Yeah. That’s what happened. And I posted the incident to FB as soon as I could. In the parking lot of the post office, ignoring the tingling of fear I felt, wondering about this young man who threw his hatred for me at me.
I was in line (because there’s always a line at the post office) and was being assisted by this lovely older Black woman in line behind me. I was looking for labels for priority mail. She told me where to look, which stands to check out, so I left the line to go see, with her holding my space. When I came back there were four more people behind her but I stepped into my space, continuing my conversation with her about express mail labels and not finding priority mail labels. A young man and his girlfriend walked up and stepped right in front of me. He was white, I think. I’m going to show my ignorance right now- he had dark skin and was darker completion, not as dark as me, but he may have been Armenian, part Latino, or had some ethnicity somewhere in his lineage, or was white guy with dark hair.
The woman that was helping me told him that the line was behind the people behind her. He turned, glared and said “you were standing back there so I stepped in here” or something like that. So I said, “oh, no, the line is back there.” I think I started to explain where I was, or something…kindly. He couldn’t have been more than 20 so I’m sure my “mama-ness” kicked in. My girl is 21. But then to my surprise he snapped at me, “then you should stay in line.” I didn’t respond because I surprised by his tone. Really? I was being scolded?
But before I could even fully process that question, he walked to the proper place in line saying “of course you get to go first because you niggers–” Eruption from the woman and I think somebody else, there were multiple voices objecting to this. The woman said “hey, hey. we’re not going to go there!” And I said, looking at him, “Look, we all have to stand in line and nobody likes that–” but he cut me off by mumbling something about “Black–” And somebody said “hey!” I was shocked. I stared at this kid while he glared at me…with such hatred. Pure hatred. All I could I say was “wow!”
I turned away and that thing happened- uncomfortable strangers tried to connect. We got chatty. The woman and I talked loudly about the labels, she showed me her package being sent to her sisters. The man in front of me told me he runs a t-shirt business and mails priority boxes all the time. He lives close to post office. Then we lamented on the length of line- it just takes time, and even though there’s a post office near the woman’s daughter’s school, this one was still more convenient. At one point I looked at the white guy in line behind the Black woman and he looked…embarrassed. Sad. He lowered his eyes. But I was extra nice. Extra friendly. I was over the top kind because…I was nervous. And embarrassed and surprised. Shocked.
It has been a long time since I was called that word. It had been a long time since some bigot showed their true colors to me. I was prepared.
And yes, we get prepared. I have to. But this was in my neighborhood. Echo Park in Los Angeles. Predominantly brown folk. Latinos. Filipinos. Black -(not alot of Blacks), White…hipsters. Liberals. Funky artists. Nobody looks at me here. Nobody stares at me and my multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, shades of tan family. Nobody. And yet this kid did this.
He was in a different line at a different package pick-up window when I left. He glared at me as I walked by. His tiny beautiful girlfriend kept her head down. I didn’t call him an asshole until I got outside the building.
So, attempting to process this I posted it on FB. Right away. And then as I drove away, I took a deep breath and got emotional. I cried. I called Peter and ranted, quickly processing what happened.
It saddens me that this kid can wear his hatred so proudly, he could be so bold to hurl it at us like that. Yes, I was angry. I still am. What the f?? Right?? But I’m more hurt not just because of being called a word that cuts so deeply, but because in this world, in our world today, hatred flows freely and his privilege dictates his actions- it was okay to him to use that word and step in front of me.
Now- I’m not taking this heart like this was my fault. I’m not being self-critical. I know I was kind and civil in my tone. That comes naturally. I didn’t have to think of how to address him when he budged. And after he called me the N-word, I was on auto-pilot and… didn’t want things to escalate? I was so shocked I didn’t think my next step through…? I tried to commiserate with him, about the line, about how nobody likes to wait in line, but we’re in this together.
But what was intentional, was me posting to FB this incident because my friends rushed to me, bringing me comfort and support. Their outrage, their empathy, their love for me and our community was what is healing from this experience. I got cyber hugs and rants and wishes of peace. I got confirmation that I not only handled this situation well, but that in no way is this about me. It’s not. Racism, acts of racism, are about the person who fears my difference so deeply, they’ll lash out violently to protect what they think is theirs. It’s twisted and hurtful. But it’s not my shit.
Last night, the posts were still coming on my wall, so I drew great comfort reading them before I turned out my bedside light. But I wondered about this kid- did he find pride in his actions? Did he boast to anyone? Did he retell the story so he was the victor? Did he have to make me mean, or uppity to deserve to be called the nigger? Who has been pushing him around? Who taught him that this behavior was okay? And what’s going to happen to him when he exerts his privilege to the wrong person and shit goes down hard on him, because it will. It will. But that’s not my burden to carry. I can feel sorry for his pain. I will feel sorry for his pain, when I get there to that point in my processing. If I see him just a kid with his limited capabilities, then I can feel sympathy for his pain and send him peace. Awww…this is a lesson I’m learning overall in life. As I deal with betrayals, with hurts from people I care about, I keep coming back to this notion about capabilities and how we all function from what we know. It’s simple. And people can’t do more than that so perhaps this is all this kid knows.
I am going to stand in the space held by my friends and family that is filled with love and support, with the same daily wish for peace and harmony.
So today, I Toast! my Facebook friends who came to my aid when I was called the N-word. I am grateful for you all!
#healing #racism #community #Blackfolk #harmony #outrageatbigotry #loveheals #theawfulN-word