Oversensitivity to Wokeness?

 

When we got into my husband’s car this morning, a cute but older Nissan, the battery groaned in pain. It’s been very cold for Florida (mornings in the 40s) and we don’t drive his car very much. After a couple of tries, the battery finally kicked in and the car started and we were off to do grocery shopping.

After finishing our shopping, it didn’t occur to us that we hadn’t run the battery enough. This time it didn’t moan; it just coughed and died. We sat there quietly for a moment, and then my husband got out of the car resignedly and looked under the hood. At that moment, a couple in a large white truck pulled in the space directly opposite ours, and when they exited their car—a young woman and a smiling, robust young man—my husband approached and asked if the fellow could give him a jump. The man agreed with a smile, and my husband pulled out his jumper cable. I saw him speak to the man, who frowned slightly, then smiled and they got the battery going. Meanwhile, they exchanged a few friendly words before Jerry got into the car and the young man went to join his wife in Publix.

It wasn’t until an hour later that Jerry told me that he’d almost made a faux pas! When he handed the jumper cable to the young man, he said, “black is negative.” (Jerry loves to speak in shorthand.) Well, you may have guessed, the young man was black. He may have hesitated for a couple of reasons: was Jerry referring to the color of his skin? Was he surprised that Jerry felt the need to tell him which charger was which? Or was it something else?

We’ll never know.

There were a few points we gleaned from the situation. First, we have become hypersensitive about our use of language. Even though we say we’re not going to worry about offending anyone, it would have been an ill-timed insult. Second, was the man wondering what Jerry meant? There was a time when we wouldn’t have given the situation a second thought.

But I miss the time when we, as decent, polite people didn’t worry about parsing our words at the risk of not just hurting feelings, but possibly triggering a negative reaction. What has happened to the time when we gave people the benefit of the doubt? Why can’t we just appreciate the young man’s generosity and help, and not give the incident a second thought?

I don’t like where we have arrived.

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  1. Franco Inactive
    Franco
    @Franco

    Susan Quinn:

    I saw him speak to the man, who frowned slightly, then smiled and they got the battery going. Meanwhile, they exchanged a few friendly words before Jerry got into the car and the young man went to join his wife in Publix.

    It wasn’t until an hour later that Jerry told me that he’d almost made a faux pas! When he handed the jumper cable to the young man, he said, “black is negative.” (Jerry loves to speak in shorthand.)

    It could be the frown was the reaction to being told something obvious that everyone knows.  It’s annoying when people do that. Although I don’t know the tone and I wasn’t there, I can’t imagine the guy would take offense at that.

     

    • #1
  2. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Aw, he was probably setting you up to have to think all this thru. Red is positive and lefties are sinister. Good thing battery cables aren’t male and female, eh?

    • #2
  3. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Would “Red is positive” worked better? 

    Anyway, considering the people I know in their 20’s and 30’s, I would not just assume that they know how jumper cables work.

    • #3
  4. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    That’s actually a funny story. ;)

    When I was younger I was sometimes self-conscious about ordering my coffee “black” when speaking to a black waitress, and would simply omit the adjective and let her bring the redundant cream and sugar. I’m so past hyper-sensitivity now — so tired of the ginned-up offenses — that I wouldn’t care anymore.

    Caryn Elaine “Whoopi Goldberg” Johnson once made a distinction between what Roman Polanski did and what she called “rape rape.” While I think she was mistaken in that particular instance — Polanski is, in my opinion, a plain old rapist — I understand what she was trying to express.

    I think I am going to start using the term “racism racism” when discussing racism in America.

    Yes, there is racism in America. But there really isn’t any racism racism — not, anyway, enough to worry about.

    • #4
  5. Franco Inactive
    Franco
    @Franco

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Would “Red is positive” worked better?

    Anyway, considering the people I know in their 20’s and 30’s, I would not just assume that they know how jumper cables work.

    A black man in a large truck might be an exception. The guy whose truck runs, being asked by an elderly man in an old Nissan for a jump, is now going to be directed on how to do it. No, I think my speculation wins over yours. 

    • #5
  6. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    I think my optimistic position would be hoping that the young man now realizes that any time a white person says something about “black” isn’t automatically racist.  And maybe it will spread to other people he knows…

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I think I am going to start using the term “racism racism” when discussing racism in America.

    It was kind of funny–the young guy was friendly–we waved and smile to each other as I sat in the passenger side. He could see me between the hood and the dash.

    I love racism/racism for anyone who deserves it!

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think my optimistic position would be hoping that the young man now realizes that any time a white person says something about “black” isn’t automatically racist. And maybe it will spread to other people he knows…

    He had to come away with a good sense of my husband; I think he actually enjoyed helping the old guy . . . ;-)

    • #8
  9. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think my optimistic position would be hoping that the young man now realizes that any time a white person says something about “black” isn’t automatically racist. And maybe it will spread to other people he knows…

    He had to come away with a good sense of my husband; I think he actually enjoyed helping the old guy . . . ;-)

    Kinda wonder how the other guy tells the story to other people…

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Kinda wonder how the other guy tells the story to other people…

    If he was wondering why Jerry asked, he’s probably forgotten all about it.

    • #10
  11. JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery Coolidge
    JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery
    @JosePluma

    I always say “red to positive.”  The one time I neglected to do that, the other person put it on the wrong lead and burned out her battery.  It’s just good practice, even if both people involved have done it many times.

    • #11
  12. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Yes, actually it’s been quite a while since I’ve owned a vehicle, due to my disability income budget.  And so some things fade from memory.  But especially for quick jump-start rather than letting the other vehicle’s battery charge for a while to try and start on its own, there’s a procedure involving which to connect first, and as I recall on the dead-battery vehicle the ideal is to connect the negative cable to somewhere on the engine itself, rather than just battery-to-battery.  And then if you remove that cable end first, you have much less risk of – for example – creating a spark that triggers an explosion of hydrogen outgassed from the battery.

    • #12
  13. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Actually, black is ground as the entire metal body of the car acts as the ground to the negative terminal to which it is attached.  When jumping a car, the final connection should be the black (negative) cable to a metal part on the car with the bad battery, someplace a few feet from the battery itself.  That is to keep any spark away from the failing battery and any hydrogen gas that may have leaked from it in its compromised state.  If hydrogen gas ignites, the old battery may explode sending hydrochloric acid everywhere.  Pretty scary scenario and too common.

    • #13
  14. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Yes, actually it’s been quite a while since I’ve owned a vehicle, due to my disability income budget. And so some things fade from memory. But especially for quick jump-start rather than letting the other vehicle’s battery charge for a while to try and start on its own, there’s a procedure involving which to connect first, and as I recall on the dead-battery vehicle the ideal is to connect the negative cable to somewhere on the engine itself, rather than just battery-to-battery. And then if you remove that cable end first, you have much less risk of – for example – creating a spark that triggers an explosion of hydrogen outgassed from the battery.

    Right. I once saw a guy blow up his battery by hooking both cable to the dead battery. Black cable should be grounded to the dead battery’s car.

    • #14
  15. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    Actually, black is ground as the entire metal body of the car acts as the ground to the negative terminal to which it is attached. When jumping a car, the final connection should be the black (negative) cable to a metal part on the car with the bad battery, someplace a few feet from the battery itself. That is to keep any spark away from the failing battery and any hydrogen gas that may have leaked from it in its compromised state. If hydrogen gas ignites, the old battery may explode sending hydrochloric acid everywhere. Pretty scary scenario and too common.

    Yes, but that only works if you also then disconnect the negative first.  So any spark created is distant from the battery.  It doesn’t help if you connect the negative at some distance, but then disconnect the positive first and create a spark right at the battery.

    So as I mentioned, there’s order as well as location, etc.

    • #15
  16. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    That’s actually a funny story. ;)

    When I was younger I was sometimes self-conscious about ordering my coffee “black” when speaking to a black waitress, and would simply omit the adjective and let her bring the redundant cream and sugar. I’m so past hyper-sensitivity now — so tired of the ginned-up offenses — that I wouldn’t care anymore.

    Caryn Elaine “Whoopi Goldberg” Johnson once made a distinction between what Roman Polanski did and what she called “rape rape.” While I think she was mistaken in that particular instance — Polanski is, in my opinion, a plain old rapist — I understand what she was trying to express.

    I think I am going to start using the term “racism racism” when discussing racism in America.

    Yes, there is racism in America. But there really isn’t any racism racism — not, anyway, enough to worry about.

    I never had a problem answering the waitress, singing “I like cream in my coffee, uh-huh, uh-huh.”

    • #16
  17. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    That’s actually a funny story. ;)

    When I was younger I was sometimes self-conscious about ordering my coffee “black” when speaking to a black waitress, and would simply omit the adjective and let her bring the redundant cream and sugar. I’m so past hyper-sensitivity now — so tired of the ginned-up offenses — that I wouldn’t care anymore.

    Caryn Elaine “Whoopi Goldberg” Johnson once made a distinction between what Roman Polanski did and what she called “rape rape.” While I think she was mistaken in that particular instance — Polanski is, in my opinion, a plain old rapist — I understand what she was trying to express.

    I think I am going to start using the term “racism racism” when discussing racism in America.

    Yes, there is racism in America. But there really isn’t any racism racism — not, anyway, enough to worry about.

    I never had a problem answering the waitress, singing “I like cream in my coffee, uh-huh, uh-huh.”

    Sure. But I like my coffee like I like my humor: black, and at someone else’s expense.

    • #17
  18. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Would “Red is positive” worked better?

    Anyway, considering the people I know in their 20’s and 30’s, I would not just assume that they know how jumper cables work.

    You could ask “you know how to use these, right?”

    There IS a DIY movement in the younger generation. Half the time OUR lack of knowledge was because YOUR generation didn’t teach us. Taking that school system for granted, right?

    My husband requires his father’s help to do anything in our home and we’ve been home owners for 13 years now. Why? Because it was easier for the FIL to do it himself – by himself – than to teach his kids as they were growing up.

    • #18
  19. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Would “Red is positive” worked better?

    Anyway, considering the people I know in their 20’s and 30’s, I would not just assume that they know how jumper cables work.

    Me too. My millennial nephew called his father from college and asked how to use jumper cables.

    • #19
  20. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think my optimistic position would be hoping that the young man now realizes that any time a white person says something about “black” isn’t automatically racist. And maybe it will spread to other people he knows…

    I recommend ANYONE who feels weird about using the word “black” with black people because of racism needs to go watch some Tom MacDonald reaction videos by black people. They may have a contingent that is just as volatile as white people do, but they have a lot in common with us over some of this insane hyper sensitivity.

    • #20
  21. GlenEisenhardt Coolidge
    GlenEisenhardt
    @GlenEisenhardt

    Do you get offended when someone asks you for whiteout?

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    GlenEisenhardt (View Comment):

    Do you get offended when someone asks you for whiteout?

    Nope. But I’m not woke either.

    • #22
  23. GlenEisenhardt Coolidge
    GlenEisenhardt
    @GlenEisenhardt

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    GlenEisenhardt (View Comment):

    Do you get offended when someone asks you for whiteout?

    Nope. But I’m not woke either.

    Then I wouldn’t worry about it. The woke think every structure is racist including all of language. If they get offended best to just dial it up to an 11. 

    • #23
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    GlenEisenhardt (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    GlenEisenhardt (View Comment):

    Do you get offended when someone asks you for whiteout?

    Nope. But I’m not woke either.

    Then I wouldn’t worry about it. The woke think every structure is racist including all of language. If they get offended best to just dial it up to an 11.

    At 5ft2in,110 pounds, probably not.😏

    • #24
  25. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    That’s actually a funny story. ;)

    When I was younger I was sometimes self-conscious about ordering my coffee “black” when speaking to a black waitress, and would simply omit the adjective and let her bring the redundant cream and sugar. I’m so past hyper-sensitivity now — so tired of the ginned-up offenses — that I wouldn’t care anymore.

    Caryn Elaine “Whoopi Goldberg” Johnson once made a distinction between what Roman Polanski did and what she called “rape rape.” While I think she was mistaken in that particular instance — Polanski is, in my opinion, a plain old rapist — I understand what she was trying to express.

    I think I am going to start using the term “racism racism” when discussing racism in America.

    Yes, there is racism in America. But there really isn’t any racism racism — not, anyway, enough to worry about.

    I never had a problem answering the waitress, singing “I like cream in my coffee, uh-huh, uh-huh.”

    Sure. But I like my coffee like I like my humor: black, and at someone else’s expense.

    Touché!

    • #25
  26. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    GlenEisenhardt (View Comment):

    Do you get offended when someone asks you for whiteout?

    I still get looks when I ask for whiteout and explain “White makes right.”

    • #26
  27. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Flicker (View Comment):

    GlenEisenhardt (View Comment):

    Do you get offended when someone asks you for whiteout?

    I still get looks when I ask for whiteout and explain “White makes right.”

    And then toss in some jumper-cable advice:  “Black is negative.”

    Unless you’re an electrician, of course.  In that case, “Black is hot.”

    • #27
  28. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    GlenEisenhardt (View Comment):

    Do you get offended when someone asks you for whiteout?

    I still get looks when I ask for whiteout and explain “White makes right.”

    And then toss in some jumper-cable advice: “Black is negative.”

    Unless you’re an electrician, of course. In that case, “Black is hot.”

    What’s black electrician’s tape?  Safe?

    • #28
  29. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Great post, Suzan. It’s the kind of story that led me to sign up for Ricochet.  I do think you were a bit over sensitive. It would be impossible to talk to a black person without cringing if we had to worry about every time we used the word “black.”

    Socrates was wrong when he said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Overthinking is just as dangerous as underthinking. 

    As usual, the middle way is the best way. 

     

    • #29
  30. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O
    @ChrisO

    The (high-reputation, private) school where I “guest teach” is possibly an example of what you’re saying, Susan. Some students arrive 30 minutes late every day, rarely arrive on time to their other classes, and homework isn’t done if they don’t feel like doing it.

    Nothing is said, and it is difficult to know what to say. For example, a student arrived late to school last week and was talking and messing around in class shortly after. I asked him about his assignment and he said he was done. He arrived ten minutes before and the assignment required viewing a 30-minute video. Do I call him on it? I knew the regular teacher would go easy. It is difficult not to feel the pressure of being branded with the worst labels.

    That is because this culture of permissiveness initially manifested itself and took hold within a particular demographic. It was not representative of any particular group in its entirety, but visible enough that it started to affect more and more students throughout the high school level population. There are always slackers, but this is something different.

    There are many preparatory education options in the local market, and all this undermines a reputation based on decades of presence within the community. It is an existential issue for the school, but worse is the damage done to the student and their “preparatory” development of self-management and other skills.

    Everyone loses in the end. The school doesn’t fulfill its mission and the student moves on, unprepared for the next step.

    • #30
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