True Life: I Experienced Racism When…
Though many try to pretend that we live in a colorblind society; for many people of color, racism is a very real issue. Considering we speak to an audience of black women everyday, we thought we’d ask them to share their racist, ridiculous and hurtful experiences with us. Here’s what they had to say.
Artemis: I was 18 in Zurich, learning to speak German. A guy walks up to me with this sneering smile and said, while touching my hair:
“du bist einen schwarzen schlampe.. ja?”
I understood up until the “schlampe” because I had had no reason to know what that meant until then… when I said I didn’t understand it, he just laughed and muttered it again, then got off the tram.
I asked my uncle (who’s white, he married my mom’s sister) what it meant, and watched him get angrier than I’d ever seen him… and told me to punch anyone who ever did it again in the face and get to his office asap.
MN: Did you ever find out what it meant?
Artemis: “You’re a black Slore? yes?” … My uncle told me … Didn’t hurt, but I was pretty pissed off… this guy was nothing like what “tv” in the islands portrayed racists to look like, he looked “normal,” not a monster that will try to rape you. Heck he didn’t even look like he could take me in a fight… meh… I got over it quickly.
Jessica: At a previous job a co-worker was talking about me to another co-worker and referred to me as “Shenaynay” in a joking manner. She cut him right off and told him my name was Jessica and if he was confused to please refer to the nameplate on my desk.
Gabriel: In college I was at a soccer party and the soccer team is majority Caucasian. It was me and three of my friends, all African American. Anyway a fight broke out(not because of race) between a friend of mine and a soccer player the whole fight was over in less than a minute. Well as soon as I get back to my dorm, the majority of the soccer team was outside my window yelling racial slurs and threatening me. The thing that bothered me the most about the situation is when I looked past the soccer team I saw two white neighborhood cops standing behind the soccer team. Not doing anything to discourage the people that were outside my window. Campus security had to break them up. It was a crazy night to say the least but that wasn’t my first time experiencing racism.
Topaz: I worked at a big chain pizza place answering phones and taking orders. I had a woman call to speak to the manager to complain about one of our cooks who answered the phone and was very unprofessional. As she explained herself, she whispered into the phone, “It was a black man.” I asked her how she knew the race of the person she spoke with and she said, “Well, you know how THEY talk.” I’ve also had plenty of black folks tell me that I talk white and take offense at how I say things. Sometimes, you just can’t win.
Taunya: I work in retail. An older white gentleman walked in, as I tried to assist him he asked if I was the only colored girl that worked there. I politely asked him what color was he looking for.
Jenn: I was at a bus stop back in west Virginia and there was an older white lady and an older white man waiting as well. The man was very talkative and when I came up he began to tell stories of his black friend (as though to affirm he was ok with black people). He made many compliments on his black friends character and so on. He proceeded to tell a story of when he was a cab driver there was a known black “crack Slore” whom he gave a ride to and stiffed him on the fare. He said her name was so and so (I was barely paying attention) and looking at me said, “You know her?” And I just shook my head and said no. He then said, “You know her! You have to! She looks just like you!”(Meaning skin color.) This was probably the most offensive thing ever said to me. Because we’re both black I’m suppose to associate with a “crack Slore”?
Brittney: I work in a department store, and this Russian woman wanted a particular item but my co-worker, who is Black, needed to go to the stockroom to get it (she was her customer, not mine). Anyway, as I’m walking past by her to get something for my client, she says to me “where’s my item?” I explained that someone else must have been serving her because she didn’t ask me for anything. She says ok, then walks away. Two minutes later, in a different area of the floor in which I work, she confronts another Black co worker of mine and is like, “Where are my jeans?!? I’ve been waiting for over 10 minutes!” My co worker again explains that someone else must have been helping her and she needs to go back to the area because the person is probably looking for her. As she proceeds to go back to the denim area, one of her friends who was with her says, “How are we meant to know who served us, they all look alike anyway.”
Tonya: This has happened to me a few times. When I find products that I like, I tend to buy more than one. I love Revlon, Maybelline, Covergirl etc. and they tend to be pricey. I took 4 to the counter to pay for them and the cashier looks at the glosses and looks at me and says, “You know, these are like $6 a piece, right?” I looked at her and said, “Yes, I know. I have 8 of them at home and I love the way they look on me.” She was speechless. I shop at that particular store quite often and I had never encountered that type of cashier before. In other words STAY OUT OF MY POCKETS! If I was going to steal them I wouldn’t be standing at the register. Another time, same store, different location, I was buying some cigars and I just asked if they carried them. This cashier said, “We don’t sell singles.” THAT S NOT WHAT I ASKED YOU! This time I just stared her down. It was hard to keep my cool but I may have to go corporate on them and let them know the types of people they have working in their stores.
Rose: I was working as an operator for Verizon and I was chatting with girl next to me, well this supervisor told me to turn my nappy head around…. In an instant, I saw myself beating the crap out of this woman and going to jail. I unplugged from my desk and took it straight to the top. She apologized, but whatever… I kept my job for that moment because my plan was to open my own business which I did 3 years later, but some days I think that I should of at least slapped the Isht out of her…money and future business be damned.
Danielle: In 1997, I remember visiting a retail store in my hometown. As I walked down an aisle, I passed a white woman who was holding a little boy who appeared to be no older than two years old. As I walked by, the mother’s back was to me. The little boy’s eyes lit up when he saw me. He pointed at me and said, “Look, Mommy! A N-Word!” I just froze and stood there with my mouth open. The woman walked away quickly without turning to look at me, and the little boy continued to point and call me by that name. He was just like any other kid, proud that he remembered something his parents had taught him. He did not realize that he was saying anything offensive. Sad.
Tracy: Back in the 70’s I was one of few white girls who would date other races and believe you me I rec’d a lot of flack from black and white (including family). Now I am the mother of 3 adopted multi-racial kids and I/we experience racism often. My poor son went to pick up his date (lily white young lady) and the parents pretty much shut the door in his face. It is alive and well in America.
Lameesha: When I was preteen I went to my boyfriend (white) at the time’s house, I thought things were cool cuz I didn’t see race at all, his mother seemed nice as she was all in my face and I thought she liked me. He acted weird the next day at school, then when I got home he said his mom said he didn’t want him with me. I didn’t know why for a while, so I asked him again thinking he was lying that it was him, he then said, “She doesn’t want me seeing a girl like you,” which stuck with me for along time cuz I just wanted to know what I did wrong, and I very recently (now 21) realized what that meant and that it was my skin tone. I felt embarrassed.
Ashley: I was in a relationship with someone outside of my race and a group of men, (my “own people”) damn near hit us with their car while we were crossing the street. Absolute Ignorance.
Renata: I am black but Trinidadian not African American. I got an academic scholarship to an HBCU. One afternoon, I attempted to attend a fraternity coming out show. Students were lined up and eventually started pushing. Out of nowhere an African American student yelled at me “Get back on the boat! Go back and climb trees.” I was in shock! A few months later she had financial aid trouble and came to the office where I worked on campus for help. When she saw me behind the desk, she paused and then approached with a smile. I stopped her and said, “Have a seat while I go get lunch from the boat!” 🙂
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