That’s Deep: A Racist Africa Lover?

My brother was insulted and threatened with arrest by an elderly white lady on Stanford’s campus after he tried to rescue me from a very difficult predicament. He came to look at my loaner car which got stuck in front of a residence hall on campus. The transmission failed and wouldn’t shift into reverse. It only went forward, and since the other end of the driveway was blocked off I was unable to get out. In an effort to get the car to shift and find a way out, I inadvertently slid it down a path way and partially on to the lawn. My friend who lived at the residence tried her luck and working the gears under her uncle’s phone directives. Things weren’t working, the situation went from bad to worse. I had to run to class to meet a student and show a film on the other side of campus by 7:30. I then met my brother at 8:30 and we drove back to my stuck car. As he got out of the car and tried to see what happened, she promptly opened her window and started launching insults and threats of calling the police. He immediately returned to his car, enraged. He informed me that the elderly white lady called him a nigger, among other things. We waited for the tow company but found that he didn’t have the proper equipment. So, I had to go back this morning at 8 and waited for an hour to get the car pulled out of its quagmire. The same woman recognized me from the many African studies events. She said, “Oh, it’s you! What are you doing you IDIOT! Bikes go up and down the pathway!” I tried to explain, but she shut the window. I was able to drive the loaner car home because I didn’t need to go in reverse. I’m hoping that my own car will be fixed soon and that I don’t have to deal with this anymore. My mother told me today to not ask my brother for help if I have car problems. I live in Palo Alto, which is still a ridiculous city where Blacks are often seen as oddities or looked at with suspicion. He didn’t need the legal problems and any confrontations with police.

I see this elderly lady all the time at Africa studies related events. I am incensed that she would insult my brother and threaten him over something that was not his fault. I am especially appalled that she would use the word nigger. I want to do something to expose her for the racist, mean spirit, phoney that she is. How could someone so fascinated by Africa turn to racial epithets and insults. Considering what generation she comes from, I guess it is not so surprising. So, in your opinion should I say something at the next Africa table. Should I ask her loud and in front of other people if she called my brother a nigger and to demand an apology?

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10 thoughts on “That’s Deep: A Racist Africa Lover?

  1. This happened in Palo Alto? At the Stanford campus of all places? I know this place used to be exclusive way back when, but it always seemed like a bastion of liberalism to me.

    My first instinct was to out and shame the lady, but my cooler head says to start it discretely, perhaps to confront the lady in private first.

    I can only imagine the frustration your brother must have been and is still going through. That kind of event leaves you so dumb-founded that the conflicting emotions of bewilderment and anger can be overwhelming. I hope he’s feeling better.

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  2. Salam alaikum,

    Ick – what a horrible situation. You may not want to call her out directly, but a well-phrased comment or two about how abject racism is still lurking under the surface, even among people who call themselves activists would be entirely appropriate.

    Good luck, sister.

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  3. Assalaamu aleykum,

    I would approach her privately, but directly, and ask her what in her beliefs makes it acceptable to value African culture while denigrating African-Americans.

    I’m so sorry that you and your brother experienced this. It reminds me quite a bit of my own experience being harassed by police officers because I was on the same bus with a group of black kids and we were going to the same place (I was very heavily veiled at the time and obviously Muslim). I have always had good relationships with the police here, although I recognize the obvious problems of police treatment of anyone who doesn’t fit the hegemonic paradigm everywhere. I cycle between cynicism and trying to give people the benefit of the doubt, so experiencing things like this, especially from people you automatically think will act differently…it’s so shocking.

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  4. I should also add that unfortunately people being educated in some aspects about things doesn’t erase deeply felt prejudices. I know someone who is in Islamic studies, but he is conservative, supports war against Islam, and holds highly (in my opinion) prejudiced and stereotypical views in many respects about Islam and Muslims. :\

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  5. Oh my! How disgusting. I wouldnt let it go but I agree confronting her privately first is the best idea. If she kicks it up a notch–hey–go with the flow. BTW, keep in mind since she’s elderly she might be getting senile–not have full control over–or knowledge of–everything she says. I just dont want you coming out looking like the “bad” guy! Allah with you!

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  6. Assalam-alikam,
    what a horrible thing to happen. You often come across hypocritical faux-liberals who say they are not racist but have all sorts of prejudices – but rarely as obvious as this.

    What I would like to do is ask in front of everyone as nice as pie: “Hi!, you’re the nice lady who called my brother a n***** aren’t you?” But being a Muslim I would have to take her aside and explain how hurtful what she said was and how you didn’t expect it from som-one as educated and cultured (ahem) as her” and then see what she says.

    I’m sorry that you have to put up with such things. .0

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  7. As a fellow SU minority student I encourage you to report this incident to the Student Affairs Office. There are resources there that can help you deal with an incident like this, or even provide support to you if you decide to talk to the woman.

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  8. I am so sorry that you and brother were subjected to this type of behavoir.
    I would definitely not admonish her publicly since it is a private matter. In your shoes I’d ask to speak to her after seeing her at your Africa table, meet for a coffee (say it in public) keep your cool and show your resolve at how unacceptable her behavior is in this day and age and THEN as EB suggested, report the incident to the Student Affairs Office and any other office that could help further resolve this situation and hopefully educate this woman.

    After you’ve done this, continue your walk in faith and hold no malice in your heart for this woman. Having ill feelings in your heart towards others only harms YOU, not them.

    Be at Peace.

    Felicia, This Time in Seoul

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