I've been called a racist and the first time it happened, I was mortified. I had asked a patron to pay for what she had just printed, a novel sized stack of paper. She only wanted the first page and insisted I was targeting her because of her race. I examined my behavior - had I really done anything racist? Did I treat white patrons any differently? I didn't think so. I'm equally mean to everyone.* Like the time I kicked a bunch of rowdy teenagers out of the library...racially, they were a mixed bag, but as they all shuffled off toward the door it was the black kid who flung a muttered "racist" over his shoulder at me.
This sort of thing has happened frequently enough that the epithet has lost all its sting. I see it now for what it is, a knee-jerk reaction to some perceived slight combined with a lack of better vocabulary.
And honestly? In a way, I can almost understand it. Introspection is hard. It's so much simpler reach for that single word that has the ability to end any debate. What I don't get, though, is the double standard.
Neatly explained away and excused were Democrats Joe Biden calling Obama "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Harry Reid complimenting Obama for being "light-skinned" with "no Negro dialect," and then last night, after the State of the Union speech, MSNBC's Chris Matthews saying that for an hour, he forgot Obama was black. (so tell us, Chris, what did you think of your president during the other 23 hours?)
And then there was the 83-year old black man who came to the library prior to the last presidential election. He told me he had never voted before and needed to register so he could support Barack.
I sighed and handed him the form, not bothering to mention that he could have voted for a black man two years earlier, like I did.
_______________*that said, I've since given up fighting this battle. Pay or not, I don't care - it's really not worth the grief.