Do You Know What It Feels Like?

Yes, discrimination has all kinds of masks and colors. You think about all the stories that cross your mind–both yours and the other stories. You tell yourself, “Here are the fragmented stories about the unspoken other masks.”

Do you know what it is to go shopping and see someone steal right in front of you? A grown ass male—just stuffing his huge pants with several items and not with care in the world.

Do you know what it is to skip an aisle because people can’t put things back in their place, so they throw it on the floor?

Do you know what it feels like to be calling your loved ones to hurry to pick you up because the neighborhood looks dangerous?

After taking a long trip from Irvine to the San Bernardino Metro Station, do you know what is to be standing on your own waiting for someone to pick you up, and then someone passes by to ask you, “hey, you got money,” and you’re too scared to answer? And then her partner, a big guy, says, “She asked you something!” So you answer, “Oh no, sorry.” You pray to God to protect you. Do you know how humiliating it is to answer to someone who just yelled at you and you can’t do shit about it? They were stronger than you. Therefore, they intimidated you. Do you know what it feels like it? It’s degrading to feel that powerless.Screenshot (205)

Do you know what is for someone to yell at you “FUCK YOU” because you didn’t give them cash? You’re coming out of the grocery store and paid with a credit card. Who carries cash with them nowadays anyway? And you are certainly under no obligation to give anyone money, especially if they are pushy and rude. They didn’t even say ‘please,’…sighs.

Do you know what it feels like when you park your car on the street in front of your neighbor’s house, and they decide to give you shit about it because the road for some reason belongs to them too? They not only own their home and property. They own the street. To avoid issues, you choose to never park there—not even for a second, and you make sure your guests don’t park there to avoid issues.

Do you know what it feels like to suddenly see your neighborhood deteriorate? Gun shots were foreign to your ears. Now, suddenly, they’re more familiar.

Do you know what it feels like to have neighbors, regularly, cuss and yell at each other in the middle of the night? Around two or three in the morning. Just yelling through their lungs. It echoes throughout the whole damn neighborhood.

Do you know what it feels like for your neighbors to be smoking pot and hearing music with a heavy bass background in the middle of the fucking night!

Do you know what it feels like to take your pups out to pee around midnight and see some stranger on the other side of the fence? All hooded up. Slowly, he then walks away and jumps into a nice car.

Ever heard a conversation among female friends where we prefer to laugh at the unfortunate matter because there’s really nothing else to do but that? Maybe you said yes or maybe no. Either which way, this is our conversation. We’re all college women discussing the difference between our neighborhoods and the one we study at.qote

“In ghetto LA, the guys are jerks. They like catcalling and whistling. It’s usually the uglier older men too.” The female friends nod in agreement—and some nodding in disapproval of the men’s behaviors.

“Yeah, if you walk by quietly, they’ll say, ‘good, that’s how I like them, quiet.’ If you tell them, ‘fuck you,’ they answer ‘that’s how I like them, feisty.’

“Yeah, and they have that rape look. I hate that look. You cover yourself even though you’re covered already.”

“You know that’s sexual harassment, right? I don’t know why they can’t learn the laws of this country.” Everyone nods and there’s an inexplicable unvoiced answer because it really is unfortunate that these men get away with sexual harassment—on a daily basis.

“That doesn’t really happen here in Irvine, huh?”

“The guys don’t even look at you here,” one girl says in amusement. It’s followed by a hoard of laughter.

One friend says, “We [her family] heard a girl get raped.” Her countenance dropped before executing her line. I almost saw a tear. The atmosphere turned calm & quiet.

“Did anyone call the cops?” Says another after several seconds. The silence felt eternal.

With an unfortunate voice, she answers, “they wouldn’t have gotten there on time.”

Do you know what it feels like to be bagging your groceries when you make eye contact with a stranger who looks fucking pissed at you? You don’t even know them, and they don’t’ know you. They stand there, a few aisles away, staring in your direction. Her eyes are full of hate. You think, “what the heck did I do wrong? Is it my face?” Now, you’re not one to pick fights and certainly not one to behave in a violent manner. But due to this odd and angry stare, you decide to leave a large can of beans ready to use it and defend yourself.

You continue bagging, and you attempt to ignore the situation. But remaining cautious. In your mind, you’re thinking about your siblings who are still wondering around the store and hoping they hurry back. One sibling is with you unaware of the situation, and because you don’t want to make a big fuss to avoid problems, you don’t say a word. You’re just worried their back is to their supposed enemy. At this point, you have nothing much but to say a prayer, “Lord, please protect me from this person.” Do you know what that feels like? No, it’s not just a brawl between two guys fighting over petty things at a bar or over a girl. You’re just grocery shopping.Screenshot (200)

 

Now picture this, you go out with a friend to catch a movie. You park your car while chatting away and grabbing your things. A group of female pre-teens approaches your way, and you hear “Fuck you bitch!” You turn to look where that’s coming from and why, right? In disbelief, you think, “That can’t be possible. That wasn’t meant to me. I’m sure.” Then you hear more cussing, “What the fuck are you looking at! Bitch!” All the girls, look at you with arrogance and anger. That’s when you realize. Indeed they are cussing at me. They continue walking to their destination. Nothing else consumes your mind but that current situation. “Why? What did I do?” Logic replies, “Nothing.”

Do you know what it feels like to get harassed and discriminated every day you go to class? It happened in sixth grade. Your arch nemesis yells every day, “You illegal immigrant” among other racial slurs. Your younger self-defends herself by saying, “I’m American.” The harassment finally reaches its point of no return so you break one day in front of the whole class—tears covering your entire face and unavoidable sobs. And guess what, the teacher didn’t do a thing. And want another guess what, the arch nemesis wasn’t even white.

Do you know what it feels like to wait at a school cross road after school hours while hundreds of kids pass to the other side? But hold on! Two teens stay in the middle of the road, tugging and hitting each other—for fun I guess. The young “ladies” decide to horse around in the midst of the crossroad while all of us wait. The guy in front of me finally honks at them, and they decide it’s cussing time. They flip him off and yell a bunch of nasty words. You wonder in your mind, “what the hell is happening to society. Or is it just my neighborhood. If so, I’ve got to move. Pronto!”

Because it never occurred your peers to ask what your culture was, you witness about 30 students bashing on your parent’s culture. All because the polite teacher wanted to know more about Guatemala. The kids gladly volunteered their hate—All Hispanic teenagers but not Guatemalan. The other two students of Guatemalan descent sit angrily and quietly while the rest of the class continue their racial slurs and laughter. Screenshot (160)

“Those people are all indigenous and low class,” shouts a student. Everyone nods in support.

“Yeah, they are really dark people too and really ignorant.”

You sit there thinking, “What the hell. I’m the lightest one in here.” Because God forbid, you’re dark-skinned.

“Oh yeah, we talk to those people. But we’re not really friends with them,” says another idiot.

Your friend, who isn’t Guatemalan, turns to laugh with you. However, naturally, you tell her in a firm tone, “My parents are from Guatemala.” Your friend’s laughter comes to a sudden halt and decides things aren’t that funny anymore.

Have you ever walked into a clothing store and the employees for some inexplicable reason decide to kick you and your family out? They stand side-by-side behind the counter yelling and pointing their fingers toward the door.

Screenshot (218)
Guatemalan actor & musician, Oscar Isaac.

 

 

“Get out! You illegal immigrants,” says one.

“Get out you fucking Mexicans,” says the other.

Your, twenty-one-self yells back, “We’re not illegal immigrants or Mexicans. We’re Americans! ”

One of the ladies says, pointing at your parents, “Oh yeah, well I bet they aren’t!” Of course referring to my parent’s thick accent. Therefore, that implied they were “illegal immigrants.” Sadly, ignorant and offensive. 

Your parents pull you out of the store because they figure it’s not worth it. Their Christian values don’t allow them to retaliate. But you’re ready to forget about those values and manners.

This is the crazy part, the “ladies” weren’t even white. Two different types of people (ethnic/race) mistreated you and your family.

At a very young age, you understand that discrimination has all kinds of masks and colors. You realized it doesn’t come just from white people and that not all white people are racists.

You also comprehend that you want to pursue an education and a career that will help you move away from ghetto neighborhoods because you have to be on your guard ten times more than in better neighborhoods.

You travel to nicer regions all the time and have moved to better areas as your income and career improves. And guess what, you feel more at ease. People are even more polite. People of all colors seem more pleasant. Not that you don’t encounter rude people everywhere, but it certainly is better to climb the social latter. To feel superior? No, to feel safer and calmer.

You think, “these are broken, fragmented, faceless, and senseless stories.”

 

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