Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

Ignorance Is Not Prejudice

Well, it’s official. I’ve done the unthinkable. I’ve offended someone. I used a socially offensive term. To someone’s face. A term that incited anger and retaliation from the party I offended. And he happened to be a pretty scary dude to be offending.

Yup, I offended the fella with tattooed arms, the owner of a leather vest with all manner of patches on it. The word that brought the full wrath of this 250-pound plus man down upon me was “gang.” I used it innocently enough, reciting a report I had heard on the news about a recent shooting at a gathering of bikers in downtown Denver. I’m sure the word “Biker,” is probably equally offensive, but I’m pretty sure this guy will never read my blog so for the sake of the story, I’ll allow it.

He was behind the counter, talking about the incident with the guy in front of me. When they turned to include me in the conversation I committed my faux pas. The big guy gave me a stern look and silently turned his back to me.  When he turned around and was holding his black leather vest. He slammed it down on the counter and pointed to a patch on the back of it.

“What does this say?” He demanded.

“MC,” I read it to him, a bit confused.

“That’s right. It’s not MG, it’s MC. Motorcycle club, it’s motorcycle club, not motorcycle gang.” He stared at me, and I immediately expressed my apologies.

“Wow, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean any offense.” It stung a little at that moment to realize that I should have at least given it some thought, but A. I wasn’t there to write a politically correct article on the guy, B. I didn’t know he was a member of a motorcycle club, and C. I had no idea the term was offensive. I believed my reprimand should have ended there, and would like it to have been followed up with a polite conversation about how to avoid the mistake in the future, maybe the history of motorcycle clubs, or anything that would let me know that we had reached a mutual truce.

But he continued on. For another several minutes. While he scanned my items, took my  money and I was headed out the door.

“We’ve never been gangs.”

Okay, I get it. I did feel stupid for offending him. But then I got angry. How was I supposed to know what was offensive to everyone? I simply haven’t spent much time around certain groups of people. Like motorcycle club members, Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans, Irish, Amish, Polygamists, Cowboys, Ballerinas, Vegans, etc. How are we to know?

I know there are many times in my daily life that I have to decide whether to take offense or not, and when that happens I usually choose not. The older I get, the more inclined I am to let stuff go, mostly because it’s not worth wasting my time to get upset over things that simply don’t matter.

But I’m genuinely bothered that this guy wouldn’t let it go. That he probably spent the rest of his day being angry at me. So, if anyone reading this is from any particular culture, race, sex, age, religion or lifestyle of diversity, and you might have pointers for me to avoid this situation in the future, please send them my way.

 

 

 

 

February 10, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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