To begin with I simply am not a racist. That’s a very ugly word and people who want to call a person of any race that name should think long and hard before they simply pass out this label. I’d honestly like to think that two grown men could have a disagreement without calling each other names but this is what it came down to. The story is (I am going to leave names out) as follows:
Many businesses have to work with the newspaper. While I’m not going to even discuss what type of business the man who called me this runs, it should not be hard to figure this out. Now our newspaper has to make money. Make no bones about this. We are in the business of delivering the news and, to a certain extent, entertaining people. On some occasions I can’t help but feel used because people often get free publicity from us that is used in ways I never expected. Last week the businessman I am referring to called me and wanted us to run something for free that we have to charge everyone for. I just can’t do it - plain and simple. While I was trying to tell him this, he interrupted and told me that he didn’t think that I would treat other businesses this way. I was beginning to see where he was going but I still asked what he meant. His reply was that he suspected that there may be some form of prejudice going on. I was pretty offended and told him this wasn’t true. I also asked that he not refer to me this way again but his mind was made up. We barked at each other a little more before he got off of the phone.
To make a long story short my day was ruined. I was so angry and upset that I could barely think about anything else for the rest of the day. Now what I’ve seen people often do in this situation is defend themselves by saying “I have plenty of friends who aren’t white” or giving examples of how they’ve worked side by side with members of another community. I really don’t feel that I should have to do this. People who know me (white, black, and Hispanic) from Lafayette to Dallas to Biloxi would back me up in a heartbeat on this. I was raised very well by my parents and I would get whipped for saying certain words (you know which ones I’m referring to) the same as I would if I said the ‘s’ or ‘f’ word. I realized early on that some kids parents raised them to think a different way and that’s sad to me. However, I wasn’t one of these kids.
Now I do make mistakes. I make enough of them on my own and there’s no way that I would add to these by making one on purpose just to upset a person of a different race. Part of this business that I’m still trying to get used to is the fact that you’re never going to please everyone. I’d like to state unequivocally that I have made mistakes for people of all races. I am an equal opportunity mistake-maker. And for this I apologize.
Thankfully afterward I spoke to a couple of friends who calmed me down by giving me a reality check. I was told to calm down, that I know who I am and someone who doesn’t know me can’t turn me into something that I’m not. However, I haven’t been able to completely stop thinking about this. I’ve been called plenty of names before but none of them really upset me (probably because the others may have been true) the way this one did.
And I think that a grown man in this century should never resort to branding someone else as a form of defense.
Howell Dennis is a native of Lafayette, La. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington where he graduated in journalism and public relations.