Why Stereotypes, In Moderation, May Be Good

I take the boys with me to go vote at Chavis Community Center, in the heart of Southeast Raleigh. We get to the volunteer and she asks for my name ‘Shannon P Bennett’ i say. ‘What’s the middle name dear?’ she asks. I state it. My 5 year-old who thinks he is Bernie Mac reincarnated says ‘P as in Palin’ loud enough for everyone to hear. I begin to turn red. ‘No it’s not, it’s Palmer’ I say pushing him behind me; but the little critter scoots around and gets right in the lady’s face ‘It’s Palin and she’s from Alaska!’ I thump him in the head and by now EVERYONE is staring at me. I get the paper, sign my name and try to rush off when this little booger shouts out, fist raised and in the air ‘Go McCain’! If you could have seen the faces of the voters….OMG….if looks could kill! How do you explain to a room full of people who have just left the Obama rally that not only are you an Obama supporter but that your beautiful baby boy is a comedian?!

I posted the above story as a note on my Facebook page on October 30, 2008. It is a true account of my voting experience and as real a depiction of my son’s comedic abilities as one could make. In telling the story, I made an assumption on that day that my biological family in Wasilla, Alaska were all Palin supporters based on my stereotypes of them (my bios, the Palins and Wasilla); a stereotype my bio-mom was happy to dispel.

Why would you think that! I’m for Obama! There aren’t many of us up here but I’m definitely one of them!

Since that conversation and in getting to know my Alaska relatives, I’ve been very conscious of my assumptions. I try to be very open-minded and look at the world through a wide lens as opposed to a narrow one, after all, my entire life is one big stereotype. Of course experiences birth preconceptions that are often impenetrable, add to that the horror stories of others, insatiable media coverage and an overactive imagination and well…

I rarely leave my home after dark but when your son has a fever and you’re out of the ibuprofen-acetaminophen rotating cocktails-duty calls.Leaving in the middle of an episode of Dateline where a home invasion threatened the lives of a mother and her two sons didn’t exactly aid my fears; and if that weren’t enough, I had just read an article about a student at Morgan State University who dined on the internal organs of the roommate he murdered. Needless to say, I was on edge.

As I was pulling into the Wal-Mart shopping center, a woman carrying several bags slipped and introduced her rear end to the pavement in a slow motion crash. It was nothing to laugh at as she staggered to a stand and then fell again. Finally she steadied herself and attempted to shake off the mud and humiliation of her fall(s). She succeeded at neither. I pulled over and helped her pick up the scattered groceries and noticing the blood soaking through the knees of her pants, I offered her a ride home.

As she buckled her seat belt the severity of my sincerity overshadowed my genuine concern as I visualized her grabbing the razors from her bag and slicing me to pieces. My mind began to race and my face flushed crimson. When she leaned over on the arm rest I froze as I imagined her stripping me of my clothing and gnawing at my flesh. I didn’t hear a word she said over the sound of my beating heart and heavy breathing. I feared this woman who walked to Wal-Mart at night in the rain for razors and cheese spread with the thick stench of cigarettes in her hair and coffee on her breath. Infinite scenes from movies about hitchhikers and images from news reports filled clouded my thoughts as I whispered a prayer and reprimanded myself in the same sentence.

When we arrived at her home nearly ninety seconds later, she thanked me three times before hopping out of my vehicle and freeing me from fears grip.

I still cannot believe this happened. I’m just so embarrassed and I wasn’t even drunk!

Well, when you tell this story maybe you should say you were.

Oh no! I can’t do that, I just got out of prison and this is a halfway house.

And with that she slammed the door and limped off.

Stereotypes, in moderation, aren’t always a bad thing…

Introduction to Moist Halfrican (Comma Intended)

I don’t really care if I misspell a word in my tweet. Actually, I do. But I don’t need you to point it out with a link to purchase your book on vocabulary rules.

@ker_pow Nope. Just want it to accomodate 60 somethings in taste and class.

@palmerbennett “aCCoMModate” with 2C and 2M (link to book WAS here) ~@MomyWatch

@MomyWatch Thanks for the FREE correction! ~@palmerbennett

I can think of two friends who are loving the idea that I was corrected on my vocabulary knowledge. I am usually the corrector. My feelings were hurt. Correction my ego was.

I’ve had a logos laden week. Ellen Seidman wrote a passionate piece on removing the word ‘retard’ from your personal language on her blog LoveThatMax. My youngest child, in a class discussion on tolerance, was informed that this word is not politically correct. He is public enemy number one against it and ‘midget’ (which was excluded years ago when Little People was a big reality TV hit). Retard(ed) is one of those socially derogatory words that has become socially acceptable to use.

Ironically, almost immediately after reading Ellen’s post, I heard Tia Mowry’s character on The Game say “social retard” and the logophile in me cringed. I love words. I do not love words that ignite inferiority.

Another word that breeds discrimination is “illegal”. ColorLines’ new campaign to Drop The I-Word is attempting to erase it’s negative context from everyday language. When I was 8, an older kid at school told me I was an illegal alien because I was born in Alaska. I believed her. I hated being an illegal. At some point I came to an understanding that I was not (the alien part is still up for debate). I have used the word many times and I have to admit that hearing it immediately places images of Mexicans crossing the border into my mind.

I signed the pledge to remove illegal from my vocabulary. I’m signing a personal pledge to remove my connotation. I’ve been working a lot on embracing diversity and battling embedded stereotypes that evoke hate. It is a conscious and deliberate effort that takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it. My new image of illegal is of criminal behavior or a forged document-charge it to the recent conversation with a homeowner facing an unlawful foreclosure.

Don’t fret. My lexicon is still balanced as I have added two words to my vocabulary.

Halfrican, while not Webster-worthy, is a new way to define someone who is half black and half white. For example: “I am Halfrican American.” I was introduced to this concept by an article on Robert King and his one man show, for which I desperately want to see (shameless plug). It’s doubtful that the 2020 census will have a racial description for my new word but I like it none the less and if Beyonce’ can get bootylicious in the dictionary, anything is possible.

Then there is moist. Of course moist was already part of my jargon so this is technically a resurrection. Moist is the prodigal son I sent away many years ago, now it has returned. I’m not alone in my past despise of the word, 4,739 people like the page I Hate the Word Moist and they don’t even have a picture! I am reclaiming the word because there is no other way to describe Auntie’s red velvet cake or Patsy’s bread and I’m tired of looking for one.

 So my vocabulary is balanced, all is well in my logos and FYI @momywatch-moMMy is spelled with two M’s.