Sunday, May 28, 2006

insults on the street: how to respond?

while walking around the mission yesterday evening, neha and i were heckled by a loud, perhaps drunken man carrying a guitar. this guy certainly seemed drunk or crazy. he asked, "is your woman for sale?" and then proceeded to make some racist comments concerning arabs, which i didn't quite catch. we kept walking and largely ignored him, even as he shouted loudly (but not coherently) in our direction.

as we walked away, neha commented that maybe the best thing to do to this guy would be to kick him in the balls. she said she'd get a sense of satisfaction, and maybe next time he'd think twice about insulting people and saying rude things, especially to women if it was a woman who beat him up. i thought that violence wasn't the answer, as it could get ugly, but also because i don't think violence is a good tool for teaching people lessons. i imagined that this might just make this heckler violent towards others, if he himself was attacked (note: interestingly, now that i think about this, if someone told me that in this case violence was the ONLY way to teach a lesson, i still don't think i'd endorse it.. so my original argument certainly isn't enough for me). at the time, i thought that ignoring him was the best strategy. though now i'm not so sure. i guess the question is whether some harm (verbal, physical, emotional) should've been meted out on this jerk? neha pointed out that in a reasonable world, we could just tell him that what he said was very insulting and we were hurt. but such words wouldn't have worked here.. so then what...

at the same time, i remember feeling so violated by the miami immigration agent and i think i did imagine punching him at some point (though of course that would've been very, very bad, at least practically speaking). i had this strong sense of "he can't do this to me, and i shouldn't let him. i should teach him a lesson!" of course, punching him probably would've taught no lesson, but my point here is more about the strong reaction i felt when i was mistreated.


Q said...


stop talking to yourself and kick him in the balls!

omar said...

well q you're right in one way... i didn't want to get beat up! neha thought she could take the guy, but i'm a bit weak!

Hasan said...

Following 9/11, I was mugged by some sods who said "go home you f**king sand n!gg3r!". I didn't respond, but over the next few weeks, I took aikido classes.
A bit later, I saw the same blokes try to hassle a friend of mine. I then decided to extract me revenge, holding them to the ground whilst she rang the bobbies.
As luck would have it, this was a student reporter and there was an article in the next issue about the increase in muggings on that particular street.