One step forward, two steps back
I wrote a long post praising my state and especially my city last night, and then I went out with some friends to take in some badass country-western swing music stuff, where my friends and I had a moment of pure Texas arrogance laughing at the non-natives attempt to dance to the music. (I can't dance, but then I don't try, either.) Feeling momentarily like all was right in the world, I returned home to read at Norbizness's blog that the Austin police department has once again waded into armpit-deep shit again, getting caught cracking jokes about a fire at a nightclub that has a predominantly black clientele. Thanks, assholes. Nothing I like more than living in a state with a racist reputation.
The way that a handful of racists can ruin the reputation of an entire community is the ultimate example of the old saying about a bad apple ruining the bunch. The city of Austin isn't really in danger of losing its good reputation, but the Austin police department has a really horrible reputation at this point, and this story is just going to make it worse.
David Neiwert writes about racism, fascism, and various other hateful philosophies that linger on the edges of American society and how people who have these beliefs infect the rest of the community with their hate. Hate crimes in particular leave wounds in a community that don't heal--Neiwert has observed on his site and in his books that a notorious hate crime in a small town can badly mar a town's reputation. I can attest to that. I saw a perfect example of it a couple weeks ago when sitting around talking about random stuff with some friends when my boyfriend mentioned a girlfriend he had a long time ago who was from Vidor, a small town in East Texas that is notorious for harboring KKK members. And you could tell that everyone was thinking the same thing, because merely being from Vidor leaves a taint on a person, even if that person is personally anti-racist.
Jasper is a name that people here actually whisper now, as if by lowering the tone of our voices, we can disassociate ourselves from them. If I were from Jasper, I'd be tempted to lie about it to people I meet to avoid having them wonder if underneath my normal exterior I harbor hate in my heart. People of all races now floor it when they have to drive through Jasper or Vidor.
I tell people all the time that the stereotype about white Texans--that we are all a bunch of Bible-thumping, racist, illiterate morons--simply isn't true. But sometimes I feel it's an uphill battle, since so many of my fellow Texans can't get it together and drop the racist shit. From small stuff like the morons in the Austin police department who couldn't check their glee at seeing a black nightclub catch fire to the big stuff like the moron in the White House who thinks that our government and military are there to help him maximize his friends' profits, regardless of loss of life and liberty, I feel like I spend all my time apologizing for stuff I didn't do.
If this were a fair world, I would have a bullwhip and a chance to take out my frustration on those amongst us who are hellbent on making the rest of us look bad.