Two days ago, I found myself laying back in a reclining chair, mouth wide open, with a man and a woman hovering over me, inches from my face.
It was definitely the only situation where this would be completely appropriate, for the man was my dentist, and the woman my hygienist.
About 15 minutes into this cavity filling extravaganza, the hygienist, an attractive older blonde lady with an Australian accent, had to go there AGAIN.
You see, the relationship between patient and dentist is, and should be, an extremely impersonal one. You go in, get out, and maybe make some small talk in between.
But this lady, for the second time, the first time being my biannual routine cleaning, made a casual racist comment.
Between the professional medical lingo her and the dentist had been making while working on my tooth, she slipped in...
"Ya know, Canada is going to be starting to deny Muslims entry into their country. That's very smart."
Now, in a bar setting, I'd have actually enjoyed schooling her.
I could've stated some facts, like how there's two kinds of Muslims in the world, and numerous sects. Or that 99% of them AREN'T terrorists. Or that in order to defeat the bad ones we're gonna need the good ones in on it and that talk like that won't help.
But sitting there, my numb jaw locked in the open position, I was powerless.
And she, no doubt, is entirely entitled to her opinions.
It wasn't necessarily the comment that bothered me. It was the fact that because myself, the doctor, and her happen to be white, she just assumed that I'm part of the club, the elite Good Ol' Boys & Girls Club, and that even if I may not totally agree with her, well hey, she can get away with it.
We have a big tent, us white people, yet many campers.
And ignorance must be confronted.
Sitting in that dentist chair, I wasn't even in the slightest position for any type of confronting, schooling, informing, etc.
But I'll tell you what I would've done, in fact, what I have done, to educate the ignorant. And it doesn't have to be harsh or even assertive.
I find that shaming works best.
A few months ago, I arrived home and parked in my normal spot in the parking garage. It was late.
A young Italian guy who lives on my floor who I've run into randomly was parking his Audi a few spots away at the same time. We both got out and headed for the elevator lobby. He smiled and nodded and held the door for me. I nodded back.
"How bout the entrance gate being broken again. This fucking place," he said.
I shook my head in disgust and agreement.
"Not that it's safe here anyway," he said. "Dude the other night, this time, I was walking to the elevator, some fucking nigger was walking right towards me. I pulled up my shirt, luckily had my gun in my waist band. The stupid fuck turned and ran away!"
I unlocked my mailbox to retrieve the mail, turned to him, and said...
"Yeah, my girlfriend's black."
It was at the perfect moment too, as the elevator beeped and its doors swung open.
I shot a quick glance at him as I brushed passed him to board the elevator.
He face was contorted in a mixture of embarrassment and confusion.
He slowly entered into the elevator with me, and we rode in the most hilariously awkward silence ever to our fourth floor.
After what probably seemed like hours to him, the doors opened and we got off. And as we turned in opposite directions to go down our respective hallways, I said...
"And you have a good night man."
He stopped in his tracks for a split second, said nothing, then quickly headed down the hallway.
And THAT is the best way to confront ignorance, racism, and downright stupidity.
Go ahead, try it. Hell, make it up, like I did. Tell 'em your wife is Muslim, or your adopted brother is black or your father's gay, whatever!
When you do this, it immediately puts the ball in their court, it's the perfect "Check, your move" scenario. And they have only two options: try and squirm out of it by some awkward explanation or say nothing.
My dental hygienist and this guy on my floor need to understand that the world is larger now, and getting more diverse by the second. You simply don't know who you're talking to.
You have the right to be a racist ass hole, but you do not have the right to not be shamed.