Monday, March 21, 2011

2010-03-21: "Go back to Africa"

On the way out of my building in Vancouver, on the edge of Yaletown, a homeless man at the corner noticed me and shouted a few incoherent things about black people. I hurried across the street to Tim Hortons, partly to get through the morning rain, partly to avoid having to listen to any more of his musings. I could vaguely feel him crossing the street in my general direction as I entered Tim's for my morning cup. And for the record, I am now an abysmal 1 for 13 on "Roll up the Rim".

I shook off the rain, and joined the back of the line. I heard the door behind me reopen, and an addle-brained voiced rang out:

"You should go back to Africa and take your American money with you!"

I don't think that I was as shocked as the 20 or so other patrons at Tim's. They all just nervously looked at the man as he retreated back outside. The restaurant fell silent for a few seconds as people looked around. The servers resumed filling orders. There was a noticeable awkwardness in line, as the people ahead of me shuffled forward in line. No one looked up.

When I went to order my coffee, my voice cracked. It wasn't until then that I realized how shaken I had been. I hadn't felt overly threatened by the man following me and his racist outburst. Maybe it was the disturbed non-response from those in the restaurant. I cannot definitively say.

In light of Sunday's March Against Racism in Vancouver (which I did not attend, nor had any interest to), this little event opened my eyes. People still do not know how to react to overt displays of racism. I don't even know how to react, so I cannot blame them.

As a black individual, I've been exposed to prejudices as long as I can remember, at least since grade school. Each instance frustrates and bewilders me. I'm as far from stereotypical as just about any black male could be. I'm often accused of being "not black enough". As a professional, I have strived to make everything about my abilities and accomplishments. The colour of my skin is only that, the colour of my skin.

As I shake off this experience and continue on with my week, the colour of my skin continues to have no other bearing on who I am nor does it limit my capability.

2 comments:

Jessica said...

I wish I was there!!!! :( Even if I didn't know you I would've done something. And I'm not just saying this either! I know exactly what you mean when sometimes you just don't know how to react in these types of situations. It's just so surprising to see something like this happen in public but it's even more surprising to see that nobody did anything! Anyway don't be too upset about this. You're a strong and intelligent man with admirable ambition. You are 100x the amazing individual that they will ever be!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Horrible experience! This is one of the reasons why 'political correctness' is very relevant. While it is certainly within a bigot's right to feel that way but it is definitely not alright to verbally assault another person with those views. My apologies for such an experience.

I struggled quite a bit to comprehend what you meant by not being 'black enough'. I get the impression that while you may have been 'lucky' to be a victim of covert prejudice (perhaps due to a privileged background), you don't seem to appreciate the plight of the 'stereotypical....black male' or minority who may have had to endure less subtle forms of it.

Or maybe I'm in the wrong here.