“I’m not white!?…”

I was cussed out again last night by one of the “leaners”. A leaner is a term that I coined for the persons in my neighborhood that take a multitude of pills and/or other controlled or illegal substances; get so high that they essentially fall asleep standing up. The “sleep” mode that they go into is trance like and causes them to “lean” in all directions but never quite fall over…thus comes my term “leaner”. So this woman came in to the B&V market (which now has a nice new space mid-block rather than on the corner) for who knows what. Chirine and I were “in the store” (meaning we were behind the bullet proof acrylic wall…it was Chirine first time in!) talking to Brionni and Teddy about houses and the new store. The woman was unsuccessfully trying to put a pen on the turnstile and pretty much ended up with her butt to the glass, and her nose almost to the floor.

Side note: The Leaners are similar to zombies. They are essentially tranced out and unaware of their surroundings. However, a loud noise and they are wide “awake” and most of the time mean.

So Brionni leans over and slaps the glass right where the woman’s butt is (after I pretended to pinch her butt through the glass). The woman immediately started yelling about “why would he think it’s funny to scare her” as she struggles to stand up. She comes over to where Brionni and I were standing and proceeds to yell at “us” through the glass. I say “us” since we really don’t know what she was yelling and more specifically to whom she was really yelling. She looks at me looking at her and asked what the (expletive) was I looking at. I let her know that since we had no idea who she was talking to we were all listening and I apologized if she wasn’t directing her conversation towards me.

So here’s the deal: I grew up on military bases in Europe where my classes consisted of every race, mixed and not mixed. I did not understand the reasoning behind racism growing up and I do not understand it now. Skin color describes the exterior appearance of a person; it does not define who a person is (despite cultural stereotypes), where they should live or how they should act… So when this woman informed me that I did not belong in this neighborhood and I was trying to be a “negro” I decided to not respond…she continued to cuss me out through the glass, cuss out Teddy and Brionni more, then back to me. Then she started in on me because I was white. I found that the “brain/mouth” sensor was indeed turned off at that point because I replied “I’m not white!?”. “what color are you then (expletive) cause you ain’t pink…you ain’t blue… (expletive, expletive)…
I let her know I was tan. I’ve worked very hard to get this light golden brown tone… apparently that wasn’t funny.

She eventually left and went back outside to loiter with the other leaners. Chirine was a little bit scared as this was her first encounter with a leaner. We waited a little bit to let the lady simmer down and to let Chirine relax a little before leaving. This was not my first encounter with a leaner and I learned that the best thing to do is just ignore them. No matter how nice you are (even if just to say “hi, how are you today” you will most likely be perceived to have a condemning attitude and you will be yelled at)…I need to work on taking my own advice.

All joking about my skin color aside…racism sucks. My first day to step foot on this block I was called a “white B*@#&^”… I had to make a decision right then and there. Live in fear of my surroundings because my skin is lighter… or love the people around me no matter what color, what background, what they’ve done (or not done), what they say or how they view me. I chose the latter. The Lord has changed me exponentially over the past year…I am filled with joy even in challenging situations (“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy! Psalm 126:3…exclamation mark added). I find I have been more blessed by the people, friends and children in this neighborhood than anywhere else I have ever lived and I cannot let the ignorance of others (or my own for that matter) prevent me from receiving those blessings.

The realization I admitted (I say admitted because I always pretend like it doesn’t bother me and I turn it into a joke) this morning is that it truly, truly hurts. Racism hurts. It has cut right to the core of me and made me second guess who I am. Are the things that have been said to me over the past 2+ years true? Do I really not belong here? Did I do anything to warrant that comment? Ok, ok…did I somewhat instigate this woman yesterday?…yes. She is not mentally there, I should have ignored her from the beginning. However, saying “good morning” and getting a verbal rocket attack or standing on the sidewalk looking in an opposite direction and being snobbishly called names due to my lack of melanin is not anything I can prevent. I also refuse to change who I am to avoid potential berating. If someone is offended that I say good morning or that I live in certain place, that is their problem to deal with not mine and I must remember that. Love others consistently (this is a tough one) and treat people with respect (remembering that everyone has a different definition of respect). But despite the overwhelming joy that I have for life…at the end of the day, it hurts…no matter whose “problem” it is to deal with.

“Love God, Love others…nothing else matters” Matthew 22:37-40

One Comment

  1. Hey, this is Allison, Chad's mission year housemate. I really loved reading your reflections over all of this. I have been confronted with this exact thing more times than I can say this year, and every time it only seeks to confuse me about my place in the neighborhood/world/discussion on racism. I think it sounds like you've come to a great place through all of it, though. You are a reminder to me and an encouragement to love consitently. look forward to hearing more!

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