Mar, 2011

My Big Run In With Small Town "Law"

At least I got a picture

I’m going to warn you right now: This post is a rant.  You have been warned.

I’m on tour this week, traveling through the heartland of our great country – northern Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota.

Yesterday, while driving through Mason City, IA I decided to stop and take a gander at the Frank Lloyd Wright Stockman House.

While crossing the main street in town, in my rented Ford Focus, I passed a car. It was a student driver car and it practically came to a stop in the middle of the intersection, so I passed it on the right hand side.

Suddenly, I heard a horn honking. Not just like “honk honk” but HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK… This guy had something important to honk.

Now, before I proceed with the rest of my charming small-town story, I’d like to note, it was Sunday afternoon and it was cold and gray. There was almost NO one outside and no one on the roads. I was probably driving about 20-25 mph at the time I passed this guy. I have a 100% clean driving record and in 22+ years of driving have only been pulled over twice for speeding and received only one ticket about 9 yrs ago. I’m far from being a reckless driver.

After the barrage of honks subsided, I realized this clown was now following me. When I got to The Stockman House, I parked at the curb and this self-appointed douche bag vigilante did the same and proceeded to get out of his car and approach mine, motioning to me to roll down my window like he was some sort of cop.

Now, in hindsight, it was at this point I should have just driven away, but honestly, for all I knew in a crap-hole town like Mason City, IA this guy maybe WAS the cop, so I thought I’d hear what he had to say.

At that point he told me I passed him illegally back at the intersection and he already called it into the police and it was probably going to cost me a $500 ticket. OK, so in hindsight, THIS is when I should have told him to told him to stop harassing me and driven off… over his toes. 

He was condescending, he kept insisting I was from Alaska (apparently Alaska and South Dakota licence plates look alike?) and he was attempting to intimidate me by saying the police know him and he reported it so they might want to talk to me now… blah blah blah blah blah. Oooh! I’m shaking in my boots Mr 65 Year Old Fat Driving Instructor man.

This was one of those situations where I can now think of a million “should haves” – after the fact. But at the time I was so shocked and amazed at what was actually happening that I was kind of speechless. I also tend to be way to nice to people, overall, but I’m thinking of abandoning this policy.

I really don’t like to pull the race card or the female card, but let’s face it – people are fucking racist and sexist in this country. I’m not saying it’s so much better in other countries, but it’s 2011 and it’s time for America to get its shit together. If you can’t treat your fellow Americans, who aren’t the same as you, with respect then go back to where YOU came from.

Was this a racist incident? I don’t know but I’m leaning toward yes and I guarantee you it was a sexist incident. There is no way that fat, somewhat elderly white man would have had the balls to approach and verbally assault and threaten a grown OR young white man or man of color, or probably even a black female – because of FEAR. But a small, young looking Asian woman? That’s someone he felt he could take and he even admitted to me, after I talked him out of his arrogant tree, that he thought I was “much younger”. Thanks for the compliment pops, but I’m not some scared little FOB girl you can frighten, although I did let him waste WAY too much of my time.

I’d like you to take a look at the demographics of the sweet town of Mason City, IA:


Mason City, the much beloved town of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man,  is a bunch of uneducated, middle aged-elderly white people. So why am I shocked that I have some sort of questionably to blatantly racist incident when I am in smaller towns in Iowa? I need to give small town Iowa more credit for what it is. Small in more ways than one.

Last time I was in a small town in Iowa, I sat in a mom and pop diner and listened to two women behind me go on and on about how much they disliked some “oriental” guy because of the way he smelled and dressed. And he wasn’t just an “oriental” guy, they literally said he was “some kind of oriental” and the disdain in their voices was blatant.

In all fairness, it’s not just Iowa. Iowa is just on my shit list right now because I’ve been there a lot recently. I’ve had shady incidents all over the country but particularly in the upper Midwest. This is espeially disheartening to me because I grew up in Minnesota and I hated it for this reason, 20+ years ago! I got teased a lot as a kid and I couldn’t wait to leave, but I hoped it would have changed a bit by now. I guess not?

Probably the worst racist incident I’ve ever had was when I was living in South Minneapolis. A woman in a truck got mad at me for not letting her cut in front of me in a long line of cars at a light. She rolled down her window and started screaming at me, “You stupid chinky bitch! You people can’t drive because of your fucked up chinky eyes! Learn how to drive you stupid chink bitch!” She went on for the entire light. The best part is when I started to say something back to her, she would roll up her window. All racists are cowards.

With all the recent racism against Asians and Asian Americans highlighted in the media (the Alexandra Wallace video, the negative Japanese earthquake responses, Gilbert Godfrey jokes on Twitter, etc) I admit I’m a little on edge. I’m tired of being treated like a foreigner in my own country. I’m tired of having to politely answer ignorant questions and educate stupid people in awkward situations. I’m sick of reading friends’ blogs and finding out their little children are being called niggers and chinks on the playground. None of this is acceptable and if you think people of color, people who are gay, people who are non-Christian are ruining the United States then GET THE FUCK OUT and find yourself a better place to live. YOU are the ones ruining this country. You are the ones spreading hate and fear, brainwashing your children with the same poison. SHUT UP! I feel sorry for your kids and it pisses me off that you think you represent “Christian” values when all you are is the devil here on earth. People who live out a true Christian example are embarrassed by you. Over 75% of the people in the US identify as “Christian” but I sure don’t see 75% of the people in this country acting like Christians. And yes, yes I did go there. Don’t get your undies in a bunch. Or do. I don’t really care.

And for those of you who aren’t bigoted a-holes, it’s still your responsibility to teach your children to treat all people with respect and kindness. If you don’t teach anti-racism and anti-hate to your kids, then it’s open season on their minds at school, on the playground, at the mall – they will be taught by someone else. If that’s what you want, then say nothing and act like it dosen’t affect you so it doesn’t matter.

And to my white friends who act so shocked and surprised when I tell them these things happen, well screw you too. Believe it and be part of the solution.

I’m now going to brave some cooler temps and go for a run outside in Madison, SD. This town is one tenth the size of Mason City, IA. Let’s hope things so smoothly.


Leave Your Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    OMG. He thought you were from Alaska because he thought you were … Eskimo. OMG. I can't take it. #headondesk

    Which is why I just can't ever live in a small town anywhere. You are brave.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It is my deepest wish that, if you did a show at Waldorf College in Forest City, IA, they treated you well. I went there before transferring to WCC.

    -Steven Weatherman

  3. Jason says:

    yeah…I had a friend who was out for a jog out in Idaho…and a cop rolled up to him and said "Son what you running from" (mind you my friend was American of Asian descent). he replied, I'm just out for a jog. cops reply "you ain't from these parts are ya" and just let him go.

    but who gets stopped by the cop when your out for a run….

    It's just sad but discrimination/racism still exists to this day…it's sometimes better hidden (in the big cities) and sometimes not in the smaller cities.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Amy, I agree there is racism and it is horrible. I am also certain that you have experienced more than your fair share of it. Yet I find it ironic that you rant against it while spewing vitriolic prejudice statements condemning not only a whole city, but an entire state and even an entire region.

    Yeah the guy in your story was an asshole, but it may be that he would have been just as much an asshole to me as you. If you were to see me in the small town where I live, you might think I was a skin head hick, instead of a well educated quite open minded person.

    I am sorry that you are stuck in a crappy hotel room far from your family, I have been there too, but fighting hate with prejudice just doesn't make much sense.
    – a Midwestern white guy who is tired of racism on both sides

  5. Amy Anderson says:

    Look White Midwestern Guy – I travel more than the average dog. I have been all over this country and coincidentally, I seem to have the most unpleasant racist experiences in small towns in the upper Midwest. I was also raised in a white suburb in the upper Midwest and was called a "nigger chink" on the bus as a 5 yr old and called chink, flat face, gook, Chinaman, rice ball, ching chong, chop suey, etc etc etc etc etc to my face all the way through school.

    Racism exists everywhere in this country. However in almost 10 years of living in L.A. County, I have only had one really racist incident – where a guy pulled back his eyes at me and yelled at me from his car. That's it.

    Last year, I was i the Seattle area and also in the Bay area and tried to do some jokes about how I was teased for being Asian when I was a kid and they FLOPPED!!! Why? Because Asian Americans who grew up there, overall, didn't get tortured in that way because they are not an anomaly in those areas. I even asked an AA woman in the audience in Kirkland, WA, "Weren't you ever teased for being Asian when you were a kid?" and she said, "No, not really." They didn't even get what I was talking about!

    Small towns often breed ignorance. I'm not saying that every person in a small town is racist, but narrow mindedness is much more common and socially accepted.

    White people, especially guys, who react the way you are – claiming "reverse racism" Oh please. You let me know how your life has been directly, negatively affected by being a white male in the USA and cry me a river about it.

    Yeah, I'm ranting and talking trash about the upper midwest in this post. WHY? Because I have had an unpleasant racial incident EVERY TRIP I HAVE HAD THERE over the last few years. I'm not exaggerating.

    Look, if you went to Los Angeles, New York, Boston or Chicago several times a year and every time you did you overheard people talking about "those nasty cracker people" or someone walked up to you and mocked the way you looked or your heritage right to your face, everyone stared at you and started whispering every time you walked into a restaurant… how much would YOU love big cities?

    And honestly, if you visited Compton and was hanging out there for a couple days you probably would have some similar experiences because it's a small area with a highly racially homogeneous population of mostly uneducated people. You probably wouldn't have a great time there.

    The demographics of Mason City, IA, according to the US Census Bureau, are the same: small area with a highly racially homogeneous population of mostly uneducated people.

    Please share a racist experience you've had. I'd love to hear about it. I know it does happen, so let er rip. I'm just as against anyone treating people badly because they are white men, but I sure don't hear about it very often. So sad you're "tired" of all the racism you claim to be on the receiving end of. Let's hear some examples.

  6. Kevin says:

    Hi Amy, I am sorry to hear this and I am really sorry that this kind of shit still goes on. I am a middle aged white guy…I may even be on the heavy side, but I'm not fat damnit so don't go there 🙂 All that said, my wife is Filipino and therefore my two daughters are mixed. I have lived in Chicago, Boston, Chapel Hill, and Los Angeles and there are definitely differences in how my wife, and to some extent, my daughters, have been treated. North Carolina was the worst for my wife. White people didn't know what to make of her (at that time, NC residents seemed to be either white or black, they didn't know brown. That has changed since I lived there) and black women hated her because black men paid too much attention to her. My daughters were young so they didn't experience anything negative. We then moved to Chicago and the kids went to school with many different nationalities so they were treated well. My wife didn't have any issues in Chicago nor in LA or even Orange County. I have always taught my kids to be color blind and focus on the individual. They have learned to enjoy peoples' differences because they learn so much from them. I was not taught that way as a kid. There wasn't overt racism in my household, but racism was there…in subtle ways. When I dated a black woman in college, my mom freaked. When I called her on it, she said something along the lines that if we had children, it wouldn't be fair to them. What a crock. I LOVED that a few years later, my brother came out of the closet. It was fun watching my mother deal with that.

    Anyway, I may be white and have not had to endure racism like you and many others have, but that doesn't mean I don't know it exists and try to do what I can to combat it. Do I do enough? Maybe not. Do I do more than many white folk? Probably.

    Again, I am sorry that you have to go through what you do when in small town America. It is pathetic, but know that there some of us white knuckleheads that get it and are part of the solution and not the problem.

    Oh, and I do have a Compton story. I used to drive a van for an insurance company. I went to college by day and delivered inter-office mail throughout LA by night. I was stopped at a light one night and this african american dude knocked on my window and asked for money. I said no and he asked if he could help me or do some work for me. Again, I said no. He finally asked if he could have a ride and for whatever reason (just like you, there were plenty of reasons to take off, but instead, I hung out and heard him out) I said sure, hop in. We ended up having a decent conversation. He explained his plight and then warned me that I was taking him into Compton. I thought for a second, or two, that this wasn't the best idea, but I figured I would roll with it and trust this dude at his word. We got to an intersection and he got out, made a joke about how to take the quickest way out of town and then thanked me and said that there weren't many folks who would have done what I had just done. I drove away feeling good that maybe I changed his general opinion of white people, but also realizing that he'd come across many more that would take his opinion right back to where it was before I came along.

  7. Stephonics Bauman says:

    oh i don't know if i'd say he was racist….. seems to me like he might have is geography all in a jumble…. AND, as john cougar meloncamp (or however the fug you spell his last name) would say…. "he's just a small town boy living in a lonely world, he took the midnight train going NOOOO ooooo WHERE".
    you know how boring small towns can be- he was probably just trying to Hawaii 5 O all over your undercover Eskimo Ass or so he thought.

  8. Amy Anderson says:

    Kevin- That's a great story. And yes, you are doing your part by teaching your kids to treat people as individuals.

    Steph! You nut! That's JOURNEY!! No John Mellencamp! I have very vivid memories of Jane driving us around town in your mom's station wagon and us all singing along to Journey blasting out of the tape deck.

    As this event was actually taking place, I wasn't really thinking he was being racist but just a general asshole, but after digesting everything, I started to think about the way he treated me and would he have done the same to other people? To a man? To a black person? I feel he singled me out because I was a woman, more than anything, but as an Asian woman too to a certain extent. I really don't think this guy would have pulled over a black woman or any man. Of course, I could be wrong, but it's a hunch.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Amy, I don't have a specific racist event than I can recount, but it doesn't matter, because I won't recount it. It would come off as a cry for sympathy, which I neither want nor deserve.

    My point was not to claim that I was a victim, but rather to point out that fighting hate with hate is a no win spiral that has put this country into the very situation that we are in.

    Emotional scars are tough to deal with (I have a few of my own, though not about race), but reacting to racism this way only gives power to the racist. Bullies and racists are basically cut from the same mold and have the emotional problems. I believe that they should be handled the same way.
    – a Midwestern white guy

  10. Amy Anderson says:

    Sigh.. ok, Midwestern White Guy. Look this isn't about an eye for an eye. It's about demanding respect in our own country. I will not apologize for that.

    Asians and Asian Americans are famous for never speaking up. For just shutting up and taking it, but with all of the recent anti-Asian and AA BS in the media (see the examples I linked to in my original post) I feel we have collectively had enough. My generation and the ones younger than me are the first to speak up and it's about time. We are the first generation of AA's that are really demanding a change and we're doing it in many ways – music, art, poetry, comedy, politics, writing, teaching, etc.

    There are so many examples of how racism against Asians & AA has always been socially acceptable (look up the tsunami song after the Thailand disaster, Adam Corolla's mocking of Asian Americans on his show and them his half-assed apology, Long Duck Dong ("Is he retarded?" "No he's Asian.") Seriously, it's never ending.

    And frankly, listening to advice from a non-minority white male from the midwest about how I should handle situations of discrimination and hate is like listening to a man for advice on what kind of tampons to buy. You just don't have a vagina dude.

    No one's calling YOU a racist and no one is asking YOU to represent white people everywhere. Stop taking it personally.

  11. Soo says:

    Amy, you rock for posting this. That's all I really wanted to say.

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