Monday, July 16, 2007

Ugly Side of America

Battle Front Taco Bell
The oppressed find someone else to oppress

What is more American than Jews, African Americans, Asian-Indians and a Polish family enjoying a meal at an American restaurant chain modeled after Mexican Food? That was the scene last night when my family picked me up at work for a quick bite at Taco Bell. Unfortunately our Norman Rockwell picture eventually turned ugly.

While seated with my family, I started hearing a confrontation brewing near the cash register. It appeared that a woman of Indian decent had just ordered and moved over to wait for the food. An older African American woman with her two daughters and presumably grandson who couldn't of been more than 8 years old, began placing their order. A few moments later, trouble began.

The Indian woman received her food, but had a question about the order. She asked the man behind the counter and immediately the older African American woman was offended, I can only assume she wasn't finished ordering and believed the woman was rude to ask her question before she was finished.

At that time the older woman got angry and let the other woman know it. In response the Indian woman muttered under her breath, but not quiet enough..."what a bitch." That's when it hit the fan.

The African American woman began calling the Indian woman a "terrorist." The verbal brawl continued with the older woman continuously saying, "don't talk to me that way terrorist," and "who let you in this country terrorist." The stunned woman only responded with, "I'm not a terrorist," and "don't call me a terrorist."

By this time, I felt a fist fight would ensue, so I called the police. As the police were walking in the door, the African American family walked out the door. I identified myself as the caller and began explaining what occurred. The officer asked the Indian woman what happened and she was completely truthful. The only thing the policeman said was, "you have to expect a response when you call someone a bitch." The cops then left.

The officer was correct regarding the expectation of a response, but it was the chosen reaction that I found appalling.

After 9/11 we began hearing stories of people all over the United States being victimized by the ignorant because they had a darker shade to their skin. Indian, Pakistani, Hispanic and of course Middle Eastern citizens of America were being stereotyped as terrorists. This was an unfortunate knee-jerk response by many people. However, six years later, those stereotypes have been embedded into the minds of too many Americans.

When I witness the older African American woman, who has undoubtedly experienced prejudice and stereotyping through-out her own life, passing the hate toward a fellow human being, I was disgusted. Granted, I understand she was angry after being called a "bitch," but calling a person a terrorist simply because their skin tone is similar to the 9/11 hijackers, is just as bad as using the N-word.

As a second generation American, father, husband and a Jew, I felt the Indian woman and her family needed to be reassured that they were not despised, but appreciated by their fellow Americans. I went over to them and expressed my support and disgust for the offensive labeling they endured. They were appreciative and thanked me for calling the police.

As a Jew I feel an obligation to confront and combat hatred and oppression wherever it rears it's ugly face. Dr. Martin Luther King taught us to judge our fellow man, "not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character." In this war against Islamic-fascism, we must remember the enemy is a deadly ideology, not skin tone. Once we forget that, we have lost the war.



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