You Don’t Want to be Like Them

When I was at Mass this morning, a white family of four sneaked into the pew behind me about 10 minutes late.  The parents were in their 30s and they had two kids, a son and a daughter, around the age of 6 and 8 respectively.  Being that today was Palm Sunday, Mass was running longer than usual.

It was already past 11 and the Spanish Mass was scheduled to start.  Hispanic families, couples and individuals were filing into the Church to avoid the unusual cold and rainy April morning.  A Hispanic family of four, no different from the white family behind me, sneaked into the empty half of my pew quietly.  The woman behind me grabbed the Hispanic woman’s arm, looked at her and said,

How rude of you coming into our Mass.  Couldn’t you have waited?

I glanced over to my right when I heard that.  The Hispanic woman just smiled and sat down to tend to her children.  The white mother behind me then turned to her kids and said,

You don’t want to be like them.

The father reaffirmed the mother’s words to his kids.  He mumbled under his breath about the indecency of the Hispanics ruining their mass and how they were so ignorant that they couldn’t wait.  He said a few more words but by that time I have toned him out.

I have experienced racism first hand when I was in high school.  I was on an academic competition at St. Joseph’s College in Indiana with my programming class.  In that class, there were 3 of us who were not white.  It didn’t bother our classmates at all, but to the other schools that were present, it bothered them greatly.  It bothered them to the extent that one teen from another school came up with his friends to my school and said,

Damn those minorities.

He then made his hand into a gun and pretended to shoot at me.  My classmates were appalled.  Not only was it my first time experiencing racism, but it was also my Caucasian classmates.  They could not believe what they witnessed.  As for me, I just laughed it off. Why I did that, I do not know.

Today, instead of turning around to the parents and confronting them, I left immediately after mass and ignored the situation.  I wish I didn’t.

It is said that racism is no longer as apparent as it was in the past.  This is true because racism today is masked by cultural differences/understanding, socioeconomic differences, jokes and indifference.  Racism hasn’t disappeared; it’s just not as socially visible.

It was my indifference today where I chose not to intervene makes me a racist.  To those children who were taught incorrectly this morning; to the Hispanic family that I failed to stand up for; to the prejudice that I failed to end; I’m sorry.  I should have corrected them.  I should have stood up for you.  I should have stopped what was happening.  I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I’m racist, too.

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4 thoughts on “You Don’t Want to be Like Them

  1. Jesus, I think it’s clear who we don’t want kids to be like.

    That said, I don’t think you’re racist. Not always knowing how to be the most effective anti-racist is a different thing, to my mind.

  2. Being Hispanic myself, I make a lot of racist jokes and overuse stereotypes to try and diffuse uncomfortable situations.
    When I was in first grade, an Asian classmate of mine said I couldn’t play with her because I was Mexican. I didn’t really know what to think at the time, seeing as I was only six, but I find it funny that I can still remember that moment exactly.
    I don’t know if racism will ever completely go away…but I’m proud of the progress we’ve made.

  3. I understand your frustration at yourself. But I disagree wholeheartedly that this makes you a racist.

    We all have to work on being less readily dismissive of these moments; especially those of us who understand how badly they hurt. But there is still a very important difference between the people who act out these aggressions and the people who find themselves too stunned by the act to respond.

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