Since yesterday was Martin Luther King Day here in the States, I think it’s best I share yet another story of racial intolerance. This one goes back a bit further than the one I posted over the weekend. This event takes place in 1992, the Virginal Days.
I was a young sophmore at the University of Washington here in Seattle living in apartment with three college friends. Two of my friends happen to be Asian, but that’s not really important yet. As 19 year olds finding ourselves in college we would hang out at the local underage dance clubs on the weekends. We were hornballs so what else was there to do? I was terrified of dancing because I really have no talent in that arena. Typically a big group of about 5-10 of us would go out and I would watch the others dance all night from the sidelines.
One of these times I got lucky and met a girl at the club. I was very excited since I had never dated anyone up to this point in my life. The female attention and "friendship" was a cool thing, yet nothing more than kissing and some heavy petting ever happened. I chatted on the phone with this girl I will refer to as "Tara". She lived about 45 minutes north of Seattle so we didn’t see* each other all that often. Occasionally she would swing by our apartment for a visit.
The night I met Tara at the club she posed some questions about my roommates. She wanted to know more about the "gooks". I kid you not, she called my Asian friends "gooks". Okay, one roommate is Filipino and the other is Chinese. Once she said this word I had a really tough time keeping a straight face. The term gooks is on par with the n word in the offensive racial slur department.
I shared this tidbit of information with my roomies and a plan was hatched. The next time Tara was to visit our apartment, they would exhaust the term gook making it sound completely commonplace. I never mentioned anything to her about how offensive the term can be, but then again she never told me she was 17 until a few weeks after I met her.
Maybe this wasn’t the best way to teach her about racial intolerance because I’m not sure she even knew my buddies were mocking her. It was priceless to hear them run the term into the ground, knowing she would return to her suburban home and use it over and over because she heard Asians using the term amongst themselves. As they were violently throwing darts they let the term gook fly as if saying today’s popular filler word "like". Again, this situation could have been resolved better, but you must keep in mind these are the same roommates who convinced a cute girl at the mall to hand me an "I admire you" letter while I was working. Yes, that’s a story for another post. Well at least Tara did teach me how to drive stick shift on her Subaru wagon in a vacant church parking lot.
* …we didn’t see each other all that often –> because she was attending high school P.E. classes while I was studying trees and French literature.