While writing yesterday's entry entitled "Gym Dandy", I struggled with something that I shouldn't even have bothered to give a second, third, or tenth thought.
As you may recall, I wrote about a "trainer" at the gym. What I didn't include in my description of him was the fact that he is black. I didn't know if I should make that distinction, because it wasn't really relevant to the post. At the same time, had I included that detail, it may have been easier for people to envision him just a little bit better.
In another recent post, I wrote about a young Asian guy and his parents. There, too, I asked myself if it really mattered that they were Asian.
I wondered if I would be "offending" anyone if I included these details. I am by no means politically correct, but at the same time, I don't want to be completely tactless or insensitive, neither of which I am. The conflict lies within myself, because as I wrote several months ago, in a piece lovingly entitled "Fuckin' Jewboy", "... I don't give a damn if you're black, white, gay, straight, male, female, Italian, Jewish, or you prefer Jay Leno over David Letterman." And I don't.
We're used to describing someone by his or her gender, and very often by ethnicity. So where do we draw the line? Do we just ignore other details that we intend to be descriptive, because we fear that inclusion of those details may be construed as racist, sexist, ageist or anything-else-ist?
A while ago, someone told me that he and a friend (let's call them Hank and Doug, respectively) (I don't know anyone with these names, so they are "safe") were waiting for a business associate to join them -- a woman Doug had never met. Doug asked Hank what she looked like, so he could keep an eye out for her. Hank supplied details about the woman's age, hair color, and said she usually wore a lot of black. Eventually she appeared in the distance, and Hank said to Doug, "Oh, there she is!" Doug followed Hank's line of vision and watched as a blond woman in her thirties, dressed in head-to-toe black, wheeled herself toward them. "You didn't tell me she was in a wheelchair," Doug said.
Hank asked him if it really mattered, and Doug said of course it didn't, but that Hank could have at least included that fact in his description. Hank eventually admitted that he didn't mention it because he didn't want it to seem like it mattered. But as Doug was quick to point out, her disability was a fact of her existence, and as such, it shouldn't have been excluded or ignored.
So, what my point is (and yes, there is one), is that I really shouldn't have "worried" about including the fact that the guy at the gym was (is) black. It may have helped readers to picture him a little better. There was no need for me to feel as if I had to exclude that information. By actively deciding to exclude it, I may have been making a "deal" out of something that isn't even a deal at all.
So proclaims the 38-year-old, 5'5", 112-pound, dark-haired, white Jewish girl dressed in black.fresh-baked at 11:40 PM