A bit of geographical/demographic information might be a good place to start. I live in a rural community, in MidWesr America-- the Bible/NASCAR Belt. Small town America has its charms, but often has negative sides. In our area, the bad side happens to be a rampant streak of Hillbillyism.
My husband works as a deputy warden in a prison, which is admittedly a type of place not generally famed for its racial sensitvity. This particular one has a history of a Good Ole Boy-type atmosphere. My husband is not popular amongst the set who still cling with misplaced nostalgia to that era. “Minority lovin’ College Boy liberal” is (politely paraphrased) what they sometimes call him.
Today, he recived a complaint that one of the prison doctors had been been repeatedly mocked by some of the officers. When he entered a room, the officers would pound out a drum rythym on the table and start singing a Native American war chant. My husband asked the doctor about this, who confirmed that the officers had been doing this to him for a while now.
Hubby called them into his office, and repeated what he’d heard they were doing. They vehemently denied it.
“Why do you think I called you in here about this?” Hubby asked.
Sullenly, one of the officers said, “You’re going to accuse us of doing something wrong, and punish us, but we didn’t do it.”
My husband smiled. “Of course you didn’t. I know you guys, and you’re not stupid. You know that if I ever caught anyone doing something like that, I’d ruin their careers. I’d make it my personal mission in life to see to it that they lost their jobs. As you guys know, I won’t stand for that racist bullshit in the workplace. If any of you guys were racists, you WOULD be punished, but we don’t have to worry about that, do we? Do you understand what I’m saying to you?”
They all nodded. Hubby sent them back to their posts.
An hour later, the Union Representative poked his head in the door. He’s used to working with my husband, and they have a good relationship.
“Hey,” he said, “Some of the officers are saying you called them in here, chewed their asses, and threatened them. What happened?”
“I told them that if they were racists, I’d take their jobs,” Hubby replied. “But they claim they’re not, so where’s the problem?”
The Union Rep shrugged. “I don’t see a problem.”
The next day, apparently after some time to think it over, and most likely being told by their Rep that they didn’t have a grievance, the officers asked to come into my husband’s office. He bade them to be seated, and one of them spoke up, sounding nervous but earnest.
“Uh, sir, we’re not saying anything happened, but if it DID, it wasn’t meant to be offensive-- it was a joke, and, uh, it’ll never happen again.”
Hubby nodded. “I understand completely. Thank you.”
As the officers headed towards the door, my husband called, “Guys?”
Hubby shuffled some papers. “He’s not Native American.”
“What?” The one who had made the apology stared at him. “What do you mean?”
“He’s not Native American. He’s Hispanic, you fucking idiot. You’d think the fact that his last name is Gonzales might have given you a clue.”