Racism of the Everyday Variety

hijabYesterday, a friend of my neighbor was shopping in a local Kroger, shopping for food to feed her family, when she accidentally bumped her cart into that of another shopper.  She apologized, the other shopper said “no problem”, and the matter should have ended there.  However, as she moved on, she heard the other shopper say to her friend “ISIS”.  The friend of my neighbor, you see, was wearing her traditional hijab.


The picture below was taken in Florence, Kentucky on 09 July 2016.  blacks sign


A Hispanic friend walked into a fast food restaurant and waited to be served, but the employee continued doing busy-work around the store, cleaning up and pretending not to even see my friend. Then a white woman entered the store and the employee served that woman first, while my friend continued to wait.


When we think or speak of racism, we think of the big, glaring examples, like KKK rallies, Trump speeches, police shootings of unarmed blacks, anti-anything-but-Caucasian rallies and protests, but racism exists in everyday life.  You can find it, obviously, in the supermarket, on street corners, in schools and in nearly every church across the nation.  U.S. WASPs have darned near perfected the practice of everyday racism.

racism-8We, those of us who are socially and morally conscious of such things, try to combat racism in the U.S. through legal channels and by attacking the institutions that promote or tolerate such behaviour.  That, too, is necessary, but I wonder if perhaps we would be more effective by using what little voice we have to combat the smaller events like those listed above.  For example, had I been shopping and seen the incident between my neighbor’s friend and the other woman, I might have stepped in and explained to the woman that: a) the proper term is Daesh, not ISIS; b) the vast majority of Muslims are not affiliated with terrorist organizations like Daesh; and c) Islam is a religion of peace and love, not hate.  Frankly, by the time I finished with that lady, she probably would have parked her cart and went running out of the store, as you all know how I am once I step up onto my soapbox!  Or, had I been the woman who walked into the fast food place and was immediately waited on, I might have said, “No, she (the Hispanic woman) was here first … please take her order first.”  And I will not even speculate on what I might have done had I come upon the man holding the sign, other than to say I would be calling upon my friends to take up a collection for bail money instead of writing this blog post.

racism-6It is called ‘everyday racism’, and it is relatively small things like this that grow into full-blown racism of the type we see propagated by various organizations, particularly this year in the culture of fear, bigotry and multiple phobias that have been pushed forth by politicians, religious leaders and the media.  People are now afraid to use public restrooms, they are afraid of women wearing a hijab, they are afraid of people who look, speak and act differently than themselves.  We must bring common sense back to the streets.  We must be willing to stand up for our beliefs, the belief upon which this nation is based, that “All Men (and women) Are Created Equal”.  We must be willing to stand up to the bigot and the xenophobe.

For the most part, none of us will ever have the opportunity to destroy the KKK, to be instrumental in passing laws that provide safe haven for Muslims, or to bring dirty cops to justice.  But that does not mean we are powerless.  We have the power to apply our values, our convictions, if only we dig down within ourselves to find the courage to do so.  Certainly it is far easier to walk away, to turn our heads and pretend that we just do not see.  But I can tell you that when you put your head on your pillow tonight, whether you wish it or not, your conscience will either reward you for standing up for your beliefs, for your fellow human being, or will cause you to question why you did not.  Think about it.

30 thoughts on “Racism of the Everyday Variety

  1. Here’s one! We often go to a Mexican restaurant, which has great food and excellent service. Yes…the staff is mostly of Mexican descent…that is part of the charm. But get this…I walked up to the front with my bill and payment in hand, and handed it to a woman standing there by the cash register. She said “Oh, I don’t work here!” I laughed and said “oh, ok” … so far so good. Then she said “…but I get it—I look Mexican.” I was slightly taken aback, because the mistake was quite natural given the situation…she was leaning on the cashier’s desk for gosh sakes! I just matter of factly said “no, that wasn’t it at all.” Then the “real” cashier appeared, took the money, and we left. Stood outside and chatted with the woman who had suggested that I might be racist…and in the course of conversation she “gets that a lot.” I was offended because it was unfair for her to think that of me—

    and here’s something else that occurs to me…. when someone comes to my front door, I instinctively reach for the lock….nothing personal, I do that no matter WHO is there. However—if the person is of a different race or otherwise does not look like me, I FEEL guilty when I check the lock…even though it is a reflex brought on by common sense. WHY do I feel guilty because I might do something that might be considered racist?

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    • I think that those who are frequently victims of discrimination come to expect it and assume that comments, looks, etc., are intentionally discriminatory. Paranoid? Sure, but understandable. As to your feelings of guilt … yeah, I think that is, for those of us with consciences, natural. We sometimes, I think, search too deeply into our motives, search our souls too deeply to make sure that we haven’t so much as a seed of bigotry. But I would rather be like you and I than those who have souls that are lacking in humanity. Not sure if that makes any sense, but I can certainly relate to what you say.

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      • it makes perfect sense! My in-laws were the rudest, most insensitive people I ever met. My husband, too, by default. 🙂 always saying something like “boy! you put on so much weight I didn’t recognize you…” to people. How rude! My mother in law commented on how interesting it was that my sister was not “heavy”
        …as was I.

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    • In working on another post, I happened across this comment by someone visiting the U.S., and I thought of you, and specifically of our conversation: “People tend to be very sensitive about racial and religious topics. I was embarrassed to ask a Costco employee where the white chocolate was because I was afraid she would tell me I was a racist.” 😀

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      • that’s funny! it’s crazy how worried we are about offending someone…my son was in second grade and I had not yet met his teacher. Watching TV, he said a woman on the telly “looked like Miss.x” I said which woman? The black woman. I said “your teacher is black?” Who new. I was kind of proud of him for not feeling obligated to make that announcement on the first day of school. 🙂

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        • Yes, you know … kids just don’t think about those things until we adults condition them to. Earlier today I was watching my Syrian and Iraq neighbor children playing with other neighbor children, African-American and Mexican. It got me to thinking … to them, they are all just kids, playmates, nothing more or less. And I wondered if this experience of having multi-cultural friends so young in life will make them more cosmopolitan later in life.

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    • Yes, he has, as another reader commented, turned over the rocks under which the bigots were hiding and now they are coming out in droves. But the racism and bigotry were always there, they were just lying dormant. That is what disturbs me most, I think. I have friends whom I have known for decades, and until the past year never realized that they were bigots of one form or another. How did I miss that??? And yes, I cannot imagine why any black or Hispanic person would even consider voting for him!

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  2. I agree, there are things we can do. It seems only little – but teaching our children that everyone deserves the same respect, that is something everyone can do. And if enough people do this, one day the racists will be extinct like dinosaurs, while children of all races and religions will be playing happily together. It is a dream worth dreaming.

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        • Yes … from what I know, you are lucky in that respect. Here, it rather depends on the venue of the school: north v south, rich v poor, black v white, urban v suburban, etc., etc., etc. Schools in the U.S. are more concerned with ratings based on standardized testing than with what they are actually teaching the children. A topic for another day, another post, … Hope you are all enjoying the summer vacation!

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  3. Jefferson may not be the best one to quote oaths issue. But your point is well taken. We all see it on a daily basis. It’s there and until we acknowledge its existence and seek to remove it it will remain.

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  4. These attitudes transcend race and are pervasive and dangerous for the disabled community as well. It’s interesting that the media and a lot of bloggers don’t talk about how people with disabilities aren’t also treated as equal. I suppose it is because there’s no real political advantage in doing so

    at restaurants waitresses ask “what does he want to drink” like I’m not there and the wife will say “I don’t know, ask him”, or when people say that I’m an inspiration because I walk my daughter to school, that somehow because I have a disability, I am heroic by virtue of just living my life like anyone else.

    How about the way that the irresponsible buffoons in Hollywood portray people with disabilities on their television shows. We’re either portrayed as individuals who are angry and bitter (take Scent of a woman for instance) or people who have extra senses like in dare devil. Both of these approaches depersonalize and objectify us and if that sort of thing happened with the African American or Muslim community, there would be outcry in the streets for months and it would be ceremonially splashed over the headlines of every national paper in the country and there would be a demand by social justice warriors that such oppressive atrocities be brought to a swift end.

    These may not be classified as acts of discrimination but they are something just as insidious. They are a marginalization of the individual and this needs just as much political attention as the racism that so many people are rightly going on about with passion in their worlds.

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    • You are quite right! I’m afraid that I, like the rest of the world, overlook this form of bigotry more often than not. For a brief moment, discrimination against the disabled gained the spotlight when Trump mocked a reporter, but otherwise it goes largely unnoticed. Thank you for the reminder and I plan to incorporate it into a future blog. Have a good day!

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    • If you feel comfortable doing so, I would welcome you telling me of some of your experiences with this type of discrimination. My email is dennisonjill@aol.com, If you prefer not to, I certainly understand, but it is always good to hear first-hand accounts. I have a son who is severely disabled, so to some extent I can relate. Thanks!

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