As many of you know, I am the father of the most awesomeness, coolest, greatest multiethnic little boy ever (and no, I’m not biased in the least).
And as many of you parents out there also know, being a toddler’s dad means that you spend a lot of time at the zoo. I’m talking yearly membership and don’t make any other plans for Saturday mornings — that kind of thing.
Now, many people have issues with zoos, based on animal rights and other noble ideas that I really don’t want to debate right now. But suffice to say, I’ve encountered a few protesters on occasion when I’ve taken my son to the zoo. They have all been polite and reasonable, by the way.
So I was unsurprised when I approached the zoo gates this past weekend (chasing after my turbocharged kid, of course) and saw a man with a bullhorn.
I figured he was a PETA supporter or was angry about Billy the elephant or something like that. But no, he was yelling about racial discrimination and the evil bigotry that went on at the zoo.
This naturally got my attention.
He was a gangly white guy, clearly on his own, with no protest signs or marching compatriots or petitions to sign. He was just screaming about Mexicans (and by this, I assumed he meant Latinos in general) and their supposedly shoddy treatment at that most nefarious of places: the zoo gift shop.
Yes, he insisted that the zoo gift shop discriminated against Mexicans. To be honest, I’m not sure how they supposedly discriminated, because his ranting was a bit hard to follow. Apparently, the zoo gift shop was refusing to hire Mexicans, or refusing to sell items to them or exploiting their labor or some combination that I didn’t quite understand.
In any case, I was mildly impressed that this white guy would take time out of his day to stand up for his Hispanic brethren.
This era of good feelings lasted about twenty seconds.
Because then the guy shouted, “And do you know who the gift shop helps? All those filthy horrible Muslims!”
I’m still trying to figure out this man’s rather precise prejudice. After all, he apparently liked Hispanics. But in accordance with the new pyramid of bigotry prevalent in America, he despised Muslims — completely abhorred them, in fact, because he went on yelling some pretty grotesque things about Islam and Mohammed and sharia law and on and on and on.
Let’s be clear: this is the kind of support we Latinos most definitely don’t need.
My son did the wise thing and ignored the bigot at the front gate, and we went in to see the gorillas because they’re his favorite.
When we came out, the nutjob protester was gone. But I couldn’t help but think of him on the drive home.
More specifically, I couldn’t help but think of my favorite Lou Reed lyric: “Well I know one thing that really is true / This here’s a zoo / And the keeper ain’t you!”
Tell ‘em, Lou.