Fifteen years in this country and I’d never felt the sting of a racist comment. Sure, I’ve dealt with a couple of rude people before, but nothing major.
Last Thursday I was leaving the school after a meeting with my son’s teachers. I was about three-quarters out of my parking space (if not more) when this guy in a crappy-ass green Chevy truck came into the parking lot and kept going like I was invisible. I stopped so he could go by, but I made sure to honk at him before exiting the lot.
That must had rubbed him the wrong way because two minutes later he appeared by my side on Overland Road, asking me to put my window down just so he could yell at me about how cars backing out of parking spaces do not have the right of way. I rolled my eyes and asked him to stop yelling at me, to which he replied with the always handy “Go back to your country!” line, so unoriginal and yet, so powerful.
(I looked it up later in the Idaho Driver’s Manual, and on page 62 it says to “Give a lot of room to drivers who may not see you. These include drivers backing out of driveways or parking spaces”. I’m just saying).
I must confess, even if for just a couple of minutes, it stung. It felt like a punch to the stomach. Then, I remembered the way he looked and although I got no idea where he works I can tell you 1) he doesn’t get a comprehensive medical insurance which includes dental coverage, or if he does, someone should tell him about it, and 2) he wasn’t on his way to the courthouse to defend a client from allegations of domestic violence and parole violation. If anything, he was on his way to the courthouse because he was the client.
Today, as I was driving home from a friend’s house, Nafar Erreinua from Esne Beltza came on the radio, a song with some bits from Martin Luther King‘s 1963 “I have a dream” speech. My six-year old daughter recognized his voice and asked me to get the whole thing on YouTube. We spent the next 20 minutes listening to one of the best delivered speeches I’ve ever heard. I can’t imagine anybody not being moved by his voice, his energy, his choice of words, his passion.
I never thought too much about racism because I’ve always lived sheltered from it. However, Thursday’s incident and Martin Luther King’s speech reminded me of the pain and suffering many people endured and still endure because they are different, whether it’s their color, their nationality, or their sexual orientation. Let’s stop. In the end, we’re all just people. Even the guy in the Chevy truck.
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