Thursday, June 22, 2017

Do not pull the Race Card

At 9, I had an Filipino teacher that clearly did not like her Black students while constantly showing favoritism towards any Asian students. On more than one occasion she made it clear she expected the Black kids to fail. The one exception was a Black girl who was half Japanese. Early in the school year, when I did well on tests or managed to write a story that she thought was exceptional, she would ask if I was adopted or mixed with something. But don't pull the Race Card.

At 10, I watched a cop, a White woman, slam a Black teenage girl on the hood of her car for the brazen, life-threatening offense of “having a smart mouth”. She then casually explained to her partner that, “the Black ones grew big quickly and could not be treated like children”. They laughed together as she finished with. “I wonder what they are feeding them?” But don't pull the Race Card.

At 15, two of my closest friends were Lakshmi a Black girl, and Cassandra a White girl. We frequently hung out together at the latter's house together after classes and I often conversed with her father on a number of topics. It seemed we were on friendly terms. One rainy afternoon Cassandra, Lakshmi and I were watching the new Bone Thugs video “Crossroads” when the father returned home from work. Lakshmi and I were sitting to the left of the living room so we were not visible from the garage entrance. Angered by the music and seeing only Cassandra, her father angrily yelled from the kitchen, “Hey. Turn that off. I told you I don't want you listening to that street thug, nigger shit.” Cassandra turned off the television and stared at the floor with a mortified expression. When her father walked into the front room he froze upon spotting Lakshmi and I. He tried to apologize but we both picked up oue backpacks and left. But don't pull the Race Card.

Again at 15, my cousin, a friend, and I were walking on our way to a pizza parlor when a motorcycle cop, without warning or provocation, made a u-turn from rush hour traffic, pulled over to the curb, drew his sidearm and demanded we get get on the ground. We were forced to lie there on the hot sidewalk for nearly a half an hour before being nonchalantly dismissed without as much as an apology. But don't pull the Race Card.

At 16, I was on my way to visit a girl I had a crush on when I found myself suddenly surrounded by 3 to 4 cops brandishing their sidearms. They demanded I keep my hands where they could be seen. After being roughly slammed to the ground and handcuffed I was told I was positively identified as someone who vandalized something. To this day I still have no clear understanding what crime I was actually accused of. All I know is that an old White woman said I did something there for I did it. I was given a public defender who did not care and told me to take a plea bargain or my mother would be forced to pay for all the damages. So I did. But don't pull the Race Card.

At 19, I was desperately searching for work to support my daughter. After what felt like countless applications and calls I finally received a call back. I was incredibly excited by this prospect. The manager was an older White woman who initially seemed courteous and professional. We spoke for at least 10 minutes sometimes joking and laughing whereupon she invited me for an interview because she had a strong feeling I would be perfect for the job. But upon introducing myself in person at the office her smile faded and she became cold and aloof. We barely spoke for a full minute before she apologized and said the job was no longer available. My disappointment must have been clearly visible because as I leaving an older White man briefly pulled me to the side and gave me a couple of business cards to try else where. He tried to smile but looked embarrassed. “She's not a bad person. She's just really old fashion about some things. She just thought you were something else when you spoke on the phone because of how you sounded. You know what I mean? Don't take it personal.” But don't pull the Race Card.


At 21, I enrolled in a class called the Tragedies of Shakespeare. I noted I was the only POC in the class but thought little of it. At the end of class the professor waited until most of the students had left and asked to speak with me whereupon he questioned if I were in the right class. When I inquired as to why he was asking he explained that Black students never took his classes so he wanted to make certain I was not making a mistake. When I asked him if he thought such a line of questioning was appropriate he apologized and the matter seemed settled. However, later that week he referred to me as a Moor in the middle of a lecture causing a number of students to audibly gasp. We had a long talk with the Dean after that. But don't pull the Race Card.

At 22, I was asked again, on the same college campus, by two other professors if I was in the right class because I was the only Black student. But don't pull the Race Card.

At 24, during the end of the semester in one of my favorite classes, I had a professor speak to me in private as to apologize. As it turns out she secretly believed I would fail because I was Black. That was deeply disappointing. But the good news is I inadvertently taught her something about herself... so there is that. But don't pull the Race Card.

People of color are told time and time again, "Do not pull the Race Card". The final insult being it is an ineffectual card forced upon us, placed in a stacked deck, held in a rigged game, and being hosted in a corrupt casino. Its a card where all your failures are doubled as yours alone and any achievements are blamed on affirmative action.

6 comments:

  1. Excellent essay. Thanks! I appreciate your willingness to share. Awareness precedes choice.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read this particular piece. It is greatly appreciated.

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  2. Thank you for writing this. I have always felt awkward around POC, simply because I grew up in a very whitebread area. I need to read pieces like this. I hope I never hurt anyone because of my whiteness, and I believe that essays such as yours help everyone to understand where you are coming from and to get over our awareness of otherness. By the way, my grandchildren are going to schools that are much more multicultural, and I hope they will grow up not feeling this awkwardness.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time for reading this particular piece. The truth is most of us feel that awkwardness when we are exposed to the outer limits beyond our cultural comfort zones. This occurred for me when moving from a predominately Black neighborhood to a city where the population was predominately Filipino, Middle Eastern, White and East Indian, when I was a teenager. It was foreign and uncomfortable at times but also taught me a great many new things. It was perhaps one of the better experiences of my life as I learned to interact with a multitude of different people for various walks of life. Not all our experiences of dealing with new people will be positive. But as human beings with higher reasoning skills we choose to understand how to differentiate between individuals and groups.

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  3. Thank You for writing this. I live in Sweden and I am sad that this is the reality in the US.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read this piece. Unfortunately, in almost any part of the world where people share land but have differences the stories I tell here have been experienced by others. Sometimes to a far worse degree.

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