Racial encounters as a brown man 3/28th
I am afraid to talk about my stories about being racially profiled. To speak on these subjects feels almost taboo. My biggest fear is being blackballed out of opportunity as a brown man speaking on issues that currently affect me on a daily basis. Though I am afraid, my truth of how I am treated is not a matter of debate. I have experienced discrimination from all forms of racists and prejudice people whether it be from whites, blacks, Latinos or even Polynesians.
I believe that we are not truthful about our own racism towards another and try to disguise it as other terms. We have people say inner city or welfare recipients when they are referring to Black America or undocumented when targeting brown people ie Mexicanos or Middle Easterns.
I am very aware of this and even though I have become cautious after continuous racial encounters, it hasn’t been until under this current administration is where I have felt under seige by more than-usual encounters with racists and police. This xenophobic behavior has gone rampant and I am continously being harrassed at my job and in public. I decided to begin documenting these encounters because personal accounts help paint the picture of the current social and political climate as a Latino here in the states. Often these incidents go unreported…I say no more.
1st Documented Incident
I am from the Bay Area, Northern California, not only is California home to progressives, it is also the home to the 2nd highest amount of hate groups. I am a recent graduate, I writr as a passion of mine but to make ends I have to work retail. In any story, success takes time, participating in Non Profits and doing what I can to help improve my community.
On a Wednesday afternoon while at work, I was working cashier, and a man walked up to me, a Vietnam vet as stated on his hat. He walks up and says, “Hello Lee-ohh”.
As sure as the sun rises is as sure I will correct people on the pronunciation of my name. I respond, “Sorry sir, my name is Léo, Lay then oh” being pretentious and all I put an accent on my nametag.
The man responds, “ Oh so you a Mexican huh”. I knew what this meany and I was ready for his remarks sizing me up. He then to carried with, “ I remember being in Nam, I was a helicopter pilot and my gunners were fron Mexico and couldn’t speak a lick of English. I told them I’m gonna call you Beaner and Taco until you learn how to speak my language English l. A few weeks later they learned!”. He chuckled to himself as an accomplishment and I knew he said that because I was brown, with a mustache and combover.
Being as that may, I couldn’t let him leave without a question. “ wait, so you are asking for more accommodations when they were already sent there in your aid to help protect your aircraft and still asking for accommodations for you like language, ready to die with you in the heat of battle ?”
The man was perplexed and had nothing to say. I proceeded to say, “Carry on sir”. I could have refused service but in retail, causing scene has its repercussions of losing hours and the job. This man singled me out and I felt more than offended but disrespected. I am brown abd though I may not be as dark as people would proclaim, I am sure as hell being treated on consistent basis like a foreignor. I am a citizen and my voice will be heard.
I have been told to let my culture and brown skin to be my sail for success but I am being anchored by the perception created in my community. I am reminded everyday of these barriers I have to jump over and crawl through already establishing my own mental prison. Diversity does not mean inclusion but these times of hate is a perfect opportunity to openly engage those who have been sheltered by their echo chambers.