With all of the debate about race and white supremacy zinging about the Internet, I thought I would put my two cents into the debate. I am in no way an expert on race relations and I don’t claim to have any great understanding of what a person of color experiences on a day to day basis.
But I got a taste-a very sour, bitter taste.
I was in San Antonio, at the WalMart near the airport close to the upper loop of I-410. I wandered the aisles and something began to strike me as very odd. When you almost bump into someone or practically run them over with your cart, you do the polite thing and say, “Excuse me.” I mean, this is the expected reaction when you almost cause bodily harm to another human being. Right?
Not here. I was saying “Excuse me” as these people blatantly disregarded my personal space. White folk and Latino folk seemed intent on running me over. Here I was, used to the privilege of being seen and acknowledged, and in the two visits to this particular store in a space of a week, I had been ignored as if my very existence was an insult.
I didn’t just assume this. I actually tried to speak to the culprits. “Excuse you!” actually came out of my mouth. “Hey, I’m right here. Hello?”
I was suddenly afraid. I was incredibly angry. Eyes looked past me. Faces were deliberately blank. I think I was more shocked by the Latinos’ reactions than the Caucasians’. But it boiled down to one conclusion: to them, I was not human.
Why do I think I experienced this? San Antonio is a unique place. Those of color who hail from this city will understand what I have to say next.
Here is my picture. I’m Black Irish, which means I’ve got dark blood running through my veins. It’s Latin: predominantly Italian and Spanish. I’m also very fair skinned from my Irish heritage.
I was too dark for the Caucasians. I was “other.” I was one of the interlopers who only existed to clean white people’s houses and mow their lawns.
The Latinos KNEW I wasn’t one of them. I walked with too much confidence. My skin was too pale. I expected to be acknowledged. I smelled like stinky, white privilege.
My illusions about race were shattered. All this time I’d been thinking that “tales” of white privilege and supremacy were fantasies of overactive, welfare-recipient minds while right under my nose, people of color are experiencing what happened to me, twice in my life in the span of a week, on a DAILY basis. Hourly perhaps or even every minute. I couldn’t hide anymore.
This experience has reshaped my view of race relations in America. Again, I’m no expert and I certainly make no claim to knowing “black pain.” I don’t, but the dislike I have for San Antonio and its people runs deep because of this. If I never see that city again, it will be too soon.
The treatment I received made me suspicious of everyone there. If someone did acknowledge me, I mistrusted their motives. I was afraid to go out alone. I’ve never felt that deep an animosity for anything before.
Considering my reaction to one city for two quantifiable offenses, is it any wonder that some of the black population, or any population with “darkness” in their blood, have expressed such deep, abiding hatred for the white folk? It must run so much deeper than we suspect, through seven generations and more, and it is now part of the fabric of our society. We’ve poisoned ourselves.
So my question to people of color who live in America, (because I’m including everyone here, not just Africa Americans) how do you keep getting up and going out into the world every morning (or evening depending on your work schedule)? How is it that you can smile at this privileged little white woman on the metro or allow her to go first because Mamma taught you manners (in the hopes that you would survive long enough to make her a Grandma)?
You’ve got to be some of the bravest, most kick-ass people on the planet to do something like that every day. You have my utmost respect. In your honor, I will do everything in my power to apply the antidotes of respect, understanding, and good will to EVERYONE I meet. And I hope we meet.
Happy New Year! \m/
2014 © iokirkwood.com “Chronicles of a Privileged White Girl.” All rights reserved.
In between bouts of writing for metaldescent.com, blogging, and banging her head, I.O. Kirkwood is the author of The Needless series, “Subatomic Revolt” in Mike Lynch’s No Revolution Is Too Big series and the short story “The White Carpet,” a finalist in the Scribes Valley Publishing Fiction Contest in 2013.