Friday, February 29, 2008

Guy in the McDonald's

I stopped at the McDonald's on our away to the Zoo on Wednesday because we rushed out of the apartment so fast that Reuben hadn't eaten anything. This McDonald's is an interesting place, I have only been there three times, and two of the three times I was the only Caucasian there. This didn't bother me, I can be a minority, and I hadn't felt threatened by that fact alone. But on Wednesday there was a man in the line ahead of me speaking out loud (to himself), I think he was trying to be a poet or rapper or something. It was very unsettling to listen to what he was saying. He was talking about racial issues, about how the Hispanics didn't trust him cause he looked like a gorilla, and how the whites were admitting they were stupid because they kept sending their kids to school. It was not only offensive to the Hispanic and Caucasians, but to himself and the other African Americans.

I did what every good New Yorker does and didn't make eye contact, and didn't acknowledge what he was saying. But I started noticing the people around me. EVERYONE, not just me, the lone white woman with a kid, was uncomfortable. I heard a few sighs, and there was a bubble of space around the speaker (which is very rare to see here). There was a lot of tension in the air, and after he ordered and took his food to go there were a few sighs of relief.

I have been thinking about racial tensions because I technically live in Harlem, and there is a movement to try and cleanse Harlem of the white, and wealthy black, and because I like watching African American Lives on PBS. I've been thinking about the reaction to European heritage that they showed on the show. Maya Angelou was one of the few who wasn't angry that she had European ancestors, and I thought her words were wonderful. I can't remember them for sure, but when you hear them you will know.

I can't know what "its" like, so I can't really judge. But I am glad that there are people like Maya Angelou in the world who work for their cause but are not overcome with hate. Hate is a very dangerous thing, especially when you aren't sure who/what to hate.

So, Loud Speaker in the McDonald's, I hope that no one has ever done anything directly to you to make you hate so much, and I hope you can overcome it. Its true what they say about honey.


Tammy said...

That's interesting Brecken. Racial barriers can be hard to overcome for so many reasons - even when everyone is trying. Apparently the first presidency decided (six months ago), to disband all of the language wards, and they've started in Australia!

In our Stake we had a tongan language ward, and a samoan language word, and then all the english wards. After they disbanded them, and changed all of the ward boundries (and created a new stake), I found myself in the same ward, but with a whole new group of people!

Our new ward is about 15% white and 85% polynesian (tongan, samoan and mauri). Some of the people in the language wards apostasized and started their 'own wards' which was really tragic, but we've still got a big ward. There's also a language barrier to overcome for a lot of the older members who can't speak English, and I can only imagine how that must be a real trial of faith for some.

I've really enjoyed all the changes and love my new ward, but it's still been a challange to get all of us working on the same page. Everyone tries really hard, and there's a lot of love between everyone which has meant that there's a lovely spirit in our ward. But the fact remains that people in different cultures tend to approach things differently. I come at things one way and each of the other cultural groups tend the think and approah things differently too. I think everyone finds that a little frustrating a times - especially when we've all previously had the luxury of doing things 'our way'.

But since everyone is just willing to share who they are, and be involved and eager to learn about everyone else, there's a middle ground that can often be reached.

Anyway, if it can be a struggle for a group of ward members who all try hard and love each other, than I can only imagine how hard it is in a huge city like NY when there are thousands of people who refuse to try at all! I remember Dad saying to the ward a few months ago that in Heaven, we'd all stop being Tongan or White or Somoan, and just all be children of God, and at the end of the day, that's what it comes down to.

In the meantime though, I'm eating my way through tables sagging under the weight of massive banquets at weekly ward activities - I've never seen so much food before!

xo Tammy

Rebekah said...

Great post, Brecken. It's been interesting for me to see racial interactions here in DC. I've seen a lot of things that have disturbed me, seemingly minor things, but the underlying meaning of the actions and words show that there is still a lack of trust and understanding between so many cultures in the US.

I also had to smile a little because I've had encounters with people, using in Metro stations, who are sharing their world view through musically-backed tirades. Although last week a man got on my train and started singing 'Come Thou Font of Every Blessing,' and that was a welcome change from the norm.

Aunt Gayle said...

What is it they say about honey?