I should have kicked him out of my studio as soon as he said it, but I didn’t. Maybe I was afraid.
In my mind, I excused his ignorance before the completed thought ever left his mouth. We had been there before; he uttering racists nonsense, and me in the capacity of a fitness trainer, not a priest nor a moral philosopher.
“No invention” he said, “no technology, no great contribution to mankind, ever came from sub-Saharan Africa, and that’s a fact!”
The young man, 26, spoke these words as his father looked on, in presumable agreement, from the treadmill across my studio. That was in 2005, and I have never forgotten it.
The young man’s innuendo was obvious; that people with darker skin – Africans and those people who have descended from sub-Saharan Africans, are of a lesser intelligence, and have contributed little to society through the millennia.
I was gulpsmacked as he spoke, but I kept focused on the task. My job was to guide his exercise form, not his morals. I shrugged it off.
This was not an isolated incident. I live in a community with a deep history of racism. Fallbrook was the home of white supremacist, Tom Metzger, for many years. Metzger’s influence still manifests within this community.
During the Obama administration, I heard the term, nigger in the White House, far too often, yet I never spoke up, always recognizing that my livelihood was at stake.
I have no memory of ever influencing human behavior, asinine or otherwise, through the art of argument. When faced with ignorance, or hatred born of fear, I usually just ignore it, grateful that I am not that which makes me cringe.
If he were in my presence today, the man who uttered those racist remarks 12 years ago, I still would not have argued with him. I would, though, have asked him to leave my studio – immediately, and I will do so to anyone feeling comfortable enough to test that.
When I reflect on the person I am today, versus the man I was 12 or 20 years ago, if there is a difference between the me of then and the me of now, it is that through each little adversity in my life, the me within has grown slightly more bold – more willing to stand on behalf of his beliefs.
I will never attempt to change the mind of a racist. I am though, much less willing to tolerate one… Jhciacb
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