when it came to racial slurs, or slurs of any kind for that matter. In my youth, the slurs I heard given to prominent European ethnic groups either made no sense or seemed corny, whereas most derogatory terms relating to Blacks, Jews and those of Latin extraction were abhorent. It’s all about ignorance and illwill pitted against oversensitivity and a now-cloying practice of political correctness. It makes me want to shout, “Get yourself some thicker skin people ’cause I’m about to speak and I mean no harm!”

  9. Brilliant! Outstanding! Meaningful! Thought-provoking! Bravo! … and thanks for sharing and reminding us about humanity!

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