Updated: Sep 7, 2020
I recently read an article entitled: "This City is a Multiracial Mecca".
The title alone had me intrigued. In this day and age what city in what country can claim that title?
I was surprised to find it was, of all places, Tacoma Washington.
The author interviews several people who are mixed race, some who look it, some who don't and reflect on their experiences growing up in the are and how they feel about the topic of "Race".
I enjoyed the entire article, laughing at times, nodding in agreement at others, the part that struck me the greatest chord in me was when they discussed what it was like traveling outside of Tacoma; noting how they were gawked at, looked at askance, and how uncomfortable it made them. They said how these experiences made them realize how they've been spoiled growing up where they did.
This was the part of the article that really made me sit back and ponder my own upbringing. these experiences resounded with me because they mirrored my own. I live in Corpus Christi Texas, a small city on the Texas Gulf Coast with a sizeable minority population.
This may sound strange, but I didn't know I was a minority until I was about ten years old. That was when I realized, I was "Mexican". It was quite the revelatory moment. Even then, I never thought much of it until I was thirteen, switched schools, and realized that being "Mexican" meant being "different". It marked the first time that I really understood that I was part of a minority. Even then it wasn't seen as a big deal. It was just part of what made me.
I say all this so that you understand that full depth of what I am about to say- In as much as people have noticed my race (or even asked that most annoying of questions, "What are you?"), I've never experienced real racism. No one has ever been intentionally mean to me based on my race or ethnicity.
Several years ago I had to make regular trips with my mother and grandmother to a small town in central Texas to visit a relative who was in a rehabilitation hospital there. As my mother, grandmother and myself would travel around the small town looking for places to eat, I was surprised at how many second glances people were giving us.
Some asked us where we were from and when we told them Corpus Christi many acted as though I'd stated some exotic locale and wanted to pick our brains with questions about what it was like to live here. My family and I found it all a bit amusing :)
Even there, in this tiny little town in Central Texas whose demographics would make it look like a bastion of bigotry, my family and I were generally treated with respect and even kindness, if not also as something a bit exotic.
The Cowboys, (and yes I mean actual men who work on a ranch herding cattle and dressed the part), opened doors for us , the women were nice.
No one was mean or rude at all.
The only unwelcome reminder of my minority status there was when I ordered a breakfast taco at the only "Mexican" restaurant in town and they brought me a rubber disk wrapped around a sausage and eggsicle. Apparently that was what passed as Mexican food there. My deepest condolences to the poor deprived people of Gonzalez Texas. I sincerely hope they have since had someone else open up a real Mexican restaurant. They deserve the luxury.
I can honestly say that the area I've grown up in and wherever I have ever traveled in Texas its easy to forget I'm a minority. It's not something I've had to think about. All this is only my experiences.
So now let me tell you some not so nice experiences.
The only kind of prejudice I've ever had to deal with is from other "Mexicans". When in certain sides of town I get looked at askance when its revealed I don't speak any Spanish, especially when its revealed that I attend a Baptist Church. For some that equals apostasy.
My nephew who manages a hotel has told me many times of incidence where someone comes up to him speaking Spanish and when he tells them he doesn't, they start berating or even yelling at him.
"How dare you not speak in your native tongue!" one guest yelled at him.
"What? The language wasn't good enough for you?"
My nephew is fifth generation American, why would he speak any Spanish?
I can honestly say that as far as prejudice goes, that's the worst any of us have ever had to deal with.
I've met people who are new to the area who have been surprised at how nice everyone is, telling me that they had expected to get deal with racism and prejudice. That they were expecting gun play in the streets and cowboys riding horses in their way to work when they moved here.
I tell them, what they are thinking of is a very false impression of Texas. It may have been true in another era, but not this one. That is a Texas I have never known. My parents and grandparents' generation fought that battle long before I was born and based on my own life experience, I believe I can safely say, they won. ;-)
Now let me end on a more comedic note: Several years ago at my work I had a new boss who was from out of state. She was Japanese American and had told me how pleasantly surprised she had been at how nice everyone was here in Texas.
One day, she and several others in the ESOL lab where I work, (as a tutor), all began discussing their experiences since moving here. She had previously told me how she had been on the receiving end of serious racism when she had been in Maine. So when her husband was transferred here, she had been nervous about what to expect.
Everyone else, a Turkish Muslim woman wearing a traditional scarf, a Venezuelan couple, a Russian girl, a Brazilian and a Mexican student all told the same story; they had been afraid of moving to Texas due to its "Wild" reputation but once they came, they had all been pleasantly surprised.
One woman, who I knew had been a lawyer back in Venezuela, told a story in her clipped Venezuelan accent that really exemplifies how I feel.
I will tell it now as she told it to us. :D
"'So me and my sister went to visit friends in Houston, who are also from Venezuela. We all went out to eat at a nice restaurant. We're all sitting down, talking in Spanish, having a good time and a man in the booth next to us looks at us and starts talking so loud and so angry about how all these dumb Mexicans are coming to take our jobs and take over the country and they can't even speak English... and he was being so loud about it, other people were starting to look!
So I stood out of my chair, got in his face and got after him about how rude he was being. And you could tell, he was so surprised I speak English.
'What, you think just because I speak Spanish, I don't speak English?' I told him.
'So where are you from? Huh? Huh?' And he answered back so embarrassed.
'I am from Louisiana.'
'I knew it! You are rude! You are not from Texas!'"
At this point everyone in the room cracked up laughing.
"And he didn't say another word the rest of the time he was there!"
"Good for you." I remember saying as we all laughed.
Hey man, totally true. If you want to be rude, stay out of Texas.