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.