I Thought They Were Exaggerating

As I mentioned in my last entry, one thing I learned while I was in America was how systemic and unnoticed-by-most the racism actually was. To be honest, when I’d been reading all of the articles about it from abroad, I thought it was over-hype. Yes, it’s terrible that racist tragedies are happening, but surely they’re just a series of bad luck. Surely it’s not still that pervasive that we have to constantly talk about it….

It’s still that pervasive though.

Since I started dating Arabs five years ago, I started to count the number of Arabs I saw in any given place in America. (Also learned this summer: Philadelphia, very few Arabs.) Segregation is one of the biggest issues I have with American society because my children will be half Arab, most likely, and I want them to have cultural ties of some sort while they’re there. I hate that I have to look up percentages of Arabs when I’m considering dream futures. My mom likes to suggest that I move back to my hometown near Chicago when we move to America. I always laugh and tell her that’s ridiculous because there are zero Arabs, so why would I take my Arab husband and children there to be outcasts. Once, her response was something along the lines of “I’ll take you to the Walmart where the Arabs go!” And she literally does not see the ridiculousness of that statement.

The black/white divide is something I sort of disregarded in New York because when I lived there, I lived in a neighborhood where white was the minority. But that doesn’t actually mean I mixed with my non-white neighbors. This time around, I mentally playing a game with myself where I would count how many times I saw interracial groups or pairs (platonic, not just romantic). I always got really excited about it when I saw them, but I realized that many of them were actually just work friends on lunch together. And there’s this quote from Americanah that sums it up: “In America, blacks and whites work together, but don’t play together.” (A fantastic book, if you haven’t read it.) Obviously there are going to be exceptions, but it was really quite noticeable once I started looking for it.

And since I’ve been out of the country, I watched that video where the police pulls over the black couple, scares the shit out of them and then gives them ice cream. And I smiled when I first watched it because her surprise and relief is so refreshing. But then I recognized how truly fucked up that is, to treat people like that. And how fucked up that it’s meant to be amusing how scared they get. Like….. that’s not funny. It’s a terrible microcosm of the mindset of race in America.

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2 Responses to I Thought They Were Exaggerating

  1. Georgie says:

    I always get a little excited inside when I see people of different races hanging out together. But unless they are a couple… I kind of assume they are just colleagues. It is nice that everyone can work together, though. I currently work in a very multicultural workplace and I love getting to know about the people I work with. About their cultures and traditions and how different things are for them living in a ‘white’ country. Racism in general makes me feel really uncomfortable. I’ve read far too many stories about people’s experiences on the job.

  2. Marianne says:

    My half-Spanish boyfriend and I moved to Park Slope about a year and a half ago. He has dark hair, a dark complexion, and a lot of tattoos. He gets followed almost every time he goes to a grocery store, or even a store in the mall (I’ve seen it happen myself, it’s ridiculous) — plainclothes employees will just suddenly show up in the same aisle and pretend to shop (and they do a bad job at pretending). An old Italian guy hangs out at the pizza place next door; he approached my boyfriend and started talking shit about Black Lives Matter. Twice this year (that I know of) there have been notable attacks on Asian females in the city, by strangers.

    The Trump effect has resulted in a lot of people’s prejudices bubbling to the surface. It’s made NYC a really ugly place to live, though I keep wondering if it’s new or if I am just stupid and it’s always been around, and I didn’t see it before.

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