Bitchin' About - RacismTuesday, August 20, 2013
Did you guys hear about the shop assistant in Switzerland who snubbed Oprah? Apparently the assistant didn't recognize her and therefore thought she wouldn't be able to afford a 40,000$ purse. All of America laughs because we know that's what Oprah makes in like a minute. But many are shaking their heads because...racism.
I'm Hispanic but I've been fortunate enough to have lived in SA my whole life where Hispanics make up 63% of our population. A lot of our culture comes from Mexico (Tex-Mex anyone?) so it's pretty prevalent throughout the city. Even then there have been cases of racial profiling within city limits -- I've just (luckily) never experienced it.
Outside of SA though I have run into it twice. Once in Louisiana and in New Mexico. Though it wasn't violent or outspoken or mean I still felt that my skin color played a part in how people viewed me or how it messed up their perception of what I should be.
In Louisiana my ex and I went to Abita Springs to visit the brewery. There everything was fine but on the way out of the little town we stopped at a small ice cream shop down the road. As soon as we walked in, the three men in the shop stopped talking and looked at us as we walked to the counter. The entire atmosphere inside the shop changed instantly. The teen boy behind the counter was polite enough but all I wanted to do was leave. We paid for our ice cream without any sort of incident but even the ex said it was really awkward.
When John and I went to Roswell earlier this year we encountered something of the same thing. People would look at us everywhere we went. We'd be in Wal-Mart buying beer, walking down the aisles and people would blatantly stare at us as they passed. Some would even turn around to look at us over their shoulder. I could understand it if we were wearing some sort of costume. I could understand if they were looking at us because we were being ridiculously rude and obnoxiously loud but we were just there shopping - like them.
No one told us anything and the people we interacted with were nice and polite to us but it was more than a bit unsettling. It took a lot for me -who doesn't like being the center of any sort of attention-to pretend I didn't notice them noticing us.
Now I know that there is racism everywhere but out of all the places for it to have it happen to me LA and NM were probably the least likely candidates. I mean, aren't there tons of Mexicans and Native Americans in NM? It couldn't possibly be the fact that they'd never seen a brown person before. I would have thought it was something they were used to already. No need to look here folks, just another brown-skinned person shopping in Wal-Mart. Annnnd! Roswell is a touristy place isn't it? Wouldn't they be used to seeing all kinds of nerdy geeks come to phone home?
The thing is I don't think that many people are aware they are racist or stereotyping people because hey, we have tacos and our construction workers are brown. We love all kinds of people! But a friend of mine commented on my Bitchin' About - Austinites post with a story by Cecilia Balli called What Nobody Says About Austin. What does no one say? That Austin is one of the most segregated cities in Texas. Though Austin is thought to be this super-great hippie-dippy hipster-fest most of the people you encounter downtown are going to be white hippie-dippy hipsters.
It seems that even though there are populations of other cultures they tend to stick to their own because it feels safer. It is easier to get along with people who share the same histories and traditions that you do. That's why there is Little Italy, Chinatown, etc. By segregating people it gives the illusion that people aren't really racist. But it doesn't make the melting pot of people America is known for. The segregating of race and culture doesn't help anyone. It will only cause people to continue to stick to their ideas of what other races are like.
If you only know Hispanics from TV then when you seen one in Wal-Mart buying beer and walking with a white-ish guy your mind is getting blown because....has that ever happened before? Why isn't she wearing a maid's uniform? Is that guy her boss? And...oh my god did I just hear her speak English without an accent?
I in no way mean to compare my sort-of-maybe-racist-encounters to legitimate ones where more violent action occurred but I think that it's completely crazy that there are still so many people out there who assume American equals white.
When our National Anthem was sung by Sebastian De la Cruz for Game 3 (and then asked back for Game 4) of the NBA Finals, racists took to Twitter to type their disapproval in 140 characters. The tweets were vicious and ignorant, some wanting him to "go back where he came from". Hey idiot, he was exactly where he came from. Sebastian was born in San Antonio and is an American. Some of the people who publicly tweeted their ignorance had "non-white" names themselves. I don't know what, to them, constitutes an American but apparently a last name of Ramos passes the 'Mercia test and De la Cruz doesn't.
The same thing happened when Marc Anthony sang God Bless America for the MLB All-Star game. Marc Anthony a pretty famous Latin singer was born in New York City. When someone tells a one, Josh Turnock, that Marc Anthony was born in New York he answers...I swear to god, "Doesn't look like it". I honestly don't even know how anyone could be that stupid. If you don't associate New York with being a city of mixed races then...I don't even know. I'm surprised Turnock even knew how to use Twitter. But I digress...
America is known for being a melting pot of people from all over the world. The fact that there are some people out there who still feel that only whites are American is ridiculous. The only true Americans are the Native Americans and we completely effed them up a long time ago.
Racism is a hard thing to overcome because it is taught at a young age. The stereotypes you hear, that are enforced in TV and movies, create a never-ending cycle. But racism is not engrained into your DNA. You are not born hating one group of people or another. It is taught and just like any other bad habit you have to unteach yourself. You have to be aware of what it is and you have to work at recognizing that what you think to be true...isn't.
Hopefully one day racism will be a thing of the past. One can only hope that with more and more people moving, traveling, wanting basic freedoms and rights, the day will come when we won't see each other as Americans or Blacks or whatever, but instead as humans.