The scene: the checkout desk at our local library.
It's two minutes 'til closing. We're the last people in line to get our books.
We step up to the counter. There are two librarians working; one is Native American, one is African-American. (This point is shortly to become salient.) We know both women by sight, since we're at the library two or three times a week.
One of the librarians is checking us out; the other is checking in a large stack of returned books and videos.
FISHER (loudly, as he says all things): Those are all kinds of cats, aren't they?
ME (distracted, dealing with toppling heap of books): What are all kinds of cats, honey?
FISHER: Toms… Coons… I don't know about Mammies, though?
ME (whipping head around with an audible snap): WHAT?
FISHER (pointing at book on return pile, titled Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films): See, like a tomcat, and like a Coon cat…
ME (feeling the eyes of the librarians, and everyone else in the vicinity, hot upon me): Uh Fisher those are names that were derogatory names for black people, you know, in history, that people used to use as insults, and now most people know that it's not OK to use those words, and uh…
FISHER: But it's like a Maine Coon, right?
ME: (honestly, I don't remember what I said at this point… my main objective was to get out of the library before I had to explain what a Mammy was)
So obviously what I said/did was probably what not what I would have said/done if I hadn't been embarrassed and flustered… but I guess I should be happy that Fisher had no idea that any of those were racially-related words, right?
Awk. Freakin. Ward.