Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Time

Friday night Ryan and I decided to go to the big annual arts festival in downtown Salt Lake. There were TONS of people there, and all over the surrounding streets. On one corner, right across from the festival, obviously waiting to be picked up, were a man, a woman, and three small children. Two of the kids were playing/fighting, and the third, a baby, was obviously getting fussy and didn't want to be put back in the stroller. I could see the frustration on the parents faces, and as we approached the father asked a man who was passing if he had the time.

Wait, I mean he tried to ask the man if he had the time. Before he got two words out the man said "no thank you, I can't help" and tried to hurry his wife along. The father's jaw dropped. My jaw dropped. Ryan looked at his watch and said "6:30." The man turned back around and started to give the time, but the father just looked at him and said "I don't need it from you."

Oh, I probably should have mentioned the family was black.

Thoughts?

I have some, but I really want to hear what you think first.

19 comments:

Nicole said...

Black or no, what an ass. But, maybe he'd been hassled by panhandlers that day? Was the festival a place where people were panhandling? Am I hoping too much that this man just made a bad decision? His trying to give the time after like an admission of guilt? I hate people.

Yesterday I wrapped up my garage sale. Mid afternoon a man came by and I immediately got creep vibes. He was awkward at conversation (lots of too-long pauses), and stayed long after he'd stopped looking at my sale items, even when I'd begun handing out only one-word replies. Then he looked at my kids and said, "You have all girls?" After that he asked me where they went to school (I said, "Locally.") and persisted trying to find out where I send them, all while staring at my three-year-old.

About an hour later I called the police with my vague, unsettling concerns. In the 59 minutes up until I called the cops I kept reminding myself that he hadn't done anything and that there's no law against being creepy.

Am I unlike the man who treated that harried family so terribly with his snap judgement? I hope so. But maybe not.

Lisa said...

Wow! Wait. I forgot my introduction. I'm Lisa, and I'm infertile, blah blah blah.

I am in no way ignorant, though. That is just a sad state of affairs, in today's day and age. Really? It's just shocking to me how ignorant and archaic people can be.

I'm sorry this happened. And I'm glad that you and Ryan were able to instantly make it better.

Kelly said...

What a fucking douche bag. I have no tolerance for this. My husband and I have gotten weird looks before, but no one has ever dared to say anything to us. I'm glad the black guy responded to that stupid jerk, the way he did. Maybe it will open his small mind. Rant over for now...

Gina said...

Sounds to me like he was a judgmental asshole who associates black with criminal/loser/panhandler, etc. Sadly, racism is alive and well, even if it isn't as bad as it was years ago. And racism doesn't always have to be violent or involve slurs.

Years ago, my good (black) friend had a casual wedding that I organized. When we got to the restaurant, we were treated poorly the entire time, while other tables were treated well. The only difference between us and the other tables was that we (minus me & my son) were black. Seriously - that was it. There were other big parties and they were fine. It was horrible and eye opening for me, but my friends pretty much reacted with "Yep - it happens"

ShaLyse Walker said...

wow. what a shame. that is so sad.

Riot Kitty said...

Wow, what an asshole. Seriously? It took more time to say "I can't help you."

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I never know what to think about stuff like this? Would he have reacted the same if they'd been white and asked him a question in passing? We'll never know I guess. Was it the panhandling thing he was against if that's what he thought they were? Again, who knows? But I hope so. These things just leave a nasty taste though. I'm constantly stunned that someone can treat another person unfairly due to the colour of their skin even though I've seen it happen, from both angles, many times. Sometimes I hate people.

Phil said...

I'm not sure I could tolerate living in Utah if there are people like the man who wouldn't give the time. Fortunately we have your blog to read so that we know everyone in Utah isn't like that.

mommyodyssey said...

I wish I could be more eloquent about this but:
What a douchebag! And good for that father for telling him off in a respectful, yet hopefully humiliating way.

G said...

Nice. And I don't mean that in a good way.

Granted, some of the reasons that the other commenters gave could be why he chose to hurry along.

But it still wouldn't have killed him to pause for a minute to give the person the time.

No matter how busy I am nor where I am walking at work (work in the city), I'm still willing to give someone the time if they ask for it.

Katie said...

I'd sad and sorry to say that this doesn't surprise me. We can pretend all day long that we are a country that is tolerant and accepting of others. That we don't judge people by how they look. But it's a big, fat lie.

It's a damn shame.

Cate said...

Black or white, I would have done the same thing. You get hassled by so many people in downtown that I usually just blurt out, "I can't help you." or I just ignore them. I don't think this was a race issue, it was more a "don't talk to me" issue.

dufmanno said...

Inexcusable. Sorry.
As someone who steps over the sleeping bodies of hundreds of panhandlers a year I can pretty much guarantee that if another human being speaks to me I don't respond like that. Even the crazy coffee cup guy who screams that you are a dirty communist in league with Satan gets a quarter from me. Although I will admit I don't make eye contact because then he tries to hit me with his metal cane. Sigh.

Erin said...

I think your labels say it all: Culture, race, Utah. That dude was (is) an asshole. I just hope he realizes it.

Rassles said...

One thing I've noticed about Chicago: if you are loitering on a street corner, you're going to get angry looks whether you're looking for money or not, regardless of color.

Here is a story: A few weeks ago I was waiting for someone and I settled myself onto the ground next to a streetlamp. I had just finished volunteering at a school, moving furniture and painting a cafeteria on a 100 degree day in a 100 year old building with no air conditioning. I looked like a goddamn mess. Covered with sweat, dirty, exhausted. I was too tired to ride my bike back home, so my roommate was coming to pick me up. Everyone passing by would either stare at me or barrel past me like I was the most worthless member of society in all of societal history. One guy kicked me. He KICKED me. When the roommate pulled up, she was like, "I had no idea that was you. I thought you were a homeless person."

So I know this much: you loiter on corners, and everyone thinks you want to take advantage of them, especially corners near large crowds. Do I walk past people and ignore them? Yes. I can't afford to give them money, I don't care about arguments. When I stop living paycheck to paycheck, and maybe like, I don't know...SAVING money, then I will. Simultaneously, would I ever stop someone and ask them the time? Only if they were already standing still. I've seen too many assholes.

I think it's shitty that it happened. But honestly, I can't say if the color of their skin was relevant to the exchange. It probably was. But as a white girl who's been in a similar situation, I can't make any promises.

Summer said...

What an asshat! I live in Oklahoma and am married to a black man with braids. So it's not uncommon for us to experience something insanely stupid like that. I've seen a woman clutch her purse when we came into the same area. I, of course, being who I am said loudly, "Like you have a motherfucking thing we want, Bitch. .. with your tore up Payless shoes and mom jeans. Blah. Blah. Blah." Yeah, I have no tolerance for these things, and 8 out of 10 times--- they are racially motivated assumptions.

C Lo said...

Holy Crap.

But given what you've told me and what I've heard about Utah, I am not surprised.

And I echo what others have said....it think we've lulled ourselves into a false sense of tolerance in our culture today and it's bred and entirely new brand of racism that is very latent but just as prevalent as the overt racism from 50 years ago.

I live in an urban area with lots of panhandlers. And in my experience you can tell the difference between someone who is about to ask you for money or ask you something else. Maybe it's just me. Theres no excuse for why that guy was such a douche except he's a racist asshole.

Granny Annie said...

Racism is an equal opportunity employer.

Sarah Bellum said...

Unbelievable.