It should come as a surprise to no one that my aunt PJ, having been born with a giant sucking sound instead of a soul, is also a virulent racist. She is a white woman who grew up in a southern city in the 1950s and 1960s, and there are certain egregious societal buy-ins that unfortunately accompany growing up in that sort of cultural milieu. That said, my mother isn’t racist and was born three years after her and grew up in the same household, so maybe PJ is just a jerk. Never mind, there’s no maybe about it.
Now, one of the many issues created by PJ’s racism was the fact that, until recently, she was a teacher a high school that has a predominantly African-American student body.
Let’s just pause for a moment to let that sink in. For thirty years, Aunt PJ was responsible for educating thousands of children
Unsurprisingly, given this information, Aunt PJ hated her job with the burning passion of a thousand suns. I imagine it was similar to how I feel about spending an afternoon with her.
With this background information, we move on to the heart of our story. PJ’s daughter-in-law, who shall hereafter be known as Saint Sarah, decided to throw a casual get-together in honor of PJ’s daughter and her longtime boyfriend, who had made the trek from an east coast city to visit the family. This was the first time that the boyfriend would experience PJ. The plan was for everyone to bring some good weens, and we’d sit back, chat, stuff our faces, and a good time would be had by all. Alas, this was not to be.
Saint Sarah also invited her best friend, Awesome Alice, who several of us knew from previous gatherings. As her name implies, she’s a friendly and hospitable woman who also made some killer weens. It is important to this story for you to know that Alice was a divorcee with two teenage sons, who were not present at this particular debacle. It’s also important to note that Alice’s ex-husband is African American and she is white, and thus her children are multi-racial. Most of us, including PJ, was aware of this fact. (Editor’s note: The children inherited their mother’s awesomeness and are grade-A students involved in multiple extra-curriculars.)
Do you remember that simulator in driver’s ed that was essentially a tractor-trailer coming at you head on with no way to escape but pulling the wheel and putting the car in a ditch? That should be about how you feel right now about this story.
The day of the shindig arrives and we all load up our plates and sit together in PJ’s over-decorated living room (what is it with PJs and knick-knacks?) The conversation is initially cordial and light-hearted. We all dig in, and my mother, in an effort to keep the conversation going and on a safe topic, brings up how her grandchildren (my niece and nephew) enjoy a local children’s museum.
To which PJ replied, and I shit y’all not, “oh, I like that local children’s museum too. There’s never any black kids there.”
A pallor fell over the room and everyone stops shoving weens in their mouths. All of us looked at Awesome Alice, who choked on the ween she was eating. PJ’s daughter, having been consummately embarrassed by her mother in front of her boyfriend, ran out of the room crying. Boyfriend followed behind her. Saint Sarah then rebukes PJ, telling her under no uncertain terms that her comment was unacceptable. (Seriously, this woman is just a supernaturally good person--all of us were too stunned to get it out). PJ gets flustered, and, trying to redeem herself in the clumsiest way possible said, “I just work with a lot of black kids at my school and they’re violent.” Several of us had to step outside the room at this point.
We tried to get things back on track after that, but the damage had been done. Saint Sarah, Awesome Alice, and I moved out to the back patio in an effort to avoid arrest by putting distance and a door between our fists and PJ’s face. This is also when the beer-a-ritas came out. After a half an hour or so, our stomachs turned in synchronicity as PJ opened the sliding glass door and stepped outside.
In later retellings, Saint Sarah said that she had hoped that PJ was coming out to apologize to Awesome Alice for being a shit heel. Saint Sarah is kind and optimistic like that. But alas, no. This is PJ, after all.
No, instead of apologizing, PJ started to bemoan that she was frequently excluded from family events. Gee, PJ, I wonder why the hell that would be? And then, the coup de grace: she remarked, “I guess I’m just the family black sheep.”
And that is the story of the last large family event that included PJ.