In Her Words
The Race Card
I understand it now
I’ve heard it more times than I can count: Why do Blacks make everything about race?
To be honest, I probably wondered the same thing one or two times in my previous life. However, after spending a decade and a half as a member of a Black family, I do not wonder any more.
Here are a few of the things which have happened in the years since I have become an adjunct member of the Black community:
• While walking around a major department store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago with two (professional, well-dressed) Black men, we were followed the entire time by a security guard.
• When my daughter was in Kindergarten, one of her classmates invited every child in their class to his birthday party, except her.
• After a softball game when players were shaking hands, a man on the opposing team put his hand down when he got to my husband.
• My husband’s aunt and uncle, who are in their 70s and dressed in church clothes, were denied service in a restaurant (in 2004!!!)
Is it possible that these things were not race related? Sure, I suppose. It’s possible that that boy just didn’t like my daughter, or that man my husband. Perhaps my friends and I looked like we were just in the mood to shoplift things we could clearly afford. The thing about it is that once you’ve experienced racism, even in small degrees, it makes you wonder about everything.
I was so enraged walking through that store, and my friends laughed and told me to get used to it. But once you’ve felt it, it changes the way you look at people. It changed me. It has made me look at everyone differently, wondering at people’s motives and true, way-down-deep feelings.
I have experienced only the tip of the iceberg, and really, by proxy. I have not really, personally felt the experience of not being liked/trusted/respected for my skin color. I have thought many many times in the past 15 years how amazed I am that more Black people are not more angry than they are. I could go on for pages and pages listing incidents from accidental slights to blatant discrimination which my husband and his family have experienced. Most of us wouldn’t stand for a fraction of it.
I don’t want to get used to it. I don’t want people to cross to the other side of the street when my son walks by. I don’t want my husband to worry about going to let our friends’ dog out because someone might call the police.
I ask just one thing of you: the next time you hear a story which begins or ends with someone “Playing the Race Card,” take a second, just a second, to consider what may have led up to that person playing that card. Then you can still roll your eyes if you want.