Sunday, May 18, 2008

No Habla White-Trashese

I had the distinct displeasure of experiencing first hand, a small dose of what being discriminated against because of skin color must feel like.

I was parked at a gas station off of Interstate 30 in the Dallas-Ft. Worth tonight waiting for my sister's boyfriend to pick up 2 of my nieces who had spent the weekend with my family. One of my nieces is a mixed race child. Her father is african-american and her mom, my sister, is white.

As we were sitting in the driveway of the gas station close to the frontage road, enjoying the music on the radio and minding our own business, I suddenly hear a loud car horn behind me. There was a van behind me in the center of the driveway (I was parked off to the left so as not to impede anyone who might want to have access to the frontage road) that was honking at me. I couldn't figure out why as he looked like he wanted past me. There was plenty of room for him to pass. I was unsure of what he wanted me to do, so I sat there and rolled my window down, hoping he would pull forward and I could find out what he wanted.

He did and in his most indignant way, he says, "We would like to turn there, but your in the way". As he said this, he indicated with his hand that he wanted to go left into an adjoining parking lot. I wasn't aware that I was blocking it. But because he was obviously being a jerk about it, I sat there for a split second and just looked at him thinking about what to say. He had gotten my anger up with his tone. I decided to say nothing and then began to put my vehicle in reverse.

Well... he noticed my niece, who to the untrained eye, could be mistaken for being hispanic because of her lighter brown skin tone. He then said to me in a mocking tone, "What's the matter, no habla english?" He was obviously making fun of my niece who he thought looked hispanic.

That set me off. I was now so angry I was physically shaking and the adrenaline was pumping and I sat there, not moving, again contemplating what I was going to say. I was angry and thought of a few choice phrases for him. But, of course, knowing that returning belligerence for belligerence was not the right thing to do. So I simply said, "Sure, I'll move. But you can be nice about." Not much of a comeback. But then again, in an attempt to control my anger, it was probably the best thing I could have said save saying nothing.

He looked immediately embarrassed and looked like he couldn't believe I said anything back to him and he went on his way once I cleared the way for him.

This guy was probably around 65-70 and his wife was with him. Once they passed, I thought about his poor wife and hoped he was having a bad day and that wasn't the way he was all the time.

And.. of course, I thought of a few good comebacks - only one of which I can name here (trying to keep this a family-friendly blog!). I should have said something like, "I habla english just fine, it's white-trashese I don't habla very well!" But that would have been wrong and the God I love would not have been pleased. He says to love the unlovable. To love your enemy. TO be patient and kind. This guy may not be that unlovable all the time and he probably wouldn't be classified as an enemy going by the traditional definition, but he sure felt like both at the time.

As I was processing this event in my mind, I thought of my niece, who did nothing to him - yet he was poking fun at her simply because of her color. That made me sad. It made me feel a sense of injustice for my niece.

On the positive side, I handled myself pretty well considering if he had met me 6 months ago, before I began working on my propensity to become angry so easy, he would have gotten an earful, most of which would have been extremely incendary and belligerent. It would not have been right or a good example to my niece, my other 6 year old niece, nor for my 8 year old son - all of whom were in the car with me.

For that I am thankful to God - He is the one Who got a hold of me and began working with me on being so angry, cynical and negative all the time.

I pray this man, who seems to be angry and racist, wakes up one day and realizes how much damage he can do with words.

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