That Thing That I said…

So a conversation that I had a while ago has been troubling me. It was late at night, and I was explaining how I attributed my car not starting to my improperly installed stereo:

“Yeah, it was installed by Mexicans, and they didn’t do it right, so it turns on by itself sometimes.”

“What do you mean, it was installed by Mexicans?” She challenged me.

“Well, they told me they didn’t know what they were doing…” I tried to backtrack, but the light bulb on how incredibly racist that thing that I just said was blinded my brain.

Yes, it’s true that I was not just generically calling brown-skinned people “Mexican”–I had actually taken the time to talk to them, and learned that they moved here from Mexico seven years prior—-but they didn’t do a poor job of installing my stereo because they were Mexicans, as my comment implied. They did a poor job because they didn’t know what they were doing.

The thoughts behind my words included an observation that I’ve made about a difference between Latin and American Men: American men who don’t know what they are doing tend to insist that they’re experts and insist that they do things a certain way with certain tools. Latin American men tend to admit that they don’t know what they’re doing–and then find a creative way to do it anyways. I find the latter approach more refreshing, although both approaches leave something to be desired in terms of results. But that is no excuse.

What I should have said was, “The guys who installed my stereo didn’t know what they were doing.” (But I couldn’t afford to pay someone who did.)

Although it made me feel like an asshole, I’m glad my friend called me out on it. I hope that I can choose my words better in the future, but if I do say something that sounds/is bigoted, I hope that those around me will call me out. I hope that they will keep calling me friend.

I’m leaving you with my favorite video by J-Smooth: “How To Tell People They Sound Racist”

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