It’s been a week and the general furor and guffawing has slightly abated in regards to two inches of snowfall in Atlanta turning to ice and immobilizing a ridiculous amount of people.
Now, I’m not here to set any records straight about whose fault it was, defend Atlantan drivers’ abilities, relate seemingly esoteric formulas for inertia, traction, and the freezing point of water. The alert, the government sound bites, the lack of public transportation, the attempted exodus of some million commuters have all been fully documented at this time. If you’ve somehow managed to miss any of this, a google search will offer more than you need to know.
Indeed, a google search may even turn up an article that avers that the Atlanta gridlock was actually due to racism. I’d link the article, but, quite frankly, I’d rather not contribute to any perceived success of that particular author. I read that article twice and I’m still trying to find a coherent and cogent reasoning to such a hypothesis.
Instead, I’d like to take a moment to talk about geography.
I’m a suburbanite, living where the folks in the ATL like to refer to as OTP (outside the perimeter). I’ve more than once found myself stymied by the fact that someone inside the perimeter of 285, upon learning of just where I reside, deriding my intelligence as obviously no IQ of any merit would choose to live anywhere but within the boundaries of some kind of hub. You with me so far? I have actually been accused of general stupidity for living in what some consider “the country”. (Please regard again the statement above of a rather suburban atmosphere wherein I purchased a home.)
Years ago, one night in a bar on an Alaskan cruise, I met a charming woman from the North East, toeing a Canadian border. We chatted agreeably for some time before she heard I was from Atlanta. “Nobody south of the Mason/Dixon line is intelligent,” she told me. I proffered my Mensa card and inquired as to hers. Didn’t matter. I was now a moron and she was no longer inclined to talk, pointedly telling me that I cannot be intelligent in any manner because I chose to stay in Georgia. Mind you, this was not a pick up attempt or anything other than two people chatting inconsequentially. It still galls me.
Fast-forwarding to poor planning and response to a snow storm in my beloved, international city and I’m once again inundated with the perception of the world towards the south as a racist, idiotic, inbreeding program with the overt intention of locking out any alien or new ideas, people, innovation, or art.
I’m at a bit of a loss here as to quash the idealism of southern racism. I’ve seen it here. I’ve seen in it in Florida. I’ve seen it in Vegas. I’ve even seen it overwhelmingly on Twitter in response to a Coca Cola ad on the Super Bowl (as near as I can tell, without any real amount of effort on my part, not centralized in my home state).
A coworker, again years ago, told me that his life’s goal was to move to Sweden where all the girls were incredibly hot. We took a moment to discuss genetics and the likelihood that ugly just might be a universal issue. He acquiesced to the idealism that maybe Sweden is not completely populated by large breasted blonde women with limpid eyes the color of the sky in Eden.
Now, arguing that you are not, in fact, stupid, and quite smart is in itself not at all smart and a losing battle. If you find yourself uttering the statement that you’re a very smart person chances are that everyone in the room will immediately doubt and find fault with just that statement. And, here again, I find myself arguing that I’m a well-read, eloquent, and rather intelligent person. Hearing myself say it and knowing that I live in the south, even I’m inclined to doubt the veracity of that stance. I simply must be a Bible thumping, homophobic xenophobe that questions equality, rights, evolution, and the possibility that transplants from other countries are American after moving here and having the audacity to keep their traditions and languages while endangering our children with their mere presence.
It’s worth noting at this point that I feel that every person is inherently prejudiced, just by the nature of the human brain and the actual definition of prejudice. We pre-judge situations based on our experiences. It’s the way our brains work; our brains like patterns and tries its damnedest to impose them, regardless of the logic or lack thereof.
Now, my pattern-forcing grey matter tends to look for decency and acceptance. I tend, therefore, to notice patterns of decency and acceptance. Maybe, I am a moron, my synaptic firings blocking out a massive amount of overt racism and obvious lack of cognitive abilities. Don’t get me wrong, I notice stupidity: in my home town, state, country, and world. Should we meet extraterrestrial intelligence, I’m betting that they’ve got a couple of groups on their home planet that they hope don’t introduce themselves to us first.
I don’t expect to solve a single thing with this piece or even alter a perception or two. I just wanted to take a moment to espouse the wish that we could finally get away from the practice of downing lumped groups simply because they have an abode in an area outside our own. I’d like very much to get away from the ridiculous response that the location of your house, apartment, or shanty is an indication of your mental acuity. It seems to me infinitely healthier to work on disliking people for the inherent stupidity that resides in all of us and how firmly we seem to grasp and greedily adhere to it.