One recent Saturday afternoon, a friend and I were in a newly-hip part of LA grocery-shopping in one of those stores that caters to the Urban Affluent. On our way out, we were in the elevator that goes to the garage, when we heard someone coming toward the elevator. So we held the door. A young woman sauntered in, talking on her cell. She never acknowledged there were other people in the elevator car, let alone that those people had held the door for her. Just kept tossing her long hair and talking. My friend raised her eyebrows. I shrugged. The door opened, she stepped out, still chatting. No thanks, no nod of acknowledgement. We loaded up the car and headed for the off-ramp. Yakkity Girl zoomed out of nowhere and cut us off. (Still on the phone.) My friend and I talked about it all the way home. Would it have been different if she'd been black and we'd been white? Did class have more to do with it than race? Was she just rude and clueless and were we being hypersensitive? My friend's conclusion: "They can talk all that post-racial yang they want; some white people will always think they're better than us. That one practically broadcast it." And it has concentric effects. Stopping for another errand, we were standing in line to pay for our purchases when a young white man slipped by me. "'scuse me," he said softly, gesturing to his girlfriend, who was already in line ahead of us. "Of course," I nodded. My friend didn't hear him, and still stung by Yakkity Girl's diss, lit into him for being ill-mannered. He looked stunned and bewildered. I told my friend the man she just snapped at had indeed said excuse me before passing us, and she (blushing) went over to him and apologized. They chatted for a minute and she returned. "What were you talking about?" I wondered. "I just apologized for being touchy and told him about what happened in the grocery store. And know what he said? He said:' Don't you hate people like that?'" For better or worse, Rude has no color. Karen Grigsby Bates is a correspondent for NPR News in Los Angeles, and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).
is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).