It’s bad to be a racist, but it’s worse to be a bad racist.
When I was a kid, I was an obnoxious little snot, whose quick mouth earned me many a well-deserved ass-kicking. One time, in fifth grade, I was picking on an Indian kid (dot-head, not scalphunter). Being a racially insensitive lad (a trait which, as the previous parenthetical notations so ably demonstrate, I’ve thankfully outgrown) I decided to go ethnic.
You may wonder, Gentle Readers, whether I would have been more inclined to be sensitive had not the boy, whom we’ll call ‘Indian Kid’ (not his real name), and his younger brother, ‘Indian Kid’s Little Brother’, been the only Indian kids in school. I leave that matter for our readership to determine.
Already brave and courteous, I created a perfect storm of honor by displaying my ignorance not only of other cultures, but more damningly, of the proper slurs by which to insult them. The best I could come up with for Indian Kid was “Ah-So!” like the stereotypical Hollywood ‘Chinaman’ of the thirties and forties. And of course, I went ‘Full Celestial,’ bucking out my teeth, squinting my eyes, and topping it off with a little clasp-handed bow.
Indian Kid actually put up with about a half-day of my horse-shit–’Ah-Sos’ in the lunch line and on the playground, solemn bows from across the room during class–before he’d finally had enough, and decided to tell somebody during the long, after-lunch recess. But apparently, Indian Kid had misunderstood me–he told the playground monitor that I had called him an asshole.
When the playground monitor, Lady Who Spent Her Childhood In A Japanese Internment Camp During WWII (not her real name), asked me if I’d called Indian Kid an asshole, I told her, “Yes. Yes, that’s just what I called him.”