Friday, July 11, 2008

When Not to Play the Race Card

Racism, as you may have noticed, is a bit of a touchy subject with me. Here's why.

As a white male approaching middle age, many people assume I've never experienced the hard side of racism. Compared to some other people, I suppose I have not really. But here's a story...

When I was a Marine, fresh out of boot camp and in infantry school before I went to artillery school, we were given the weekends off for liberty, or libo as we called it. This was a time to go do whatever the heck you pleased.

Well. In boot camp, I had made a few friends. Having gone through boot together, we remained close in infantry school. So when one of my buddies invited a few of us home with him for the weekend (he lived in LA, a short hop from school) we all said sure!

So I left with Almeda, Fujita and DelaRosa and we took a bus North. It bears mentioning here that Almeda and DelaRosa were Hispanic, and Fujita was of Japanese ancestry, though he grew up in Hawaii. I was a younger white Midwesterner who had grown up with friends of every color and creed, and didn't think much of hanging out with these guys from all over.

We got to LA, found the building and walked in following DelaRosa. There were high fives with some other guys, and they were all speaking Spanish, leaving Fujita and I in the dark. But they welcomed us since we hung with D. It had been a long ride, so I asked where the bathroom was. (though in those days, we called it a 'head'.) D pointed down a hallway and gave me instructions. I set off, and walked into a living room with about ten guys watching TV. As I entered I raised my hand to say Hi.

Before I could get that out, one of them yelled 'WHITE GUY!' and before I knew it, many of them had drawn handguns and were beading in on me. D ran into the room between me and his buddies.

"Don't shoot him! He's with me!"

I stood looking befuddled and hoped I had not soiled myself too badly.

"Sorry man." D said as he turned. "Forgot you were white."

There was much talking in Spanish. Arguing, pointing at me, that sort of thing. But eventually D convinced them to let me stay.

I think, when we rehashed it back on base, that it was the first time since before boot that any of us had seen skin color. In boot the Drill Instructors (DI's) told us there were only two colors. Light Green and Dark Green. And really, anybody could choose whatever color they wanted to be. But we all bled red. So we were brothers. Bound by the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. And we didn't really think twice before hanging out together, regardless of our 'past lives'.

So. I have experienced the sharp and pointy edge of race. I'm not entirely milky white. (Though the above story is my only real 'street' story.)

Anyway. Work. A couple of nights ago. (Story deleted due to pressure from work. It's not nice to mention racists when they are patients.)

It took me the rest of my shift (about a half hour) and the hour drive home to calm down.

Never play the race card with me. Ever. And especially when I am holding an extremely sharp object that is protruding from your body. God was no dummy. Like any good mass producer he made sure that even morons come in all colors.

More Later

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