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Let’s Talk About All The Times People Were Completely Racist To Me

[That is me going gorillas by the Arc De Triomphe in Paris]

The n-word has been said to me on many occasions by people of all races. Usually, when I am just walking down the street minding my own business someone will feel the need to remind me that I am brown and that that is bad.

However, there is one instance where I was actually kicked out of a store because of my race. I was at a thrift store in the East Village senior year of high school, shopping for an outfit for our ’80s day. My friend is from Ecuador. She is my witness. We went in for just a couple of minutes and were basically doing the typical, “Oh that looks good! That one doesn’t,” banter you’d expect.

All of a sudden the man behind the cash register came up to us and said, “Get out of my store.” I freaked out because I had thought I did something wrong even though I had not. He says, “Get out of my store!” He is looking at me. Not at my friend.

I say, “We were just buying clothes for a project.” Then he said, “I know who is and who isn’t going to buy something based on how they look.”

How do I argue with that? Why would I want to be in a store where I am not wanted? I had a feeling he was talking to me because of my race but I didn’t say that, my friend was the one who brought it up.

“I think he was saying that to you because you’re Black. Did you notice the way he was looking at you and not me? The way he kept mentioning how you look . . .” I felt instant relief after I heard her say that.

racism

My first encounter was racism was through my parents. My dad immigrated to America from the Dominican Republic when he was 8. Because my pops is dark skinned the public school he went to assumed he was black and not Latino. My dad did not speak a word of English and is severely dyslexic. Because they refused to put him in the ESL classes he needed and where his dyslexia might have been discovered, my dad never learned to read beyond a fifth or sixth grade level.

My father has been a security guard at the same place for two decades, he has been offered promotions, the kind of new positions where people wouldn’t look down their nose at he or me but he politely turns them down because he knows he cannot fulfill those roles due to his illiteracy. Those racial disadvantages in the ’60s and ’70s have affected my family. And for those who ask why didn’t he get proper reading lessons later in life, well, we just don’t have the money for that kind of thing.

My mother wanted to be a writer. When she told her guidance counselor this he said, “You can’t do that because of the color of your skin. Aim lower.” So she did. She aimed lower her entire life because that’s what she was instructed to do.

But my parents understood that the world was changing even if circumstances weren’t changing for them. My mother read to me, my mother read to my father too, they told my brother and me we could be anything we wanted even though they had every reason to believe that wasn’t true. They knew that the discouragement they faced growing up in New York City had placed too many limits on their decisions—that they had many dreams deferred.

AR 7993-B (crop)

When everything from popular culture to certain neighborhoods to politics to history make you feel like an outsider, you’re on high alert. I can’t tell you how many times during the five editorial internships I’ve had that a fellow white intern will point out to me that I am the only Black person or PoC in the office. This isn’t done to hurt me so much as it is them acknowledging the lack of diversity. 

I get dismissed and attacked so often that I wonder if every time something feels a little unfair,  if it has to do with my race? (Which simply is not true.) For some people it’s who they love. Or how they dress. Or their gender. Or their religion. Or their class. We all have to deal with that finger pointing at us directly in the face, reminding us that we do not belong here at one point or another.

You read anonymous, hateful comments on Youtube or this website even and you wonder who those commenters really are: prospective employers? friends of friends? in-laws? Who are these people dropping n-bombs or f-words in 2013?

japanese

People of every race get picked on. I remember a girl in my politics class discussing how in California there’s a ton of graffiti portraying Asians as rats because there is a common stereotype that Asians are “sneaky and calculating” that was conjured up during wartime with Japan. She was Japanese and obviously these slurs and portrayals were offensive to her and made her feel unsafe in her own neighborhood. I had no idea that this was a common issue in California or that those kinds of stereotypes were still in the minds of many people. It makes me wonder why Master Splinter in Ninja Turtles is a rat?

If that one girl in my class hadn’t talked about it, I wouldn’t have known. It wouldn’t have crossed my mind. So, let’s talk about it. Air out grievances and build some bridges.

What happened to me at the thrift store can only be described as a “microagression,” which according to Wikipedia is, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” Microagressions can be made toward people of different sexual orientations, genders, religions basically between any two parties with certain cultural differences.

Here are some more instances where people have been racist toward me.

A) Whenever I walk into a department store or Duane Reade/Rite Aid/Walgreens pharmacy I am immediately followed by the security guard because, you know, black people steal. 

B) A number of comments on this website about how I am a whiny ‘n-word.’

C) A black guy cat-called me a few weeks ago saying, “Yeah, I’d love to eat that.” As I threw shade at him he replied, “Light-skinned girls are bitches they hate dark-skinned ‘Ns’.”

D) The time my college roommate drew our group of friends but didn’t draw me because she didn’t know how to draw my skin or “big lips” in her defense she also did not draw one of our white friends because she was “bigger.”

E) The time my other college roommate said, “Emmy, you’re so funny when you talk in class, your ghetto accent comes out.”

F) When my aunt said, “You’re smart. You’re going to marry a White man and have beautiful zebra babies. Your cousin has black monkeys.”

G) Probably any comment made about my hair . . . probably. (JK)

Next Read: First Integrated Prom At Georgia High School Is A Bust And I Am Pretty Saddened By It

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    1. Cynthia says:

      I'm not black, I'm white (and actually quite pale), but even I have felt discriminated at times just because I'm a brunette and have brown eyes. It wasn't as offensive and serious as with you, I have to admit, but it has caused deep, serious self-esteem issues that I struggle with every day. My brother has blue eyes and a few of my cousins have blonde hair. It hurts SO BAD to always be compared to them, because I always feel like the ''black sheep'' and they're the beautiful blue-eyed blonde angels, like they're so special and above everyone else… And it hurts even more when there is clearly a lot of comparison and a lot of comments made, but then people just say ''Oh, you got it all wrong!'' and deny something that's obvious!

      1. Cynthia says:

        Funny. Two people disliked my comment, but none wrote something smart to prove me wrong and ''justify'' racist behavior. If the shoe fits… I guess when you don't like to hear the truth about yourself it burns…

      2. emeraldgritty says:

        Don't allow people to invalidate your experiences. Your family shouldn't make you feel like you don't belong especially if it is clearly hurting you. Keep your head up and know that you are in good company with a ton of beautiful brown eyed brunettes.

    2. @dblejay13 says:

      For me, I'm half black half jewish, but look mostly jewish. I grew up with the same kids from elementary, so most if not all of them knew this, including the teachers– whenever any "black people issues" (slavery, the civil rights movement, etc) came up, I would be singled out and be asked how I felt. And of course, I'm sitting there thinking, why do I need to feel anything about this? This was mostly in middle and high school, and now that I'm older and know more I have formed my own opinions about these events, but at that age I couldn't care less.. and don't get me started about people asking me about the holocaust… -____-

      1. emeraldgritty says:

        Dude, I can totally relate to this as well. I am the first one to admit that in middle/high school I believed racism was over and history had run its course. In school things sound so final, the slaves were freed, PoC got their rights, the end. It took a lot more educating myself and a combination of person experiences to understood the post-racial world is BS. Nevertheless, it's perfectly acceptable to not have a deep emotional connection with things that did not directly happen to you. That doesn't mean you do not empathize, some terrible things happened but that doesn't mean you have to feel a certain way about it.

    3. I do sort of go around waiting for someone to say something about my race or sexual preference, but I hardly experience it. Although yesterday, I was at a gas station with a friend, and an angry black customer was shouting every possible obscenity and slur he could at the foreign (white) clerk and it made me really upset. The black dude was irate and larger than I, so all I could do was extra wish the clerk to have a nice day, hoping to show that not all of "us" black people are that way.

      I love when you taked about waiting for someone to point out that you're the only PoC there. Story of my life. At my own birthday party when I was 12 I was the only black kid there, surrounded by a bunch of white kids.

      I would like though, for you to talk about discrimination within minorities. Since you know me, you know that I'm crazy guilty of it, but I'm pretty sure I only do it because it's been done to me so much. Black kids made me feel like such a weird outcast just for listening to different music or speaking properly, but then chastise me for only hanging out with white kids.

      1. emeraldgritty says:

        Well, I think you need to acknowledge that your prejudices against your own race are constructed by American culture at large. Now of course, a lot of people make the mistake of believing that one negative encounter with a race means that everyone of that race behaves that way. But did the clerk treat you with disrespect or suspicion because of that one encounter? It sounds like you were the only person in the scenario who left with negative feelings toward African Americans. Perhaps, the reason you only had white friends was not defacto so much as your own need to feel separate from your race because of your misguided preconceived notions about them?

        When you go around telling people, I'm not like the other girls, I'm not like the other gays, I'm not like the other blacks, I'm not like the other ________ the underlying implication is that there is something wrong with those people and you are better. People aren't going to stop looking down their nose at you because of the groups your associated with until you have the courage and acceptance to stop doing that yourself.

      2. Danielle says:

        I can definitely relate to all of this. I grew up in predominately white areas and only noticed that Iwas the only PoC when people pointed it out to me. Growing up in SC I was always told that I "wasn't like other blacks" or was a "good, classy, black person" or, more commonly, my friends constantly joked about me not being black at all because of the way I talked, the things I did etc.. My initial reactions to these comments would be to laugh it off; after all, I knew none of these comments had malicious intent. But as the years wore on, I began taking these comments to heart. While I used to deny the fact that I shared any of these beliefs personally, I now find myself constantly reacting with paranoia when encountering a PoC "acting out" in public or speaking/ acting a certain way.

      3. danielle says:

        I can definitely relate to all of this. I grew up in predominately white areas and only noticed that I was the only PoC when people pointed it out to me. Growing up in SC I was always told that I "wasn't like other blacks" or was a "good, classy, black person" or, more commonly, my friends constantly joked about me not being black at all because of the way I talked, the things I did etc.. My initial reactions to these comments would be to laugh it off; after all, I knew none of these comments had malicious intent. But as the years wore on, I began taking these comments to heart. While I used to deny the fact that I shared any of these beliefs personally, I constantly find myself reacting with paranoia when encountering a PoC "acting out" in public or talking/acting a certain way.

    4. Smith Clime says:

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    5. Smith Clime says:

      ★◆★◆ I quit working at shoprite and now I make $35h – $80h…how? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier. Heres what I do►►►►►► QUE99.com
      ✔✔✔✔I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in political world as storms in the physical.

    6. Adriana says:

      I have a question for you. I am Latina and my friend is white. We were having dinner with another friend and this guy that she just met. Both of my friends and the guy are white, so I am the only Latina at the table. For some reason, the subject got onto race, specifically, Latinos. The guy said that he "liked Mexican food but not Mexicans" in a joking manner to me. I found that highly offensive and racist but my friend (the one who liked the guy) said that because he was just joking, it wasn't racist and that I was being too sensitive. Do you think that's racist? I mean I am Mexican, how can that not be considered racist even if he was joking?!

      If you do think that's racist, how do you think I can explain to my friend how racist that statement was, regardless if it was a joke or not?

      1. emeraldgritty says:

        Adriana I totally understand where you are coming from. Of course the joke is racist, because a dig at a specific race was the actual punchline. Just because someone's intention isn't to be racist doesn't mean that their actions are not. However, that doesn't make the guy a racist and that doesn't mean that his attention was to hurt your feelings.

        You can tell your friend that any joke with the punchline "because XYZ race is a certain way" or "I don't like XYZ race" is centered around judging or disliking a race so of course it is racist even if it meant to be funny. How is it any different than making a rape joke to a rape survivor? Or a gay joke to a gay person?

        You and this guy are not close enough, I am guessing, for him to be joking like this with you. So it's just not polite or tactful. If he does it again than I would either just dismiss him as a jerk or move on or maybe ask if he really has an issue with Mexicans.

        Hope this helped. Sorry, you have to deal with this.

    7. 80s prom gowns says:

      The very root of your writing whilst sounding agreeable initially, did not work perfectly with me personally after some time. Someplace within the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer unfortunately just for a while. I still have got a problem with your jumps in logic and you would do well to help fill in all those gaps. If you actually can accomplish that, I could surely be fascinated.

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