On Racist Encounters

As I have mentioned throughout this blog, I have never been a victim blatant of racism.

That changed about two weeks ago and it happened three times.

The first incident happened in when I went to visit a friend of mine in Boston of all places. To put things into context, my friend did not inform her flatmate that I was going to be visiting and staying with her for a few days. My friend is Asian and her flatmate is white. So when her flatmate saw me (I was alone in the flat at the time), she was visibly shaken and she just happened to have a knife in her hand. The look in her eyes very much alarmed me. You could see the look of fear, disgust, horror in her face. I almost wish she called the cops rather than me having to stare at the mixture of emotions on her face. After I introduced myself, she asked where my friend was and I told her she was out. The flatmate quickly ran to her room and slammed the door shut.

I know I would be scared if I came home and a stranger was lounging in my flat. But I would have questioned them and have the cops on dial if I genuinely felt scared or threatened. I also know my friend was in the wrong for not informing her flatmate about my visit but the look on her face made me feel like an alien. It was as if I didn’t belong in her presence. It was a very unsettling feeling. When I informed my friend about my interaction with her flatmate, she apologised to me and went to talk to her flatmate. Later that day, we talked about how my race played a role in the flatmate’s response. Would she have had that look on her face if I was white or Asian?. I reckon we will never know but the expression on her face is forever burned in my head. I’ve never had someone look at me that. I’ve never felt less than human. If looks could kill…

The next two racist encounters happened in Texas. The second one was more of racial profiling. It happened at a store. I went to the store with a a couple of friends to buy clothes for fourth of July celebrations. My friend went ahead and paid for her stuff with her debit card no questions asked. When it was time for me to pay mine, I took out my debit card to pay I was asked to show my I.D. and I wondered why? My friend (who is white) also bought almost the same things and wasn’t asked to show her I.D. yet the cashier asked me to show my I.D. Did she think I couldn’t pay for a $40 dollar item? or that I was carrying a stolen card. This the first time someone has asked me to show my I.D. to pay for items and I have shopped at very expensive stores and I wasn’t asked to show any proof of I.D.

It was just very strange. If my friend had been asked to show her I.D. upon purchase, I would have thought it was a store policy but she didn’t so why did they single me out?

The third incident also happened at a grocery store in Texas. Once again my friends and I were buying [alcoholic] drinks for or fourth of July celebrations. As we got to the register to pay, the lady behind the computer’s mood suddenly changed when saw us. After scanning the drinks, she asked to see our (my other friend and I were splitting the bill and paying and we happen to me “coloured” people) I.D.s and after looking at them, she asked us if we were from Texas and we said no. She immediately said she cannot accept our I.D.s (I have a NY I.D. and mt friend has a CA I.D) because she doesn’t know if its fake and that she will have to take our I.D.s and call her manager. My friend was horrified that the lady said that. My Texan friend immediately gave the cashier her [Texas] I.D. and the cashier accepted her I.D. and we payed the bill and left.

The incident at the grocery store was just weird. Did the cashier think we were some kind of undocumented immigrants in Texas? or was she genuinely racist? My friend and I were the only “coloured” people in this homogenous [white] affluent neighboorhood in Texas but it doesn’t excuse her behaviour.

While my racist encounters may seem very tame to what other people face everyday, I still can’t shake the feeling off especially the look my friends flatmate gave me. It’s like a psychological battle as I am not used to this and the more I think about it, the more I begin to look for racist tendencies from other people. I don’t want to be singled out for my “Otherness” but that is what people continue to see. My “Otherness” has been shaped by negative stereotypical tropes and discourses and it will not change any time. As my friend said to to me “What you faced is a daily reality for most Black males in the U.S.”

This is just a sad state of affairs…

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