Quaap home
Adventures of a stay-at-home, skeptical, homeschooling dad (etc.)


Am I my own (racist) grandpa?

 Abe_simpson.png?100 No, I'm not talking about Ray Stevens.

Ever notice how your grandparents, or, depending on your age, maybe your great-grandparents, are a teensy bit racist? They're not out burning crosses or anything, but they use terms like 'colored' and hint they think blacks and whites shouldn't marry. Like they're stuck in the 1950s? Or maybe they just out-and-out use racial slurs, moan about uppity negros, and can't say "Obama" without making a racist reference.

How'd they get that way? It's not too hard to see how it happened: society changed, and they didn't. It used to be that their views were not unusual or offensive to the vast majority of Americans. Even black people, even though they obviously didn't like it, accepted that view as normal. Then, in fits and spurts, American changed, somewhat through changing minds, but a big portion was simply younger people with newer ideas replacing older ones with older ones.

So, to an 80-year-old woman in the midwest, the modern world has become a crazy place where black men can marry white women, and one particular black man is president!

Douglas Adams said (paraphrased):

1) everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal; 2) anything that changes between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative; 3) anything that changes after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

He was speaking of technology, but it works just as well for society at large.

Most everybody born after 1980 or so is OK with interracial marriage: it's completely normal. Now, I grew up in a very rural area which actually still contains plenty of racists of every age, but generally, the older a person is, the less likely they are to support interracial marriage: just 36% of white people over 65 think it's OK.

It's very easy for me, and everyone younger than me, to point and laugh at the old people, or at least to pretend we didn't hear grandpa say that thing at Thanksgiving dinner. But, what will become of me in 20 or 30 years? In 20-something years I'll be over 65. Will the younger generations be pointing and laughing at me? Will they be politely ignoring something stupid I said over a turkey leg?

Now, I don't think I'll somehow end up racist. I mean anything else. Is there anything changing right now that I'll refuse to change with? Do I have any views that are going out of style?

Just 50 years ago "n*gger" was a socially-acceptable insult, then it changed. Just a decade or so ago words like "fag" were OK to the general population, then it changed. Just 5 years ago "tranny" and "shemale" were fine, then it changed. Now, large numbers of gender-, race-, and orientation-based insults are becoming unacceptable. And boy are people resisting those changes! I bet some of those reading this would never say some of these words, but think people are just too sensitive about the others.

I guarantee that the old people who resisted race-acceptance used arguments and slogans almost identical to those who resisted gay acceptance, and those who are now resisting trans-acceptance. Morality! Tradition! Won't somebody think of the children! The safety of our women!

But times change regardless. Will you keep up? Will I? Or will we be those old people at Thanksgiving dinner, bitterly maintaining that there's nothing wrong with what we just said, goddammit!