Monday, January 13, 2003

moving towards a better politics, towards the human ideal

I am a racist.

The first hurdle is admitting to the problem. That whole I am an alcoholic thing. Tonight, working at the Best Western, I realized this, that I am a racist. It was a slow Sunday night as it usually tends to be on Sunday nights and at eleven thirtyish, a young, rough looking Latino male came in. Immediately, I was scared. I wondered if he was going to try to rob the Best Western, since robberies along US 41 are not that rare. He had a full top set of gold teeth. This added to the scariness. And I made sure I knew where the police call button was in case he was a robber. It sounds silly now. But it was late and I was alone and here was the popular image of a criminal, and I was seriously scared.

This was horrible of me. He was just drunk, didn't want to drive home from the Bahi Hut and wanted a room. His cell phone rang and he started talking to someone. When he got off of it, he said laughingly as if to explain why he was on the phone for so long, "Girls! You know how they can be." And I said, "Actually, I don't." Because I don't, or maybe I do but you know how that can be. And he laughed and we chatted, and he was actually nice, so nice. And this should not have been surprising at all. He was me. I felt like shit when I realized that my fear was completely bogus, grounded on gross stereotypes, was internalized racism.

I hate it so much when people treat me differently, am so aware of it when it does occur, and here I was on the giving end of racism this time. The other day, me and my roommates went to this women's film fest of shorts at the downtown library. We all walked in together, sat down together, and then one of the organizers came over and very pointedly just gave programs and stickers to Jamie and Bonnie. I was pissed as hell that because I was not a white lady, I was not welcome. I wanted to punch some old lady gut, wanted the world to be righteous. And I am trying. It's all about learning and unlearning, recognizing flaws in yourself and trying to correct them to become a more fully realized human being. No fear. Smiles and warmth to everyone. I am going to try to infuse my life with more positive energy.

Tonight's brief moment of panic is all the more disturbing because I can be pretty easily lumped into this category of young Latino male that I was briefly frightened of, and I have this self-hatred, or even worse, a lack of awareness of my own self, so decieved that I could still think of someone of the same race as me as Other. And I partly attribute this to going to New College, to being surrounded by white kids and perhaps identifying more with this race that for the most part constitutes my visual reality here. Some of it definitly also has to do with being mixed and being a lot closer to my mom's white Catholic family (Moosbrugger for God's sake!) than to my dad's Chilean family.

But whatever. As Charlie Sheen's character says in Platoon: "Excuses are like assholes; everybody's got one." I am working on it, trying to change. And I watched Richard Pryor's Live at Sunset Strip performance the other day and loved it and think Pryor is so beautiful and real and right on. And he said, "Racism is a bitch ... It's hard enough being a human being." And goddamnit, if it isn't true.

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