Instead, after no more than 15 minutes of small talk with Joe (not his real name), I accepted his invitation to meet for drinks a few days later. I didn't know the hostess of the party (I was the guest of a friend), and my friend didn't know Joe. So, in the intervening days, getting a character reference for Joe ahead of our date seemed more cumbersome than it would be worth. But I should have.
We met on a pleasant spring evening at a bistro where we shared some wine and snacks al fresco on the patio. After some small talk, the conversation started to get more personal, and we talked about our respective neighborhoods.
He complained about his. More specifically, he complained about two new families who had recently moved into his formerly all-white middle-class neighborhood. And he described them using the n-word.
I was't about to let that go unaddressed.
Me: "What did you just call them???!!!"
Joe: "They're a bunch of lazy [n-word]s."
Me: "What a crude and racist thing to say! I'm shocked and disappointed."
Joe: "What are you, some kind of stinking liberal?"
Me: "Well, I did shower; but I abhor racism, and yes, I am a proud liberal."
Joe: "Aw, lighten up!"
With that, I got up, placed enough money on the table to pay for my share of the food, wine, and tip (I didn't want to owe him anything), and went home.
If "lightening up" means tolerating racism, our society still has a lot of evolving to do.