I am normally quiet and like to think of myself as thoughtful. However, if I think someone vulnerable is being attacked unfairly, I can get loud and aggressive. I stop thinking and rush in, ready to fight. I’ve always been like this.
I have two cousins, who I thought of as almost the same person. They are both intelligent, moody and easily angered, and large. They’ve both been at least double my weight since I was little and still are. Solid muscle.
I was terrified of them. (Still am). Another thing they had in common was the amount of racist garbage they threw at me. To which I invariably reacted and would rush back at them saying that racism was mean and wrong.
How they did this was different.
Karate kid’s favourite racist memes were complaining about immigrants and the First Nations people. The irony of a descendant of colonizing immigrants complaining about these two groups never registered. With his black hair and dark eyes, he sometimes had to deal with First Nations racism directed at him.
He argued back with me, trying to say that he wasn’t saying racist things, just honest truth. Then when I got really upset, he would turn the topic to how I was too sensitive. Eventually, Karate kid learned to censor himself when I was around and all I heard were scornful things like “can’t say anything about that, you-know-who is too sensitive”.
Linebacker dude (he played football, but I don’t know which position) liked to make anti-Semitic comments and slurs about black people. He didn’t pretend to argue but made ridiculous statement after ridiculous statement. I remember feeling so frustrated, not only by what he said, but that his sisters never said anything to him about it. (They have all dedicated their lives to working with marginalized peoples like those with disabilities and addictions.)
One day, when I was around 8 or 10, I ran into Linebacker and a friend and Linebacker made some particularly incendiary remarks about Jewish people. I got really mad and said something about him and the Holocaust that apparently crossed the line. Linebacker looked at me condescendingly and said “how stupid are you to think that about me? My best friend is Jewish” and pointed to the guy beside him “and most of the rest of my friends are black”.
I had no idea his friend was Jewish and had never seen his other friends. I had no idea he was only saying the things he did to make me upset for his own entertainment. I was still in elementary school and was so scared of him that the few times we were in his city I did my best to ignore him. At least he never said anything like that again.
I wish I could end this tale with how we all grew up and learned to laugh at ourselves and appreciate our differences. Instead, my two cousins now avoid me. Apparently I have offended them.