“Go back to Mexico with your beaner baby. Or get a job!”-Jerk at Walmart
It was 2016, four days after Donald Trump got elected president that these words were loudly expressed to me at Walmart when I was grocery shopping with my WIC checks. The man wasn’t even president yet and it was already what I had feared, blatant racism had become acceptable in the US. I’m not going to go into the dislike I have for the former US President, because he doesn’t matter. What does matter is the sickening and unacceptable racist behavior that became “normal” and encouraged during his time as President.
I am not naive. I know racism has long existed in this country, even more so for the BIPOC and AAPI communities. Even though I had the privelege of growing up with an all white family, I was always just a little bit darker. Alone, when not compared to the complexion of someone from European descent, I am actually white passing. I have mostly had the privelege, more so now that I married a man with a Dutch last name, of passing as white in my community. I am of Mexican, European, and Indiginous descent, but even with my small eyes and light copper complexion I didn’t realize until that moment at Walmart how much I had taken that privelege for granted.
So there I was at the checkout fumbling with my checks, because I tried not to use WIC unless I really needed to. I had a job, I worked full time, and yet I was barely making rent, paying bills, and putting food on the table. I had that guy breathing over my shoulder, telling me to go “back” to a place I’d never been before, taking my baby with me. Because it didn’t matter that I was born in this country, or that she was too. It didn’t matter that my husband and I both work full time jobs. It only mattered that I had a darker complexion than he did, that I had a mexican last (maiden) name, and that I was using WIC checks to purchase my groceries. I quietly mumbled my apologies for taking so long, finished checking out, and then went in my car and cried. That was the first real racist experience I had encountered. It was minor, but it was enough to open my eyes and make me realize that there are people who have it WAY worse than I did, and enough to make me realize that racism really hurts.
When George Floyd was murdered and the BLM movement gained more momentum than it’s seen in years it gave me hope that maybe, despite all the racists, we might actually outnumber them. I cannot speak for the horrific treatment that the Black and Indiginous communities have suffered for so many centuries. Nor can I speak for the digusting physical and verbal attacks that the American Asian/Pacific Islander communities have suffered due to the pandemic. What I can do, is use my white-passing privelege to speak out and stand up for those communities. The experience I had at the Walmart is so minor compared to what these communities have had to endure, but it really does put things into prospective.
So what can we do with our prilevege? The only thing that makes sense, use it. If you see someone mis-treating others, speak up. If you see someone that needs help or someone asks you for help, help them. If you see a local protest, demonstration or learning workshop in your area, go it to and get better educated. There are SO many things that we can do to support these communities, such as buying from their small businesses & restaurants, donating to their causes, and being there for them when they need extra voices. The only non-acceptable thing we can do is nothing.
We have been silent for too long. We have looked the other way for too long. We have hoped and prayed for things to get better for too long. I know there are so many people who care, who think “Well, I’m just one person, I can’t possibly make a difference”, but let me tell you…
YES. YOU. CAN.
Now is the time to act, to speak up, to stay loud, and to educate. The work doesn’t stop just because the protests have. Racism is one nasty SOB, and it’s not going anywhere. Not unless we band together and stomp it out.
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