A Dose of Racism to Go with Your Coffee

I travel a few times a year for work, and I would have to say that I could take it or leave it. I love being able to experience the different cities and provinces, and meet the people, but it definitely gets lonely sitting in an empty hotel room when you are used to the craziness that two young, vivacious boys can bring to one’s life. I’m a homebody. It’s my favorite place in the world to be, and I would rather be there with my family than anywhere else. It’s also my safe place.

Yesterday, I made the “journey” to Toronto for work. I am on a low-dose chemotherapy regimen that I take every week to help manage my lupus symptoms. The side effects aren’t fun, but I’d take those over the chronic pain any day. I had started the morning feeling okay, but after two turbulent flights, I was feeling tired and sick to my stomach. All I wanted was to get to my hotel room and rest.

I was waiting in a very long customs line for visitors, when the airport staff allowed a group of us to move to the much shorter customs line for Canadian residents. As I followed the flow of the line, I noticed the woman behind me getting closer and closer. As we made our way around a corner, I noticed that she was inching to get ahead of me. She was quite a bit taller than me, but I stood my ground and maintained my place in line. All of sudden, she looked down at me with complete disgust, and proceeded to accuse me of trying to cut in front of her in the line. If looks could kill, I would have been a goner in that moment. I may be small, but I can be feisty when needed. I politely, but firmly, told her that I had been ahead of her in line, and I was not cutting in front of her. I then turned around to face the front of the line to avoid further confrontation. It was obvious that her deluded sense of entitlement led her to believe that she could bully her way ahead in the line. Little did she know—she messed with the wrong Asian!

There were a large number of Asians in the line from which we had just moved. After I had put the woman in her place (yes, behind me in the line), the woman and her friend started complaining about how slowly the lines were moving. They then proceeded to blame the pace on the number of “Chinese” people who were in the line. They carried on with this conversation for the rest of our time in line, knowing full well that the person standing in front of them was Asian (or “Chinese” in their eyes).

This encounter made me mad. I was disgusted. Had I been anywhere but in a customs line at the airport, I would have said something to them. But, it was not the time or the place to engage, so I remained silent. When I finally made it to my hotel room, I replayed the encounter over and over in my head. My anger turned to sadness. I’m sure the look that woman gave me—the look that made me feel like I was an insect, there for her to squish under her entitled and white-privileged heel—was one she had given many people in her lifetime. How sad it must be to live your life believing that you are superior simply based on the color of your skin. How sad it must be to miss out on meeting so many wonderful people, simply because you were too close-minded and racist to see past the color of their skin.

I started thinking about my sons and wondered how the world would view them as adults. Will they encounter situations like these, or will they live in a world where diversity is respected and honored? We, as parents, are helping to shape the future through our children. We must ask ourselves—who are we raising our children to be? Are we raising our children with open hearts and open minds? Are we raising our children to respect others and celebrate our differences? I don’t know if our world will ever be a place free of racism, sexism, ageism, classism, and all of the other -isms, but I am going to live with the belief and hope that we will one day be able to move past the oppression and hate that tarnishes our world today.

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4 thoughts on “A Dose of Racism to Go with Your Coffee

  1. Camilla Hudson says:

    I share your optimism and hope that one day, we’ll collectively get there. As for raising our children – all we can do is impart our values to our children and expose them to as many people and experiences as possible, making their world as diverse, interesting and vibrant as possible. Those who don’t do this do their children and our world a tremendous disservice but individually, we can only do our part and teach our children how to be strong and resilient in the presence of such morons. Stay positive and strong!

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