It took more than a few seconds for me to process. On my usual weekend morning run with my workout crew ― folks of multiple ethnicities and backgrounds ― some white guy in the bleachers at the track calls out, “Run nigger, run!” In disbelief, I slowed down slightly in the middle of interval training. I didn’t want to believe that’s what I heard. After all, this is 2016 and I’m in liberal Southern California. Since nobody else seemed to take notice, I told myself that I mis-heard what the man called out.
Sadly, what my ears had heard was confirmed when my Hispanic companion’s Hispanic wife began arguing with the man in the bleachers. I heard him shouting at her and stopped to bring her closer to our group and away from this person who obviously had some issues. She confirmed that he had been spouting racial epithets besides calling me a nigger. This guy said she and her husband don’t belong in this country and are only good for making burritos, or some non-sense of that nature. What he said doesn’t really matter. The fact that this person chose to verbally assault us for being black and Hispanic does matter. I wanted to demand of him, “Who are you?” Our lead trainer went over and said something to the man, who moments later seemed to have passed out in the stands. I actually felt sorry for the guy. He must have been drunk, evidence that his pathetic soul had absolutely nothing happening in his life, so he got hammered at 8 o’clock in the morning and yelled racial slurs from the bleachers at the local high school.
I haven’t been called a nigger in YEARS! It wasn’t until this moment a few days ago that I realized that the word still stings. I can only imagine how my friend and his wife felt, especially because their one-year-old son was with us. If my nieces and nephews had been present, what would or should I have told them? The fact that we still have to deal with cruelty and insults in this day and age is tragic. Just as tragic is the fact that there are people out there who will try to convince you that such issues and negative insults no longer exist in this “post-racial” America. Sorry, but when things like this happen, I laugh at the idiocy of claims that racism is non-existent in today’s world. I appreciate that my friend’s wife went to bat for us and herself. However, what’s the point? I don’t believe you can reason with a person like that. It becomes a never ending circle of a “conversation” that could ultimately end horribly. Worst case scenario it could end violently, and for what? Some ignorant person’s inability to be respectful? People have the right to feel and believe what they want. They don’t however have the right to be derogatory.
I understand that this one person’s actions don’t represent every single white person, but sadly I’ve run into too many people in my lifetime with a similar mindset. Not just white people either. It’s hard for me to have any hope that this will change and become something that future generations won’t experience. A comedian once said the only way to get rid of these issues is for everyone to mix races so that nobody knows what anybody is. This joke generated hysterical fits of laughter from the people present. I get that the joke was made for the sake of comedy, but is that really a solution? Do some of us have to disappear in order for us all to get along? From what I’ve seen, people of mixed races still have to deal with issues of identity and race across multiple fronts. They are not exempt.
Just 48 hours later, I was reminded of just how much things have not changed. While walking through LA Live at 10 a.m. and talking on the phone with my mother, an older white couple walking toward me stared me down in the crosswalk. Not only did they stare, but the woman moved her purse to the inside of her jacket, on the opposite side of me, as her husband took hold of her and placed himself in between the two of us. Really?! I’m not going to lie. In that moment I almost felt that I would be justified in doing exactly what they imagined I would do – grab the purse and run.
Where do we draw the line? What’s the solution? We obviously can only deal with what’s in our control, but the internal impact of these types of situations is strong and psychologically damaging. I refuse to let ignorant people destroy my spirit and my views on life. I’ve met a lot of people from an array of ethnicities in my life, and 90 percent of them are great. F*** the other 10 percent. They don’t affect me unless I let them. And I don’t plan on letting that happen.
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General Election: Nov 3, 2020
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