If I have trouble finding my way to this computer to type out a story, it is usually not from writer’s block. No, rarely is that the case. Offline I probably say too much and I try not to bore you with so many of those terrible details. I also try to stay away from topics that are taboo to speak of. Those things that make us grip our knees a bit harder when someone brings the topic up. I must ask you to please begin gripping at this time.
I was walking around a store back home a few weeks ago and I remember I was just meandering through each aisle. Never really checking on anything; just observing. I truly enjoy those minutes where you are almost oblivious to your surroundings. You are just present. Well, I remember walking down the aisle and something happened that hasn’t happened to me in a long time. I saw the woman in front of me take her bag and shift it from the side of her where the bag was facing me and then to the other side of her. I saw her knuckles create a death grip around the strap as she walked sure-footedly past me at a brisk pace.
She saw me and thought, “There is a guy that is going to rip my purse from my shoulder and run through this large department store with it, making a quick getaway.”
Her irrationality was insulting. I wasn’t dressed in a manner befitting whatever stereotype she probably held. I had nothing on my head but glasses. Yet, to her, I looked as if I were going to snatch her purse.
I would like to say this hasn’t happened before but it has. The cause or why they believe that this would happen is not the issue for me. The issue is what that means to me, to us, people who have had this problem. Don’t mistake this as a simple race thing. Ask the Indian person who finds hate for being mistaken for a “terrorist”. Ask a person of middle eastern descent what they have experienced. Keep going with these. Keep asking the same questions. Then ask, “How does it feel?”
I remember when it first happened. I was 11 and at a store with my mother. A woman walked past us and gripped her purse tightly as she walked by while giving me a dirty look. I asked my mother why she did that and my mother said, ” Don’t worry. That’s her problem. Don’t make it yours.”
I suppose she was right. It happened later as well. A few friends and I would walk around a store and the LP people would follow us. Some might say I am mistaken and I will say that I can’t blame them for believing that. It makes me angry that I work so hard to be an individual and it is all for not.
Color me grey.
I want no color or identifier. If this is what comes with it; let me be grey. I think of myself as a proud person. I don’t celebrate any side of my heritage. Black, White, Shoshone; they are of little relevance to me. They are like having green eyes or blonde hair. It is a trait, not who I am. I live this way and I treat others this way. We operate on the maxim of how we wish to be treated.
In my ignorant bliss that is devoid of color, I am drawn out when things like that happen. It brings you back out of that cloud you are in. It sends this cold feeling down your spine and your cheeks turn warm. You feel disbelief. You wonder what you did that caused it to happen. You. You. You.
It seeps into you. It reminds you that no matter how hard you try, you will always be thrown into reality, or at least our culture’s reality of what you are. I can get degrees all day long but I still know what it feels like when people look at you with resentment. Not of stature but of what you represent. I am sure you may have different views and I would love to hear them but I have to say mine. I know this has happened to many people but why don’t we talk about it?
A little more than 100 years ago, my hometown had one of the largest race riots in the country. This is not a southern town, by any means. This is the capitol to one of the bigger states that were part of the union. 100 years is not a long time.
I look in the mirror and I see a semi-handsome, devastatingly charming, and funny young man (hey, my self-esteem isn’t too bad, right?). That is who is in my mirror. To the world, I am many things. I am a statistic. I am a thought that someone has conceived from watching too much Law and Order: SVU.
This problem comes from both sides. I may seem like a criminal to some but to others I am not part of that group because I don’t speak colloquially.
I let this bother me a few weeks ago and it hurt. I thought of what people did for women’s rights in the early 20th century and for civil rights in the 40s 50s and 60s. The dreams of those people . I wonder if they are embodied today?
I remember this old philosophical saying that played in my head while my hurt writhed and turned in on itself until it was anger. “He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”
Isn’t that easier? To be that beast. Be the entity that is no longer at the mercy of social niceties and norms. Not sociopathy but something close. I thought that after all these years of speaking in a vernacular that showed nothing of regional dialect and of reasonable poise, years of gaining knowledge of myself and the world around me; I thought that it wouldn’t hurt as bad as when I was 11 but I was wrong. It cuts a bit deeper.
Beasts. I have met a few. They are frightening individuals but only because they enjoy being a beast. I won’t do that.
I love meeting new people and enjoying new cultures. When someone says the “n” word or speaks poorly of white people, they both cut deep. I am every bit as much white as I am black as I am Shoshone. Why is it that those traits have created a barrier of hate between me and getting to know a culture or a person?
Ambassadors. More than 40 years later and every person of color has to be an ambassador to their race. For multiracial individuals, you have to be able to represent more than that. You have to blend into the palate.
I am tired of being an ambassador or a surprise when it comes to education and the like. I love my caramel skin but to me it is a symbol more than anything.
I wish I could sit here and be more uplifting about this. I wish I could say, “but on a happy note!” There is a blurring line but it isn’t prominent. I sit here typing to you and all I think about is how much work I have done to be an individual and something as simple as a word that is said, not even about me or to me, can bring me down to a base level. It doesn’t matter who says it or what race they are. The word has meaning.
Words are powerful. Words are dangerous.
I will always strive to be the individual I want to be. I don’t want to break stereotypes because that means I was in one. I want to be outside of a stereotype. I want to keep my skin tone but cover it in grey. I want all of these things for me and for others because it is dangerous to be among beasts.
Don’t apologise for telling it like it is.Your words are raw, emotive and honest.The hardest thing in this world is to be yourself, someone is always trying to shake you. I like the quote, people can not handle the responsibility of Being, the pain of existence and do allsorts of things, big and small to themselves and others. As a consequence this beautiful world becomes very dark indeed. Keep going as you are, with all the passion and verve that you display in your blog because that is the light in the darkness and the only way the beasts don’t takeover:0)
I like it. Keep up the goodness and rawness of letting good prevail.
I always want to say to this, it’s not your color, it’s because you’re a man. Women have reason to be a bit afraid of men. But eleven years old? There goes that argument. I am sorry this hurts you. All I can say is that I echo beenan81’s comments. Your mom is right (she’s so cool). Everybody has something they have to learn to live with and let slide. Be glad you are so blazingly articulate when you write and can make yourself heard this way so well.
Thank you, Margaret!
I loved this post – I come from a country where race is always a hot debate – is racism still alive and sadly yes, yes it is. I hope that my daughter grows up with your ideals – very well written 🙂
Thank you! I think race debates builds walls. The man or woman of your dreams may not share your pigmentation and if you don’t break through that wall, it is all for nothing.
Fully agree; if my daughter comes home with a non-white partner when she is of age, as long as this person makes her happy, that is quite honestly all I’ll care about 🙂
Being a white male, I have never experienced anything like this in all of my life–no strange looks, no purse grasping. And that is why this piece was so powerful to me. It provided a look into a situation that I very well may never find myself. Indeed, words are a powerful thing.
Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed it!
Your post accurately describes what happens to millions of people every day. Unfortunately, very few of us can address the issue as eloquently as you; powerfully, clearly, and without anger. You allow the reader to understand without, interestingly enough, feeling threatened and therefore justified in denying your points. Well done!
I am glad that came across! There was no malice intended only a spotlight. A glimpse.
Thanks for reading!
Or it could be that her arm was just tired. Not likely, but possible…
Very true. Which then reveals how society socializes us to feel/be a certain way. Interesting piece and thread of comments.
That would be a nice alternative.
Beautifully written and sadly true, but could it be that present conditions, especially in America, have made it imperative to become more cautious around people of color? When statistics show that 90% of crimes are committed by elderly white females instead of young black males, I will be treated exactly the same way you are now. I know it’s hard, but see if you can pinpoint the REAL problem and then encourage the African American “leaders” to do something about it!
Yes, I can understand that point. It is my contention, though, that I have two leaders, my heart and my president. If an African American speaks out on African American rights, it is still a narrow view. In some black communities, people of mixed race are not accepted as well but that is becoming less of an issue.
Thank you for your point of view and reading!
could you please check this and say what you think? And I love your stories! http://wordpress.com/my-stats/
Continue to celebrate who you are. The ignorance of a few should never shadow the enlightenment of many.
Thank you! I truly agree.
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Reblogged this on Jusd.
When i consider this lady’s projected fear occupying even a post-stamp portion of your psychic real estate it makes me sad. From time to time I suppose we all play host to the demons of others, the demons of our culture at large. I’m sorry this happens to you or anyone. I’m sorry any of us become associated with danger. I truly can relate. Being repeatedly and mistakenly feared can bring out the beast in anyone.
Great post! Thanks for sharing!
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
Loved the quote about being a beast – never heard that before and it is so true.
On racism – I live in the Middle East and a I have a diverse collection of people in my team – Indians, Pakistanis, Philippinos, Poles, Americans, British, and on and on.
The Indians are far and away the most racist people in the team – and the caste system still exists.
Racism is not confined to colour it exists everywhere. (ps they are also the most exist as well)
Just a thought.
Loved the post and the writing.
Opps – typo – should have said ‘sexist
I once had the privilege for taking in two children from Nicaragua. They were darker than my children. They were here in Fort Lauderdale because their country was in the midst of civil war. We took them to stores in the mall. The people who worked in the stores watched them like a hawk and ignored my two children. I found myself in a position of figuring out that racism sucks. It was an eye opener to say the least. i wrote about it in a blog if you would like to read it, I would be honored.
I will absolutely read that. Thanks for sharing.
When I read this I was reminded of elementary school and how eerily familiar this sounded. I can still remember the taunts of the other kids as they singled me out for being of a different color then them. Being pushed around and bullied. It wasn’t fun and it doesn’t only happen to blacks and Hispanics and Indian’s.
I realized that it isn’t the color of the skin its the society we live in and how they love to make groups and minorities. Instead they point the finger at one group to get another group to hate that group.
I’ve met many people and have many friends all unique in their own way. And I honestly don’t care what color they are and most of the time I find that others don’t care either.
And yet we still find it in many places and in many people. All we can do is stop what we see and make sure our children are not taught such evil things. As our founders stated
All Men Are Created Equal. (and yes I do believe they were referring to MANKIND not males in general.)
Agreed! Wise words.
Your post got me on the line: “Color me gray”.
And yet, I don’t have anything against neutrality nor equality but (simply for me) those who seek to be on either side except the middle, are the ones who make this world interesting. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those thinkers who want to “watch the world burn”. I’m just saying that they’re the help humanity needs in order to grow generations by generations.
I can see what you mean. Those who forge the way at ends of the spectrum. Humanity is helped, in my case as well and for me, by those who don’t seek to break down social structures. People who split themselves and try to make a schism tend to create worse situations. It is interesting but would the KKK help generations? The extermination of many of the Jewish population left less than 10% in our world.
Free thinking is a beautiful thing. However , separate from that ideology, is when the perception forces a conformity that cause you to have group hate. I guess I can’t understand how it helps humanity if it refuses to see the humanity in others.
I do like your point and I respect it.
Well, I can definitely relate to the group hate. No matter how mature people think, they evidently bring out the, albeit childish, basic instinct of a human – survival.
Connecting the dots, survival simply means that we want to live, longer and better – the Alpha Male theory. Unlike from ancient/barbaric times where you can just eliminate another of your own specie, our contemporary living does not allow us to do that, due to our own human laws.
Now that we coped up with that, the result is we used insults, mockery, and hate groups to keep other people or groups from becoming the Alpha Male.
Thank you as well.
Reblogged this on Jaggi.
Reblogged this on Android Bethy.