Thursday, October 2, 2008
On Driving in the Rain (and Talking about Race)
It was raining this morning as I drove in to work. Not too bad - a VERY light rain. The kind of rain where it's almost better for my vision to not even turn the windshield wipers on at all. And yet - everybody around me was driving like idiots.
Alright - so that's my opinion, but everybody really seemed to be driving like we were in the midst of a typhoon. They were driving ten or even more miles below the speed limit, constantly slamming breaks for no reason, and being so tentative and defensive in their driving style that it was outright dangerous.
And this wasn't the first time this has happened. Oh - no. I live in freaking Portland, Oregon and even though it rains almost every day through the late fall, winter, and early spring - people always drive like this in the rain. Defensive. Slow. Dangerous. And a little bit crazy.
It doesn't make sense. There's no reason for it. You'd think the regularity of the rain would change something. But it doesn't.
And it's almost the exact same way when talking to people (I mostly mean "white people" here, but it can somewhat be attributed to everyone) about race. Seriously.
Otherwise liberal, well-educated, grounded people who have no trouble sharing their opinion and having dialogues about a number of other issues completely lose their freaking minds once race gets inserted into the equation. People get dangerously defensive out of nowhere (whether or not any actual accusations have been made) and rely on crazy, shot-through-with-holes logic that they would never accept from anybody else about any other topic.
And it's not like these are people who never hear about/deal with race in their lives. Because, whether anybody admits it or not, EVERYBODY deals with race every single day. For some people, it's as the "norm" and so they aren't consciously aware of it - but it still regularly affects them. And yet, it still seems like this brand-new topic every time it comes up. People are consistently crazy and defensive and uncomfortable about it, even if they've had the conversation 30 times before.
And - just like with the Portland rain and drivers - people seem to have so much trouble changing their reactions every time. They stick to the same damn irrational arguments and assumptions, refuse to acknowledge their own flaws time after time after time. And it's scary. And frustrating. And it gives me "race rage" (which is also pretty similar to "road rage" in its seemingly random intensity and where it leads).
And I know I'm not the only one that reacts this way. It's so damn frustrating because it's completely out of our control. Just like with Portlanders driving in the rain, I can see what's going on and how ridiculous it is, but I can't do a damn thing to make that clear to those falling to it. And so, in my "rage," I find myself getting impatient and wanting to do drastic things that generally just make it worse (or are at the very least increasing the danger of the situation).
I want to scream, "What the F--- is wrong with you!? Didn't you notice that it rains (that you're surrounded by race) every damn day!?? Don't you know that your defensive driving (arguing) is just plain ridiculous and makes it all worse!??
So the question is: why? Why do people do this? And what can I really do to alter the situation (in either case)?
I've done a relatively good job of curbing my lean towards violence in these situations, but I'm still not through half my life - so am I really going to be able to deal with it forever without breaking?