Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How Dare I be Jewish During Christmas Time!?

I stopped by the Christmas Tree Shop yesterday on my way home from work. I thought, "maybe they have a Chanukah corner? Even grocery stores give us a quarter of an aisle..." And they did! They had a whole section of Chanukah stuff and because it was already the second day of the holiday, it was all 50% off! Score. I picked out a few things and went to the cash register. I got in line behind two shoppers, one who asked for a price check that took forever, and one who paid by check. While we waited to pay, the four of us (the cashier and the two other women) were joking around, talking about the craziness of the holidays, the lines, small talk. Then came my turn. As soon as i put my basket down on the counter, the cashier's face and tone completely changed. During the whole wait my basket was on the floor, by my legs, so no one saw what i had. But as soon as i started pulling out Chanukah plates the cashier went from jovial to flat affect and then to rude. It started with an "Oh!"

"Oh what?" I thought. I realize i'm a bit more hyper-sensitive to discrimination than the average person so i thought i might be reading into it. I kept up a friendly demeanor. As she starting ringing up my purchases i realized the items weren't going through as 50% off. I told her so. To which she responded, "Ugh! Of course!" Here i couldn't help but wonder what she meant by "of course." Did she mean, "Of course, you're Jewish, buying Jew products, Jews are cheap, and you want a discount!" Or did she mean "Of course, way to hold up the line, lady!" I would have absolutely defaulted to the latter had i not been in line after the other two shoppers that held the line up for WAY longer than me. One waited on a price check that took 10 minutes and the other paid with a personal check... The cashier's "of course" could have been in reference to customers always having an issue in her line... or it could have been anti-semitic. There's no real way to know.

I told her, "there's a sign, right there, it says '50% off,' i can see it from here"
"I can't see it! I don't have my glasses" She snapped back
"Oh ok, sorry about that... do you think you can ask someone to check, please?" I was half upset at being treated so rudely, half still wondering if i was reading into it more than i should.
She asked the manager to check and wouldn't make eye contact with me while we waited. The manager told her it was, indeed, 50% off and she rung me up. I paid for my purchases and said "Happy holidays" as i walked away. She grunted back, "Merry Christmas!"

Ok, i get it, there are people who think it's all my fault they can't have Christmas trees up in public places and have to wish each other "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas." But honestly, living in a predominantly Christian country i am WAY beyond carrying if someone wishes me a "merry Christmas." I don't correct them, i don't wish them a "happy Chanukah" back, and i certainly am not bothered by it. I swear, I don't interfere with your Christmas spirit. I sing along to carols on star 99.9, i wear lots of red, and i really love eggnog. Though i avoid the malls this time of year like the plague, i am very not bothered by Christmas spirit, in fact, i enjoy it when (IF) people are slightly nicer to one another. I wonder if that's what the cashier was annoyed by? That i had the audacity to shop in the Christmas Tree Shop and purchase only Chanukah items! Maybe it wasn't Jews she had a problem with but me, for representing the politically correctidness that she now has to trouble herself with? Who knows. I don't. Because maybe she was just anti-semitic.

Either way, treating me differently, and rudely, for being Jewish was wrong and discriminatory - i don't care what her rationale for it was. I wish i had the chutzpah* to have said something, or to have asked to speak with a manager. But again, i couldn't tell if i was being overly sensitive or if it was prejudice at its best. But i guess that's a lot of what discrimination is. Trying to figure out why what happened is wrong and how to rationalize it.

The only other time i was taken aback by blatant antisemitism was the first week of college, freshman year. We went to the dining hall with some new friends from the floor and one of them told a Holocaust joke. I just sat there, baffled that people still did this. I grew up in a very Jewish community, these types of things didn't happen. Everyone laughed until one of my gentile** friends from high school said, "that's not funny." The person who told the joke said, "yes it is! It's just a joke." And my friend said, "No, it's not. Not when you have a Jewish person sitting at the table, and not ever in general." They never said anything anti-semitic around me again for the four years i knew them.

I walked away from the Christmas Tree Shop experience thinking, "yes that sucked, but it's pretty easy for me to hide being Jewish if i really needed to, like if my life was in danger." Many other minorities don't have this option.

*chutzpah: gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, guts.
**gentile: non-Jewish


PersonalFailure said...

"I walked away from the Christmas Tree Shop experience thinking, "yes that sucked, but it's pretty easy for me to hide being Jewish if i really needed to, like if my life was in danger." Many other minorities don't have this option."

That's really not what you should be thinking while walking away from a store.

You should definitely print this out and mail it to the manager of that Christmas Tree Shop. And, you shouldn't be confused, the clerk was antiSemitic. I use "Happy Holidays" because I'm an atheist, but even my most fundavelagist coworkers say Happy Holidays to people they know or suspect are not christian.


fourth wave said...

That's awful. I agree that you should write a letter to The Christmas Tree Shop. That's completely unacceptable behavior.

This might cheer you up: Stewart and Colbert sing about Hanukkah.

Happy Holidays, and Happy Hanukkah!

Christopher said...

It's not anti-semitism or even really anger at political correctness. (The former being more extreme and the latter being milder) Pundits have given some Christians this siege mentality, that not only is their holiday under attack, but their holiday is BETTER and more important and deserves this central position. It's never "THE WAR ON WINTER RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS" that Bill O'Reilly claims the "secular progressives" are waging, it is the War on Christmas. So somehow, you Jews are secular progressives bent on making America a godless heathen nation with your... religion.

It's just given people a reason to feel self important and treat anyone different rudely because their religious holidays should be #1! It's just arrogance at this point, not really hate. Especially the fact she had to say Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

One should always keep in mind those less fortune than thee (and do something about it when one can), but just because someone had it worse than you doesn't mean that you shouldn't defend yourself as well!

I agree with the other commentators, don't take this bullshit lying down. File a complaint. This isn't just for you, because if it's racism, it's not just about you, what about the other Jews? ...and if she treats you like this, how would she treat the other minorities that are 'ranked further down on the "ladder"'?

- Georgia

FeministGal said...

Thanks Georgia, I completely agree, i'd never just "take that" but i wasn't 100% sure i was being discriminated against. I think i had to write it all out and hear from others that i wasn't reading into it too much. Now that i have, i will definitely write them a letter.

Carolyn C said...

This is really upsetting as a fellow Jew.
We have a half African American president-elect about to take office and we're still being treated different than others?
Please file a complaint with the headquarters of that company.
Honestly, f that lady would've said "of course" to me regarding 50% off Hanukkah items, I would've left the products there.
They don't respect us so they don't deserve our patronage either.

Anyway, Happy Hanukkah! =)

phd in yogurtry said...

I'm sorry you experienced such a harsh (and un-christian, ahem) attitude. I agree, the manager may like to hear this (we hope).

But stepping beyond unpleasant thoughts, Happy Hanukkah to you and your loved ones!

My Jewish friends celebrate the best of both worlds -- a lighted tree with blue & white lights. I just love it.

Infuriated Faggot said...

Hey! Just a note- thanks for your post, I appreciate it. Just to clarify, I do not support either side of the Israel/Hamas deal. I will say that the disparity in arms when it comes to war between them is disgusting. The use of excessive- and I MEAN EXCESSIVE- force by Israel is condemnable. And the US sends them weapons continously (ask those in Lebanon when Israel attacked a couple of years ago). It seems to me, and this is what my post said- WE SHOULD NOT SUPPORT EITHER SIDE. If they want to fight, they can do it on their own terms and with their own dollars/weapons. we should not be involved. AT ALL.

Out of curiousity, Have you spent much time is Israel and Palestine/Gaza? Compare the green lushness in both places. Compare the living conditions in both places, the health care, the weapons, the flat out cash. Until that disparity is resolved peace will not come. To take sides would be FOOLISH!

anyway, thanks again for your comment. It's nice to have a real discussion. :-)

Kelly said...

...And I read this thinking, "Goodness, I hope I was not that freshman friend who told the Holocaust joke."

FeministGal said...

haha Kel, no, it was one of those Sherman boys... (was that what their building was called? i can't remember now.) C'est la vie...

belledame222 said...

Argh, what an asshole. I mean, I'm sure working retail during the holiday season sucks, but really: what an asshole.

as for the "War on Christmas" shite: don't even get me started.

Anonymous said...

I'm not Jewish. I guess I'm Christian, because technically I should be, but meh....

Don't get me wrong, I believe in God and all, but I just never understood the need for specific relegions. History would dictate that relegion is is just an excuse for war, and agression...


Anyway, with regards to what happened in that store; if it had been me? I would have bitch-slapped her.

It doesn't matter what you ethnicity, or relegion is, that woman had no right to treat you the way she did. A person is a person, after all, and each should be treated with respect no matter what.

Besides, there's a policy in Retail, goes something like this: "The customer is always right" Now that doesn't mean you can steal or anything, but the rights of the customer always come before the employee.

The attitude of this woman would have got her fired in most businesses, after all a customer is a client. One bad experience can influence a person not to shop there, and that's always bad for business.

Managers know this, they're not stupid. I would lodger a complaint against her if I was you, and demand a formal apology. Some people really won't learn any other way.

You know what? You should make a big thing of it. Picket the store. After all, if the manager refuses to provide you with a apology for your treatment, that's basically stating that the store is anti-semenistic.

That's an insult to the whole Jewish community, right?


I guess what you do is up to you really, but I do have one piece of advice. Learn to stand up for yourself. I would never have let myself be treated like that.

Don't get me wrong, I'm the nicest guy you'd ever meet. But just because I'm nice, it doesn't mean I'm going to be a doormat, y'know?

If someone offends you, let them know. Maybe they meant nothing by it, and will apologise. Maybe they're just an asshat, but at least you let them know that you're not going to lie there and take it.

Silence empowers the bully y'know.

"What, just because I'm Jewish, you act like I don't matter?"

Say something like that loud enough, most asshats will back down. Noone likes to be pointed out as being a dick, y'know?

Um, just don't go saying it in a biker bar or something lol