chantal stone photography: the blog

March 15, 2006

We’ve come so far; we still have so far to go…

Filed under: News — chantal @ 12:04 am

Tuesday afternoon I was at the hair salon getting my hair done. I go to a rather upscale, black hair salon. The clientele is mostly educated, mid to upper class black women, most of whom attend church on a regular basis. The owner of the salon, I’m assuming, is a Christian, the music played in the salon is usually either gospel or light jazz. And most of the stylists there are regular churchgoers; my own stylist attends the same church I do.

I’m setting the stage for a conversation I heard that really shocked me, although when I think about it, I suppose it shouldn’t have….should it?

There were only a few people left in the salon, late in the afternoon, mainly my stylist and me, and one other stylist and a client who’s hair was about to be washed. The other stylist brought her client over to the wash basin area, and the two were carrying on a friendly conversation. The stylist asked the woman if she planned to attend a jazz concert next month, the woman said she wasn’t because her son was getting married that same weekend.

The stylist was pleasantly surprised and congratulated the client, and asked her if she was excited. The woman replied with a shrug, “I guess so”.

Caught off guard by her reaction, the stylist asked a few more questions…”Was the wedding a surprise to you?”…”Don’t you like your son’s fiance?”

The woman simply responded with “She’s white.”

Enough said.

The conversation continued with the stylist concurring with the client’s distaste at the prospect of having a white daughter-in-law. They went back and forth a bit about that, and I even heard the stylist admit that “everyone has prejudices, I’m even prejudiced.” Later she said “I’m racist, I know I need to work on it, though”

At least she recognized that she needed to “work on it”.

I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. My stylist, who had been fairly silent most of the day, suddenly began asking me a bunch of questions about my kids, and that’s all it took to distract me, I LOVE to talk about my kids. But my stylist knows that I am half white, so I’m assuming that maybe she didn’t want me to hear the rest of what they were saying, for fear that I would be offended.

(As I am writing this though, the thought just occurred to me, should I have said something?)

Anyway, I went home with my new, fabulous hair style and I told my husband about what I had heard. His first question was “Were you offended?”

I said, “No, I’m not offended by other people’s ignorance.”

And I’m not. But the more I think about this conversation between these two women I just can’t believe that people still think this way. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I live in such a bubble, I’m unaware of the racism that’s all around me.

Or maybe it’s the expectation of not having to hear conversations like these. This is 2006 after all, are we not past this yet? Especially among educated Christians, am I wrong for having an expectation of racial tolerance? These were two 40-something, educated Christian women, in one breath talking about their churches, their pastors, how much they love the Lord, and in the next breath talking about ‘white folks’. Would the Lord, that they claim to love, approve of this? I think not.

On the flip side, this made me think also then that since there are still some blacks who disapprove of interracial relationships, then certainly there are whites who feel the same. Racism is definitely a two-way street, I’m not that naive.

And I’m not so naive to think that racism doesn’t exist anymore, I just wasn’t expecting to hear it the way that I did. It can be shocking to hear what people say when they think no one else is listening.

This article originally appeared on Blogcritics.org on March 15, 2006.

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