Wednesday, July 29, 2009

point out that "free speech" protects "hate speech"

What would you do if a neighbor of yours put up a sign like the one that this woman has prominently displayed on her house?

I know what I would do -- call CNN and have them send out a reporter!

Actually, although I meant that last sentence facetiously, alerting the local and national media does seem like a good idea. Maybe CNN's report will bring enough attention to this sign to get that woman to take it down.

(For anyone who can't see the video, it's a brief report about a woman in Texas who has a very visible sign on her house that reads "HISPANICS KEEP OUT.")

Aside from what you might do if this were your neighbor, what do you suppose your neighborhood in general would do? Would they, like this woman's neighbors, decline to make any official complaints, because putting up with her sign is their way of practicing "tolerance"?

Is practicing tolerance for such intolerant speech really "tolerance"? I guess it is, technically, but it's not my kind of tolerance. Anyway, I don't even care much for the notion of tolerance itself in these matters -- what are really you saying about someone when you say that you're willing to "tolerate" them?

In a situation like this, if you or your neighbors were not Hispanic, would you or they find ways to reach out to any Hispanic families in the neighborhood?

This incident also makes me wonder about the dividing line between protected "free speech" and unprotected "hate speech." "Speech" of this sort -- not only things people say, but also what they display on signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and so on -- often gets defended in the U.S. as "free speech." When Americans do that, they're basically saying, "Hey, you may not like it, but it's a free country. People can say whatever they want."

But if this kind of racist, hateful speech is protected by the United States' First Amendment, what kind of racist, hateful speech is not protected by it? I mean, how much worse than this woman's racist, highly visible sign does it have to get before such speech can be shut down?

My understanding is that for one thing, hate speech is not protected if it clearly and directly seeks to incite some sort of violence. But if that's the dividing line, isn't the definition of "violence" rather open to interpretation? If I saw such a sign in my neighborhood, telling Hispanics or any other group of people to "KEEP OUT," I'd consider my having to see it every time I go for a walk an act of violence. Not to mention the painful effects it would have on any non-white people driving by, or living in the neighborhood.

And surely this sign does encourage violence against any Hispanic families that might live in the neighborhood. But then, I suppose, it doesn't explicitly, directly encourage such violence. It just orders them to "KEEP OUT," as in, "stay off my property." It doesn't tell Hispanics to keep out of this neighborhood or town, although the "tolerance" of the neighbors for her sign may well do that.

Maybe the best cure for hate speech of this sort is, as they say, more speech. (Maybe that kind of cure should be called "love speech.") Should neighbors who find this woman's free speech a distressing, injurious disgrace find ways to drown hers out? Maybe by putting up signs of their own?


Maybe someone should print up a bunch of signs like that, and then go to that town at three in the morning, and stick one in everyone's yard (including this woman's, of course). Then come back in a day or two and see how many are still there.

That might also give a better idea of just how "tolerant" this neighborhood really is. And who knows, it might be even help to make it more tolerant.


  1. I probably would have crossed out the word hispanic, scribbled the word racist and turned the sign towards the front door of the people that live there.

  2. Non-white people just don't understand freedom.

  3. wow. she should be embarrassed. the fact that she isn't is mind boggling. John McCain and Sarah Palin are the people we can thank for this...the two of them aroused the racist....

  4. Posting an opposing sign might turn the whole thing into a shouting match.

    The problem isn't that people are allowed to say such things -- it's that they say them.

    This is one of those cases where creating laws is a (flesh-toned) Band-aid. You can stop signs like that, but it would take an entirely different procedure to stop people thinking the type of thing that's on that sign.

  5. I love how "Hispanics" are "invading" her country. Whose country are Hispanics invading? What about me, a Hispanic whose family has three generations here? What am I invading? Didn't get the memo she is privy to. :)

  6. Limiting free speech is a dangerous thing to do. Especially when it can, as has happened in other countries, be used to silence differening opinions.

    For example, many people think any valid criticism (in a non-racial way) of President Obama or Sonia Sotomayer could is considered hate speech by many people. Including people like you.

  7. You know what, bringing in the television news--with their cameras and their [often] in-your-face approach--does nothing but get that woman's back up, and makes here plant her feet solidly in the ground, wherein she will refuse to slightly consider that her sign may be causing harm. (Of course, I am assuming that the neighbours' first action was to go to CNN. macon d, do you know if that is the case, that the neighbours went to the tv news as their first course of action?)

    It is time that whites started doing some of the heavy lifting in regard to fighting racism. Her white non-Hispanic neighbours should have talked with her first. In a situation such as that one (an old, probably set in her ways, white woman, who is obviously bitter and fearful, who seems to be living alone), calling the cops or the news first is the coward's way--it is the choice that someone who doesn't want to get his hands dirty (meaning: doesn't want to do the work) makes. Now, perhaps they did that, and she slammed the door in their faces. Or perhaps they did not approach her (as is the case with so many of us living in these united states) because they do not talk to, know, their neighbours. I think if one knows her/his neighbours, then one would know that putting up such a sign would or would not be considered a racist act.

    Off Topic: That neighbour family is, all of them, the parents and kids, are morbidly obese. It is a sad situation, really, because it is all too common amongst so many Americans--being overweight like that. It'll be a surprise if any of them get to be as old as that woman (72 years), for it is rare to see a fat old person.

  8. I actually find the Hispanics-welcome-here-Everyone-else-too! strategy to counteract racism mildly offensive. I think that it a) singles out the ethnic group that is being targeted yet again, b) leaves the racism of the original sign unaddressed (while being a hugely self-ingratiating pat on the back for whoever is displaying the counter-sign), and c) almost seems as though the person displaying it is "approving" of Hispanics.

    And, as a person of Amerindian descent, the colonial sentiment that is so clearly evident in the word "Hispanic" really bugs me.

  9. In other situations, Fetus, I would agree with much of what you're saying, but please consider the context here. I recognize problems with the word Hispanic, but the signs I'm suggesting (or imagining -- it's tough to see that actually happening) would use that word as an answer to that word in her sign. Can you suggest a better word, or something else to put on such signs?

    As for singling out one group, doesn't "Everyone Else too!" include other groups?

    You also wrote that these imagined signs would leave "the racism of the original sign unaddressed (while being a hugely self-ingratiating pat on the back for whoever is displaying the counter-sign)."

    Really? If her sign says "Hispanics keep out," and the new ones would say "Hispanics welcome, everyone else too," in direct response to hers, that leaves the racism of her sign unaddressed? I don't see how -- seems to me that they'd directly address it, and not for "self-ingratiating" reasons, but for communal ones. Having a lot of them on display could be a communal, neighborhood expression of solidarity with the people being targeted by that woman's racist sign.

  10. starkcont wrote,

    For example, many people think any valid criticism (in a non-racial way) of President Obama or Sonia Sotomayer could is considered hate speech by many people. Including people like you.

    People like me? Where's your evidence for this? Where have I said no one should criticize either of those two people for anything "non-racial" (Let alone racial), and that any such such criticism would be "hate speech"? You're lumping me in with some group of people in your head -- "liberals," I'd guess, "who [supposedly] blindly support all things Obama" -- without providing evidence. I don't blindly support Obama; I have plenty of "non-racial" criticisms of his policies and actions thus far.

  11. recatbiker I like you suggestions for community action, especially by white people.

    You wrote,

    I am assuming that the neighbours' first action was to go to CNN. macon d, do you know if that is the case, that the neighbours went to the tv news as their first course of action?

    No, I don't know how CNN found out about it. I think your impression of those neighbors, at least the ones we heard about, is different from mine. Seemed to me that they at least tacitly support her sign, as suggested (again, to me) by their claim that their not complaining about it amounts to their own way of practicing "tolerance." I have no idea, though, what the mix of people, and of opinion, is in that neighborhood.

  12. I'd be sure to speak to her in Spanish every time I saw would probably be counterproductive but It would sure make me feel good

  13. I realize that most of my qualms seem like nitpicking, however, the idea that one can "approve" of "Hispanics" occupying any space reifies separatist notions (if you can approve, you can also disapprove), and, as far as I know, my cultural/ethnic heritage and occupation of a space are not things that need to be justified/approved of. The hypothetical signs are well-intentioned, I realize.. but is it absolutely necessary to let the world know that you approve of Hispanics entering your home? How 'bout just having us over instead of telling the world you'd "allow" us in? How about INCLUDING Hispanics in the anti-racist campaign instead of just using the ethnic category to make a point? After my ethnicity is brought up, the most common reaction I get from progressive whites is "Oh, I loooooveeeee Hispanics!"... and it starts feeling condescending after the billionth time.

    I'm sorry to say that, at the current moment, I don't have a better alternative to the word Hispanic, especially in the context of the signs... but, as a biracial individual of Amerindian heritage who is also Latin American/Hispanic (half Maya, half European white)... Hispanic often refers to Spanish-speaking countries (an imported/forced language that does NOT represent the First Peoples of those territories) and while I speak Spanish (as a result of being raised in a country where Spanish is the official language), I was born in a Portuguese-speaking country to a biological mother who spoke Tzotzil Maya. It's a very visceral reaction to not want to be reduced to a language that was imposed on a group of people and has historically -and currently- been used to maintain the marginalization of said people. To say Hispanic, to me, is to erase those people (us) from the narrative.

    I'm apologize if my concerns offended you or made your feel as though your imaginary strategy was under attack. I'm an avid reader of your blog and often direct my -white- partner here in order to open up topics of discussion that normally would not be addressed (and I'm grateful to you for that).. I was just trying to participate in a discussion about an issue that directly (and negatively) impacts people like me who have often been silenced and whose experiences are often appropriated and exploited.

  14. That woman has every right to put that sign up. That's what free speech is... the right to say what you want, even if others don't agree. Having to see that sign does not make you a victim of violence. If it does, every person who saw that video was just violently attacked by the news station who aired it.

  15. Does it suck that it encompasses an entire group of people? Of course. Is her anger really towards Hispanics or is it just illegal aliens and is it really just a way to cover racism? Who knows. Illegal aliens upset me too though and not because they're brown. Every time I get on the net, there's a scantily clad woman advertising something. It could offend me that my gender is used to superficially grab people's attention but it's as much a right as having a sign on your house and it doesn't make me a victim.

  16. Welcome to the good "ole United of these States or A-merry-ca as some would say/write.

  17. *illegal aliens as in the hispanic variety* They of course come from all nations but the ones she was talking about were hispanic.

  18. it's interesting that you post this today, since i had to endure more racist comments from a co-worker and had to tell her off (i'll be posting more about this later).

    i'm really sick of people defending hate speech as free speech. i have a feeling that if this was a non-white person with a sign that says "whites keep out" everyone would be up in arms over this "racist." the media doesn't seem to give a shit unless it's a POC who even remotely could be "racist." (ironic quotes in reference to Renee at Womanist Musings, who points out that racism is power, and since white people have power, it's sort of bullshit that POC are racist--let's not confuse this with prejudice, which all people can be guilty of).

  19. I agree. I hear many different people say that the response to bad speech is more speech. I'm not in favor of censorship. How about this for a sign:

    We welcome everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. We believe in hospitality :)

    Damn, if she's keeping out Hispanics, then I know I'm not welcome since I'm black! lol

  20. i wonder why people can't be bitter and lonely quietly and without exhibition...?

  21. Well...I doubt Hispanic people would even be attempting to come into this woman's house/yard ANYWAY; you don't typically just go over to hang out with neighbors who you're not friends with/don't essentially what her sign is saying is "I hate Hispanics" without coming out and saying it. Showing the Hispanic people who live around there, every time they go by, that a hater lives there.

    Also, this sign does not look homemade, it looks printed...who made these, and how widespread are they? surely there are more.

    Besides, her property used to be part of Mexico...just saying...

  22. I remember having this conversation with some of my friends who are not from the U.S.--a great number of them are from places in Japan, Europe, and South America.

    Macon, I'd like to add a different perspective when it comes to "hate speech" and "freedom of speech." I remember reading a story awhile back on the internet about the leader of white supremicist group scheduled to speak in the Czech Republic. Officials deported him and banned him because he made holocaust remarks--apparently talks denying the holocaust is not allowed there.

    On some message boards, people (mostly American), criticized the Czech government. He was in a different country so he should've known better. You can't just go into a different country and do whatever you want, thinking it's like the U.S.--especially considering that country's history. I don't know if it's still true today, but there was this German girl in one of my classes who told me that it was against the law for a skinhead to "publicly display" such behavior that is often seen by groups like the KKK, etc.

    I tend to notice that too often, some Americans try to compare our system of "free speech" with other countries when it comes to "hate." I don't agree with censorship, because everyone is entitled to their opinion, but sometimes I feel that some individuals take advantage of this to use this an opportunity to inflict harm on others.

  23. America really needs to follow suit and get an Incitement to ethnic and racial hatred law.

  24. Dawn, she may like you if you are one of "those good negroes".

    Filthy, remember misery loves company. That's why miserable folks can't keep quiet. It's too lonely to suck on your own.

  25. Fetus wrote,

    I'm apologize if my concerns offended you or made your feel as though your imaginary strategy was under attack. I'm an avid reader of your blog and often direct my -white- partner here in order to open up topics of discussion that normally would not be addressed (and I'm grateful to you for that).. I was just trying to participate in a discussion about an issue that directly (and negatively) impacts people like me who have often been silenced and whose experiences are often appropriated and exploited.

    I understand, thank you for explaining that. I didn't take offense, and I regret writing in such a way that it seems as if I did, and in such a way that you felt offended. It's actually fine by me to attack my sign strategy (or anything else I write); I'm not that wedded to it as an effective course of counteraction. Just having "Hispanics" over, as you suggested, does sound better than announcing a big welcome to them to the world, if there are any such people living in the neighborhood. I can see how such signs could provoke the feelings you explained having yourself in other situations.

    Thank you also for further explaining some of the many thorny difficulties of naming various peoples, including your various ones. Hispanic is indeed a very fraught term, and perhaps useless in the end -- I rarely use it, and only did so in this post in response to that woman's use of it on her sign. Thanks for jumping in here, and I hope you'll continue to do so.

  26. Free speech does protect hate speech you dunce. All the people on here that think we should abolish unpopular signs and statements need to move to a country that doesn't have a bill of rights...perhaps North Korea would suit well.

  27. macon d said... "Hispanic is indeed a very fraught term, and perhaps useless in the end"

    I'd always used "Hispanic" as another word for "South American" (it's shorter)... I've just realised... I actually don't really know what the word "Hispanic" really means!

  28. This is a little OT, but I wanted to jump in and offer a defense of the term "hispanic".

    Of all the possible descriptors for a person of Central or South American origin that I've heard, Hispanic seems to be the most broadly applicable. While it is true that the term does serve as a linguistic nod towards the history of colonialism and oppression perpetuated against "hispanics", it is also true that remnants of that colonialism provides the link between vastly different countries. The legacy of colonialism is the point of connection between Fetus' Mayan mother and my mestizo father. Also, in many countries people are no longer easily categorized as white or black or indian, and in many countries people of mixed and re-mixed background make up the majority, and their historical assimilation into spanish culture complicates distinctions made along binary racial lines or based on tribal origin.

    IMO the term Latino is problematic because though its geographic base makes it inclusive of portuguese speaking people (though if we want to get technical Lusitania was initially part of Roman Hispania) as well as those in the french and english speaking Caribbean, it is gendered, and the o/a thing at the end makes it hard for people not used to gendering to use properly,and makes it a little weird to apply to a group. Also it has been given a false level of political correctness, and many interpret it to imply that someone is primarily of indian ancestry.

    While hispanic isn't a good term for specific discussions, I view it as being a term similar to "Arab" in its broader use: a way to point towards the commonalities of language and cultural influence shared by a wide variety of different peoples.


    As for the sign: its offensive as heck, and (detaching a little) lulzy given that it is on property that used to be part of the territories of Mexico. It is racist, and embarrassing, but it absolutely should not be banned.

    The video stated that the woman lived in a mixed race neighborhood, and implied that the sign was stirring up a lot of conversation-conversation about racism that will hopefully be eye opening to all participants (ie not just about white people talking at eachother about "the other"). It provides a great opportunity for local hispanic organizations or social groups to bolster all sorts of events and socials. And with school starting soon, for discussions re: Texas state history.

    Free speech DOES mean protecting objectionable speech. Banning speech that doesn't threaten creates an ugly precedent, and banning this ugly rude sign for being "upsetting" leaves the option of banning stuff that you or I might not consider "upsetting" on the same grounds (like: all those Darth Cheney things).

    This isn't about "well, right supremacists have a right to think that, and say that, so we can't sanction her". Its about the realization that banning what is, in the larger legal scheme of things speech that is not harmful but is objectionable, creates the opportunity to censor people for reasons that have nothing to do with social justice or anti-racism. That may sound paranoid, but the more I read about the dangerous hits our constitution has taken recently (including the recent admission that posse comitatus has been violated in the name of spying on college kids who don't like the war and might be "anarchists") the more I want to make sure that those rights that remain do so intact.

  29. The invisible line of what is hate and free speech gets so blurry that it becomes transparent. I don't see this elder woman as racist, but a relic from a previous time that was pushed into the present and only kept alive through the hate/mistrust of others. As this country becomes more and more diverse in economics, lifestyle and government, a small fraction of people like this woman, who obviously do not this country is under attack by one race, will only hold fast to there beliefs and NOT open there eyes to the world around them...


  30. Kenny--

    you seem to think that racist attitudes are exclusive to old people from a "previous time," which is certainly inaccurate since there are people of all ages that are racist or have racist attitudes. i know i like to think that racism is dying out, that its going away because the people who are racist are getting older, but it's just not that way. i am currently dealing with a woman at my work who's been saying very offensive things--she's the same age as I am. i am actually disheartened that even someone as young as i am holds racist beliefs. it's not going anywhere. it's not a small fraction. it's become a norm, unless it's challenged, it will stay that way.

  31. If you're upset about some sort of racial antics, try not using the name "stuff white people do" with (some white people) to clear things up a bit.

    Also, either personally make another blog with stuff "everyone else" does, or talk your friends into doing this, so the fact that you're opposed to all sorts of racism is clear, instead of the "out of control" racism of white people, since it's present in every other race, also.

  32. I cannot believe the hypocrisy on this blog. Where were you when every non-white ethnicity and race came out saying white people are evil, and they want to kill them and then dig them up and kill them again because they didn't die hard enough? Yet, here you are getting your collective panties in a twist because some white woman DARED to request that Hispanics stay off her property.

    What are YOU saying when you enforce this double-standard between non-whites and whites regarding racism? Why are you holding whites to a higher standard than any other race or ethnicity who does not like outsiders? That white people should be better than that? If so, aren't you practicing your own subtle brand of racism?

    This is her privately owned home. She doesn't want Hispanics trespassing. How is this hate speech? Has this woman threatened Hispanics in any way? Is she threatening THEIR property, their lives, or their livelihoods? Is she even saying "I hate Hispanics?" NO.

    The White female owner does not want Hispanics on her property and has posted her wishes. Why can't her wishes be respected without comment or a news crew barging onto her property, with Hispanics in tow, to harass her? Does CNN et al pay her mortgage or her taxes? No? Then respect her wishes and leave her the hell alone!!!

    FYI, "Hate" speech is far better than the heinous actions that can occur when speech is suppressed. I would much rather have some racist blow off steam and vent then quietly stew until they explode and take action.

    There is a reason why Free Speech is a Constitutional right. It isn't there for the hell of it. It's there to prevent taking it to the next level.

    If people are offended by this, too bad. Your feelings are not Constitutionally protected.

    If people can outlaw Free Speech and produce Hate Crimes Bill then there is nothing whatsoever to prevent malicious people from accusing people of Hate Speech and perpetrating Hate Crimes Hoaxes to persecute their enemies.

    I strongly suggest people study the Salem Witch Trials and rethink this stupidity, because if it doesn't stop. This Political Correctness stupidity is going to eventually make the SWTs look like a walk in the park.

  33. Hanky, when did every non-white ethnicity say this? Did they have some grand convention no one was aware of?

  34. Jules,

    My biological mother was raped, when she was 13, by the non-Spanish-speaking European man whose house she was forced, through poverty, to work in. Let's not exalt colonialism as a point of connection between my Maya mother and your mestizo father, huh? It may be a "broadly applicable" identifier for many residents of Latin America (the majority, even), but it is a complete erasure of the myriad non-Spanish-speaking indigenous groups from the narrative of a continent that was violently taken from them (and whose cultures are, to this day, being brutally eradicated). 500+ years of silence and invisibility have been enough, don't you think?

  35. I always love a public shaming of a racist, but I worry that the news coverage will attact similar-minded people to do the same thing or something similar.

    When I walk past any residence with a Keep Out sign, I feel a little pang. There is something violent about it. To add a particular group of people to that message makes it definitively violent.

    Chances are that prior to the sign, no one was trespassing on this person's property. As with most houses, the only people regularly passing through her gate are people who have been invited, people she knows, the mail carrier, and the UPS or FedEx person, plus the occasional Evangelist. Thus, the sign has no function. So why put it up? To express hatred for Hispanics. That's the sign's true function, and that's violence.

    My course of action would be to create a prominent sign decorated with color, stickers, glitter, stamps, etc. that welcomes everyone.

  36. SMH @ Cranky Hanky-

    The things people do to rationalize hate is beyond unbelievable.

  37. Limiting speech is a slippery slope. Telling her to take it down won't change her opinion. Besides, is it that bad? We live in an age where the norm is no explicit racism, so there are plenty of racists who will not say so in public. Isn't it better that a racist does so explicitly? Wouldn't it be better if people were more honest about their feelings, so anti-racists would know what they were up against? Just because you feel strongly that this is wrong does not mean there is a universal truth that says it is wrong. Until you can prove that your line of thinking is true beyond any doubt (which is impossible, because absolute truth does not exist in this world), you should not be able to dictate how other people express themselves. You can't selectively choose when you think other people can say what they feel and when they can't. Luckily, you aren't in power, but stop and think for a second...though you feel strongly that this is a racist act, can you say with finality that racism is bad (and before you say anything, I do think that it is bad and this is an overt act of racism)? If not, how can you justify limiting freedom of speech?

    Change does not come through limiting how people are allowed to express themselves, change comes through shifting the paradigms which people use to think with. If I was that lady's neighbor, I would "tolerate" that, but that doesn't mean I would accept it. I would let her do it but I would also go over to her and try to reason with her to take it down so hopefully one day her expressing her freedom of speech is by not having a racist sign on her house.

    You may fight against racism, but you should do so in a manner that respects the basic liberties that the nation was founded on. Unless you disagree with those liberties (and I'm not sure how you could, even if you disagreed with the way they have been perverted in recent times), and in that case, maybe you should go to a different country where freedom of speech is not guaranteed if you feel that is a better way to approach the situation.

  38. I agree with Fetus about the offensiveness of your sign suggestion, Macon. May I suggest the alternative I think you were looking for?


  39. "We welcome everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. We believe in hospitality :)"

    Uh oh, this statement sounds like the information they use in those "Diversity" policies, which have no value whatsoever. *rolls eyes*

    Now, my first instinct if this type of person was my neighbour would be to smash that thing down with a hammer, but of course I am a civilised and educated person, so I would ignore that ignorant racist all day, everyday. It seems that the woman wants to get some kind of reaction by putting up such a sign, so ignoring her would definitely make her take down her stupid sign after a while.

    My parents had a woman who would sit and watch everyone across the street but never say hello even if you said hello to her. She is White. So, when she started to get ignored for years, after a while she started to wave and say hello all the time.

  40. @Rachel:
    "this sign does not look homemade, it looks printed."

    No, look closely at it: it's clearly a regular "keep out" sign with the word "hispanics" spelled out in self-adhesive letters (the reflective type sold individually in hardware stores, used for things like labeling mailboxes and apartment doors). Those letters cost about a dollar each, so this woman spent nine bucks, in addition to the cost of the sign, to express her hatred.
    "Essentially what her sign is saying is "I hate Hispanics" without coming out and saying it. "

    You nailed it! To me, the giveaway is that the sign is in English. She didn't get/make a sign that said "(Latinos) No Dejar Entrar"— which I suspect would be easy to obtain in southern Texas. Now, I'm sure it's easily readable in English by most people, but I can't help but think it's primarily meant to be read by English speakers ("Americans," in her mind). I feel like the real message is not just "I hate Hispanics," but also "...and don't give me crap about it, sympathizers!"

    And apparently, the message is being received. "Tolerance." Pah.

  41. I find it fascinating that comments (except Jule's) have been based around freedom of speech and NOT on the absurdity of a woman telling Latinos not to come to a land that historically belonged to them.

  42. OMG

    I lived in Azle for a few months, when my family relocated to Texas. My parents still live there.

    When I saw this I did a literal, IRL facepalm.

    I worked at a RadioShack in Azle (who am I kidding--THE RadioShack in Azle; it's a tiny town) for a few months before I moved up to Denton for school. Before Azle, I'd lived in LA County in CA. It was quite the culture shock when customers would express their openly racist/sexist views to us employees. I had a customer refuse my help because I am a woman (whether it was because I couldn't possibly know anything about electronics, or because I was simply working outside the home, I'll never know). I even had one customer tell me, after I spent a while fixing his car stereo, that "all I need now is a nigger to drive it."

    For the record, I told sexist guy he was never welcome in our store again, and as for the racist car guy... well, I was too shocked to say much. I had never in my life heard anyone use that word except black people themselves, in jest. I simply got out of his car, said "Wow," and marched right back into the store, leaving the customer utterly confused. I was shaking with rage and when my black coworker asked me what happened, I couldn't bring myself to tell him.

    I had a good idea by that time what being black in Azle must be like.

    My little brother spent a couple years of high school there, and said they are also blatantly homophobic. In fact, he reported "fag drags," wherein upperclassmen literally rope boys they perceive to be gay and drag them around the football field.

    My science.

    What a shame; I hope my parents are enjoying their idyllic lifestyle in that hellhole. I for one couldn't wait to get out.


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