Monday, February 23, 2009

A horrible reality

Friday evening, Bill and I planned a night of hanging at our friend's house playing games.

Around 9, Bill got a call from a local promoter saying the bass player for the Denver rockabilly band scheduled to play the Quincy Bar had gotten stuck. He needed Bill to fill in. So we scrambled for a sitter, packed Bill's gear and headed to our favorite watering hole. (It turned out that Bill didn't play, but he ran their sound, so it wasn't all for naught.)

The Quincy Bar in Grand Junction has a reputation. It's known as the gay bar in town. And while there are gay people who hang out there, I like to think of the Q as a bar where everyone can feel comfortable.

We've always loved the Q and named our dog after the beloved bar 9 years ago. It's where Bill and I fell in love. We love playing music there, we love hanging with our friends there; it's the bar that we always pick to go to because it's fun and there's always an interesting crowd.

Friday was no exception. The band scheduled to play was a rockabilly band, so the crowd consisted of lots of pompadours and tattoos. There were lots of people there I'd never seen before, but that's not unusual at the Q anymore.

Bill was getting the band's sound dialed in and I was flitting about waiting for friends to show up. As I was making a pass around the bar, I was stopped by a dude I'd never seen before. He was there with a group of friends who were all laughing and enjoying themselves.

He tried a lame line on me and I called him on it.

"Really," I said acting surprised, "that's the line you're using to pick up girls?" I laughed, he laughed and the conversation continued. He asked my name and my story. I shared that I was married, he said he wife was too.

Um, what?

He paid some compliments. I said, "Oh, go on." He did.

But then (cue ominous music now) in the course of the conversation, he said these words, "Well, you know, I'm just your straight-forward skinhead."

Screech! There was a buzzing in my ears. Um, 'the hell did that guy just say to me?

I paused and said, "What does that mean?"

Honestly, I was not — in any way — prepared for what came out of this person's mouth.

He said, (and I'm going to censor the comments because I find them so ungodly horrible) "Yeah, I hate ******* and all sub-human races."

While I stood there blinking in disbelief, he started pointing out his tattoos.

Just like that, like he was telling me that he was a mechanic or that he had a dog named Fido.

I went from amused to instantaneously horrified ... and very scared.

I was standing alone in the middle of a group of unabashed skinheads.

I'm always leery of pissing people off at the bar. I know that alcohol can turn even the meekest person violent, so I always tread lightly.

At this moment, I couldn't tread lightly enough. I wanted to get away fast but without provoking them.

I can only imagine the look on my face, but I mustered a fake smile. I reached over and shook the guy's hand and said, "Well. It was really nice to meet you."

He grabbed my hand tighter and said with a smile on his face, "You may hate me now. But you won't when we end up on top."

Those words. Exactly. They are burned into my memory.

I was reeling.

Did that just happen? Was John Quinones going to come out of the men's room with a camera crew for a segment of "What would you do?"

How can people say things like that, let alone believe them? How? Why?

My head was spinning. I walked over to my friends.

As I began to tell what had just happened, I made a horrible, horrible realization. That guy stopped me and shared his "beliefs" with me because of the way I look.

I'm blonde, blue-eyed and fair skinned. An Arayan's wet dream.

When I replay those events in my mind, I'm disgusted.

I'm disgusted that there are people who could choose to espouse a belief system based on hatred. Disgusted that I would be considered someone who might share those beliefs. Disgusted that that happened in my town, in my bar.

I'm also disgusted with myself. I chose to turn tail and run, instead speaking up. I'm disgusted that I didn't see the hatred in his eyes immediately. Disgusted that I even stopped to talk with them in the first place.

I'm also left wondering why this happened now? Is this a sign of the times? Has the economic crisis we are now facing disenfranchised people to the point of needing a scapegoat?

Now, even days later, I'm still shocked and horrified.


emily said...

Dear God! Robin, that's an awful story. I feel a little sick now after reading it. But I don't think you did the wrong thing. A skinhead in the town's "gay bar" is not someone you want to piss off.
Obviously he didn't pick up on those Native American cheekbones. Do skinhead hate Cherokee too?

Jewels said...

OH MY GOD! Robin that's awful! I don't think what you did can be called running away, I mean, what were you supposed to do? Make a bunch of guys angry in the middle of a bar? I'm still in shock. I can't even believe that happened.

RiveterGirl said...

I'm sure Native Americans are hated by skinheads, too. They seem to be inclusive that way. I should've mentioned my lineage. Fuckers.

Marie said...

Sometimes it's the better part of valor to say nothing. Even under ideal circumstances, saying something to someone like that would have no effect whatsoever. He obviously has heard everything there is to hear to counter his hatred. He also clearly loves the attention he gets when he trots out his bigotry, otherwise he'd keep it to himself.

Anonymous said...

Once, I was sitting at a table with friends eating a dinner that they had prepared especially for me. Two of them started with their ignorant, hateful, racist banter...and I stood up and walked out of the house. Left them sitting there...

Today, I probably would stay at the table, cringe deeply and then not hang out with them again. Political correctness? Ug!

It's a choice to take a stand...and it can be dangerous in the wrong situation. Being at the bar, you did the right thing...

Sign of the times..? Sucks, but I think you'll only see more... Be careful out there...but be strong!
and Love, Love, Love...


Emily F. said...

It is so hard to know what you should do. I am going with the comments which said in the situation you were in walking away was best. At a table with "friends" speaking up then walking away so they know why you are leaving is probably right. Racism continues if we don't speak out against it.
I have received email "jokes" recently from family & I wonder how do I respond? I have decided I need to respond back even to my mother and say thanks but I don't share your view please quit sending these types of emails.
I would hope as a country economic trouble would not increase incidents of racism but I think a combination of political factors has.

Anonymous said...

Living in the midwest (not that they all are racist, but I has met more here than ever in my life)and I have battled down quite a few idiots, some I have actually changed. Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, I was extremely liberal and accepted diversity without a conscious thought. When I first got here it was very difficult for me. I was shocked at what I heard on a daily basis. There are a lot of people in this world who have racist, religous, sexist...fear issue. They have learned to keep their mouths shut in most cases, but its there riding inside of them until they think they are safe to say something. Thats when you have to not let them get away with it...but in some places in the world, if you didn't have any ignorant friends, you wouldn't have any. Sad but true...


RiveterGirl said...

You know, Sandra, you are very right. While talking about this incident with a coworker, I admitted to knowing people who said careless, racist things. I don't condone that, but some people just don't get it. That I can understand to an extent. What I will never understand is why anyone would want to base their core beliefs on hate. Hating is so hard and ugly.