This month, my mother, aunt, and I were in a store when the sales associate approached us. She asked, “Who was first? You?” And pointed to a Caucasian customer behind us. The customer said that my family and I were first. Rather than assist us herself, the sales associate walked towards another colleague, returned to us, and mentioned that she was going to help the Caucasian customer and that her colleague was going to help my family and I. The colleague approached us and started speaking Spanish. We never told the sales associate that we spoke Spanish, nor did we speak Spanish in front of her to make such an assumption. This, readers, is called racial profiling. My mother recently called our cable company and asked for receivers. The representative informed my mother on the receivers and then all of a sudden transferred her to another representative. The representative that answered started speaking to my mother in Spanish. Again, my mother never told the representative that she spoke Spanish, nor did she request to speak to someone in Spanish. This, readers, is called racial profiling. I eventually called the cable company’s supervisor and explained what happened and pointed out that this was a form of discrimination. This, readers, is called not being complacent. I have encountered individuals that say, “You are in this country, so you need to speak English.” I have encountered individuals that completely transform their name to make it easier for others to pronounce. I have encountered individuals that assimilate to the masses to fit in.
Discrimination almost seems inevitable. Kind of like love. You don’t go looking for it, it just happens. Unfortunately, it happened to my family twice in just a month. If you look a certain way, people may assume you are a certain ethnicity or race. If you dress a certain way, people may assume you are a certain ethnicity or race. If you breathe a certain way, people may assume you are a certain ethnicity or race. Not likely, but, shows that even the smallest detail can be used to make the largest assumption about who you are and how you identify. Based on that, they recall all interactions they have had with individuals of the same perceived ethnicity or race and recall all stereotypes, and there you have it, an inaccurate of picture of you. Blurred and smudged with coffee stains. This picture influences how others interact and perceive you. I didn’t realize how much ethnicity or race influenced the world until I attended a predominately Caucasian university. In a school with over 48,000 students, I felt like a minority. Faculty and staff rarely looked like me. Groups based on ethnicity where distinct and largely kept to themselves. It seemed like everyone was trying to be everyone. Outside of school, it became more obvious. From odd looks, to individuals mocking the way my family pronounces certain words in English, to making assumptions, to talking down to my family, everything was just obvious. And. It. Is. NOT. Okay. Imagine someone telling you how to dress, how to talk, and how to act. 24/7. If you don’t fit, you are treated differently and often, unfairly. Now, imagine someone looking at your name and not hiring you for a job because it didn’t end in Smith, Johnson, or Jones. Imagine someone excluding you from a team based on your sex. Imagine someone attacking you because of your values. Imagine someone making a microagressive joke about your friend. Now, just imagine if all of that rarely happened. There were two options in the situations that happened to my family. Be quiet or point out the issue. My family told the sales associate that they didn’t appreciate being handed over to a Spanish-speaking colleague, and I had a conversation with the cable company supervisor. Discrimination is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean that it is acceptable. People are more alike than they are dissimilar, but sometimes, people focus so much on the individual circles of a Venn diagram to ever realize that there is a middle. Because the circles are what make them confused and afraid. Don’t overlook the middle.