Thursday, February 6, 2014

Apparently, we found the local KKK chapter

Something happened to my husband and I a few months ago that has prompted me to identify my actual location and use actual names here, which I'd avoided for those who don't actually know me in real life and are just internet noodlers.  But something has me so overwhelmed, ashamed, saddened, I feel I have to.

In September, my husband, Scott, and I found ourselves with a rare situation--a kid free weekend.  We NEVER have these, but my son was at a Boy Scout event, and my daughter had a sleepover. We RAN with it, dropping the girl off, then heading for a movie and dinner. After those blissful kidless activities, I decided I wanted to karaoke.  I know, it's lame, it is, but occasionally, I need a stress release.  Some people run, some people turn to art, me, I like to belt out a Melissa Etheridge song.  Don't judge, I rock. On a Friday night, there aren't too many places that serve up karaoke, but there is one only a few minutes away. It's called Dan D Jack's, and it's a dive bar sometimes listed in Tinley Park, sometimes Orland Hills, IL, as it's on the boarder. I'm no stranger to dive bars and their usually blue collar, often rough around the edges clientele.  But we'd been there a few times, and nothing seemed out of sorts.

We arrived and were informed there was no karaoke going on that night, because there was a band. Knowing the clientele, we figured we'd stay for the band, thinking it would probably fall into a classic rock or blues genre, which we both like. For an hour, until the band started, we watched a man we figured to be the front man greeting every single person in the bar VERY warmly, including a table of bikers and their ladies, all wearing distinct and worn colors on their jackets.  Listening to conversation, we surmised he pretty much personally knew everyone but us. Weird, but it's a small place, we enjoyed our beers and continued observing.

Then the first song started. It was a song that bashed gays and women, openly and loudly. I let out a loooooong breath, thinking we finish our beers, and we're gone.  That was the silent communication that Scott and I had. In the interim between songs, when the lead singer "welcomed" everyone, he said at the end, "oh, and I'm glad there's no *iggers in the audience tonight, so I don't have to explain the next song." My face went about 80 shades of red, and I could feel my pulse in my ears.  Scott put his hand on my leg and said "we can't leave yet." Scott, as my husband, knows I am a mouthy, mouthy woman, and it only gets worse as I age. His single best quality is that he ALWAYS has my back, even when I'm mouthy. He looked around at the near familial to the lead singer crowd, and bikers, and quickly gleaned that my mouthy nature could get us into very serious trouble, even though he knew we needed out, and quickly.

See, we had no idea what would really happen.  While I'm sure some will say "oh, but the bikers I know are really NICE" and that may be true, but Scott's cousin was literally killed by a band of bikers, so we don't mess.  Add to that a bunch of obviously like minded individuals all. around. us. and if I said one word, it could have erupted into ugliness, because like I said, my husband always has. my. back. Scott decided I should leave first, acting like I was stepping out for a cigarette or something, and he would follow me in a few minutes. His fear was if we left together, the lead singer might say something from the stage, small place, could happen, and again, things would erupt. I just hoped the doorman wouldn't say anything either to me on my way out.  But by that point, the garbage I'd heard, I wanted to puke, so I might have a believable reason to go anyway.

I made it to the car, where I came close to bursting into tears, and Scott followed after us.  We were parked further down from the bar, near a gas station, and we could still hear the "music" being played.  Scott called the police department that night and said, watch for trouble. We were both so shaken, it was difficult to settle down. This incident has stayed with me, near the front of my mind for months.

Why did it stay with me so? I don't have my head in the clouds, I know racism exists. But in my backyard? So open and careless? I couldn't believe that. It stayed with me, because for 20 years I've made it my mission to educate mostly minorities, helping them to find their way along a difficult educational terrain.  I've helped many be the first to graduate from college.  This evening was a slap in the face to everything I've done professionally. It stayed with me because I pictured in my mind my godchildren, my children's friends, my friends of color and how all of them were reduced to a nasty little lyric in some sick, twisted person's mind. It stayed with me because I love music.  Music has gotten me through difficult times in my life, and it's better than that shit it was turned into. But I think most of all it stayed with me because I'm ashamed.  Ashamed I didn't stand up, without concern for my safety, as so many have in the past, and said "this isn't right." I apologize openly and unreservedly for that.

It might be from a point of safety I say this, but I want it to be clear now, even if I couldn't make it clear that night, and I want it to be clear to everyone I know, not just some dive bar:

1. If you are a racist/misogynistic/homophobe, get off my page, unfriend me, don't make contact with me in any way.  I don't have the patience or the stomach for it.
2. If you judge someone based on the color of their skin, their gender, or who they love, see #1.
3. If you think someone is or isn't capable of doing a job because of the above, you ARE #1.
4. If you have preconceptions of people based on the above criteria, you are an asshole of epic proportions, and I want nothing to do with you.

So there we go, let the unfriending begin.

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