I have to believe that most of you have been there.
You, the individual, are pretty positive that you know something, yet you want not to believe, you want to overlook, you want to hide the realization because it is ugly, and embarrassing, and bad, and goes against personal beliefs, and is sadly associated with someone close to you.
I have long known, through off-hand comments and outright confrontations over word choices and attitudes, that my spouse holds beliefs about specific members of society that are not okay. That are wrong. Call them stereotypical. Call them profiling. Call them flat out prejudiced. I have seen and heard examples of his underlying beliefs, on occasion, for over 30 years. I have heard words directed toward other cultures, other ethnicity’s, both genders, women in particular…all relatively subtle, but still present enough to occupy a place within his ideology.
I could turn this post into a reflection of how and why I came to be living with a person who holds ideals so far beyond my own. I could defend actions and choices that I chose to overlook early on. I could try to explain, but I will never attempt to defend, or agree, or allow his words to be brushed off as unnoticed, or acceptable. As with much of our relationship, I chose to see some aspects and also chose to turn a blind eye to others. The whys behind those choices don’t really matter now, although they are so much a part of the disillusionment I feel with this relationship and marriage.
What does matter is that I have to give voice to injustice, to document here – no matter my association – a blatant act that has left me cringing and ashamed.
My spouse has left for an annual weekend away. Just minutes ago, he was ready to leave, ready to pack up an SUV driven by his friend. His gear was ready to be loaded and I expected to hear the sound of the car driving away. What I heard was our door closing, his footsteps in the hall and then these words: (I apologize for any offense they bring)
“We’re going to wait a bit before we load. I don’t want the Mexicans next door to see me loading up all my stuff.”
I stopped what I was doing and stared at him. Our neighbors have hired a gardening company to take care of their lawn. The crew today happened to be two Hispanic men. The same men who routinely take care of this lawn, who have on every occasion that I have encountered them been nothing but polite, efficient, non-threatening. In other words, simply two men doing their jobs.
Not people deserving of assumptions, or ridicule, or derision. Not people deserving to be stereotyped because of their ethnicity, skin color, or job.
“What do you mean, you’re waiting for them to leave?”
“If they see us loading, you might just have a few visitors after we pull away…figuring you’re home alone.”
Do you know that moment when you are so very shocked by something that you’ve heard that you literally cannot speak?
That was me, just after those words came out of his mouth. It was that gut-punch moment when everything that you want to scream out loud is just clenched inside your core because you simply cannot imagine that someone you know could ever utter words like the ones you just heard.
Before I could shake myself back into the moment, he had taken himself back outside. I managed to get out a sentence about his unfounded need to ‘protect’ me, and his hateful stereotyping, but he was already out the door and all I caught was a response about “…deserving to be stereotyped.”
He left. He did not come back into the house and I did not follow him to further attempt to defend my position, or call him out on his hate-filled words.
I had to sit down here, and write this. I had to get those words out. I have to acknowledge that I am so ashamed of this individual, that he is someone so foreign to me at this moment. That he is a part of the problem that holds our society behind walls of hate.
I cannot make excuses for him. I cannot change him.
But, I can challenge his ugliness. I can speak out.