Hoping it’s performance art

In recent days, I’ve witnessed people saying things so terrible that I wonder if, and I hope that, I’m watching performance art. Maybe I’m seeing a set-up piece for a hidden-camera show like this one , or maybe the people involved are just trying to provoke others. If these things were happening in a big city or a college town, the “performance art” interpretation would be at least possible, but since I’m seeing and hearing these things in rural Ogle County, I’m afraid these people being so stereotypically hateful and racist may not be acting.

On 10 July, at my local diner, two white ladies in their 80s (or thereabouts) were kvetching very loudly about how kids can’t do math in their head, and so on, and they eventually moved on to other topics. One said, “I’m just so angry,” and the other answered, “we all are.”

But rather than accept that perhaps their anger were invalidating any other opinions they might have, they continued to complain: one woman said that someone wanted to bring “Muslims over here,” to which the other said, “we already got 8 million,” and then I missed a few words, and then I heard, “Let’s just hope somebody kills ’em,” which I thought referred to the Muslims, but my wife heard “kills ‘im,” which she interpreted as referring to the current U.S. President.

Either way, the other lady said, “That’s what I hope.”

This was so over-the-top obnoxious, not to mention nearly illegal, that I just started laughing, albeit bitterly. My wife said, let’s not get so angry when we get old. Let’s keep our minds in shape.

And then this morning, as I sat in a local McDonald’s (same one as here), I heard two older white men talking. One, who wore a blue dew rag and had a black leather jacket with patches that read “I RODE MINE, STURGIS ’04” (and 3 patches for other recent years), and who at one point said he was 73 years old, told his friend that he was going to a Tea Party meeting tonight, and after which he said these things:

“Obama’s got sh*t so fuc*ed up, that son of a bit*h … typical ni*ger sh*t … when you get home, google ‘who is Antonio West?‘ That’ll shut things up.” [Snopes says the case is a “false equivalency” to the Trayvon Martin case, as “the two cases are nearly polar opposites.”]

A few minutes later, the old white guy let loose with this: “If they did say it like it was, the damn paper wouldn’t print it … nobody will address it … damn n*****s keep breeding all the time … [we?] can’t keep building prisons … to me, I would say this … to the victor goes the spoils … or, give ’em the option of going back to Africa.”

I feel bad about publishing these words, but I’m doing so in hope that there’s some value in simply documenting things being said out loud in public spaces in small-town Illinois in 2013. Though I was angered by what I heard, I decided that rather than confront this man’s statements directly (anybody who would espouse these beliefs at this point in history seems to me someone who would also be resistant to being criticized or educated), I’d throw these online with the hope of reminding the rest of us that there still are people around who say these things.

And surely not every Tea Party member says things like this, but here was one guy who sympathized with the Tea Party who did. He either fits the stereotype, or he’s just acting to get a rise out of others. But I didn’t see anybody directly challenge the old white ladies or this old white guy.

I’m really hoping they’re just performance artists.

4 responses to “Hoping it’s performance art

  1. Michaelene Berger

    Hard to believe….however, this is small town USA where people are not so use to being politically correct…

  2. Michaelene Berger

    Dang! the comment I previously made sounded like I’m stero typing people from small towns….this is not true of all people in small towns….as a matter of fact, I’ve heard something similar in a coffee shop in Chicago…So forgive the remark…but appreciated the blog..well written.

  3. A great line from Ta-Nehisi Coates: “These two strands — stupidity and racism — are inseparable.”

    [http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/07/its-the-racism-stupid/278026/]

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