I refuse to apologize for this post to anyone except my mother, for whom the title may be too offensive. But as I’ve enlightened even her as to her cushy seat up in the Ivory Tower of White Privilege, I give zero f*cks. Except for maybe my language but that’s what happens when you’ve absolutely had it with society.
I work in customer service and that generally means two things: 1) It’s my job to be helpful and 2) It’s my job to be polite. Unfortunately both requirements apply to everyone, even the openly bigoted ones. And boy have they been having a field day lately, all out in the open frolicking hand-in-hand as they make literally all. of. us. uncomfortable. #CheckYourselfBeforeYouWreckYourself
A “field day” event happened today and it blew the cap off of the lid I’ve been trying to keep on my emotions post-November 8, 2016. A customer, flanked by her bougie daughters and aloof husband, had been steadily getting on my last nerve ordering me around and talking to me as if I were beneath her. But then this happened as she was attempting to describe the sales associate that was helping her before I was:
Customer: She had dark hair. It was kind of long.
Me: Was she young?
Customer: Yes…and she looked not-American.
Me: …you mean Latina?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s my job to be polite and my job was not worth losing due to this woman’s disgusting display of bigotry. So I held my tongue and refrained from giving her a piece of my mind. And I swallowed hard when she later scrunched up her nose at a fellow human and walked away from them because they were—God forbid—scratching their head and presumably of a lower socio-economic status than her (she who was obsessed with sales and discounts, riddle me that). And I tried to not lash out when another associate, who happens to be an immigrant from a European country, said this woman had refused her assistance before she found me at my register. But I had it when she inferred that not-American is synonymous with Latina. And now we’re here.
Last time I checked, Americans come in all shapes, sizes, and skin colors. But the problem lies when well-meaning white people open their mouths in an attempt to be our allies after situations like the above happen. Confused? Let’s back track.
If you, in your odd curiosity, have ever asked me, “Are you adopted?” as if my lily white mother would never willingly have a baby with my deep bronze father; or “Are your parents still together?” as if a black man is incapable of willingly showing up as a husband and father; or “Are you and your sisters all the same skin color?” as if you’re hoping I break out some on-trend ombre family photo that’ll make you feel cultured; or even “What race do you identify with?” as if I choose who I am in the same reductive way you choose your socks in the morning, I’ve got news for you: you’re part of the us vs. them problem. If you seek reassurance that age-old tropes and stereotypes about my race don’t apply to me and my family because we’re on your List of Good and Okay Minorities to Associate With, you’re perpetuating said stereotypes. Sorry (not sorry).
If you, after saying something uncouth, have ever had the words, “I’m not racist, my (insert personal relation here) is (insert minority here),” come out of your mouth, I’ve got news for you: you’re racist. If you have to associate a race with a person in your life that you’re fond of in order to justify your feelings for other members of that race instead of just seeing said race as part of the larger collective of humans in general and treating them kindly, then you’re racist. Sorry (not sorry).
You can’t fix a system that you (unconsciously?) perpetuate. So, allies, if you’re still with me, I have a charge for you. But…before you get too fussy about what I’ve written so far, you must know and accept what we’ve come to know and accept: you can’t fix the behavior or mindset of Mrs. Cold Spring Harbor up there (yes that’s the town she lives in #OnBlast #NoShame). She and the many people like her are too far gone. But you can fix the small ways in which people like you go about their business in the world. If you boldly change your line of thinking and acting—and you’re a white man or woman—then other white men and women have a higher likelihood of following suit. Because sadly, that’s how it seems to work.
But before you ask for help in changing your ways, here’s me (all of us?) saying, “Nah, b. We’re tired. Figure it out yourself.”
Sound harsh? Tough.
That Fly on the Wall You Didn’t Realize Was Biracial