This is an American history lesson. Please, take the time to learn about it.
Come, sit with me.
I sat at a professional football game with my brother, cheering for the opposing team. They were losing handily during the first half, and those around us, in good-natured fashion, gave my brother and I quite the ribbing. Lots of laughter at our expense. We joked along, saying how we were simply a second-half team.
Well, as fate would have it, our team began to climb back in the game. As the score grew tighter, the comments toward us began to change. One man, sitting directly behind us, began daring us to bet him large sums of money. We respectfully declined, trying to still keep things light in nature. But, he persisted. When our team pulled ahead, and it became obvious they were going to win, he began with the inevitable.
Why don’t you go back to where you came from, was his first taunt. His wife said nothing. We did not turn around to confront him. The others who heard him sat silent.
“You f***ing spics” are all the same, is where he went next. No one spoke a word to him. No one stood up for us. We did not protest. You see, we know our place. We have been taught that our entire lives.
Come, walk with me.
I was coaching a baseball game on a Saturday morning. For the pregame, we had music on for the players and fans in attendance. It was 11:00 in the morning. Our stereo had a mark to which I would never allow the players to turn the volume past, as I wanted us to be good neighbors to those neighbors around our school. I had formed a very good working relationship with the family whose house was right up against our field. I would routinely check in with them to make sure my players and I were respectful of their property and their rights. They never once complained about the level of our music.
However, on that morning, someone else did. A gentleman from farther down the road drove his car up to the fence and began laying on the horn. One of my players went over to see what the issue was, and came to tell me the man wanted to speak to someone in charge.
I made the long walk from the press box to the gate where the man still sat in his car blaring his horn in obvious anger. When I reached the gate, he got out of his car and immediately starting waving his arms and yelling at me. I calmly asked him what he was upset about and he proceeded to tell me what a nuance the music was and how tired he was of it.
He demanded I go and shut it off. I told him we would turn it off once the game began in about thirty minutes. This did not appease him and he again demanded I turn it off immediately. I explained again that I would in short order, but this only further agitated him.
And so it began. The racial slurs, the degrading and profane name-calling. When I said, Sir, this conversation is over, he leaned forward and spit on me through the gate. I wiped the spit from my face, turned and made the long walk back to the press box, leaving him to continue swearing at my back.
I reported the incident to my Athletic Director. His only response, you handled it way better than I would have. He took no other action. I shared the incident with friends. They suggested I simply consider the source and not let it bother me. Don’t let the fact that I was verbally assaulted and spit upon bother me. Just chalk it up to ignorance and let it go. We have been taught that our entire lives.
Come, ride with me.
I traveled to Paris with a group of teacher friends and colleagues. On the way home, we all went through the standard security check points at Charles de Gaulle airport. However, when it was time to board, all of my friends, who happened to be white, simply handed their boarding passes to the attendant and boarded in normal fashion.
When I handed my boarding pass to the attendant, she said I needed to step to the side for an additional security screening. I asked her what that was about and she said it was simply a random check. Although, on the passenger list she had in front of her, I could see that my name was already highlighted.
I was made to wait for an additional thirty minutes with a few other passengers, while they emptied our belongings and did a full body search of us. I was made to unbuckle and unbutton my pants so they could put their hands inside of them.
When I finally got on the plane my friends asked what happened and I simply joked it off saying, you know me, always causing trouble. I did not want to upset or offend anyone by making a claim that it was because of the color of my skin, because of my last name. Do not play the race card. We have been taught that our entire lives.
Come, ride with me a little longer.
When the flight touched down at JFK airport, you needed to enter your passport on a machine which then spit out you your customs pass. When mine came out, it had a very noticeable X on it. I asked my friends if any of them had a similar mark to which they all replied no. When I asked an agent about it, she simply directed me to get in a different line from my friends. When I asked again, she said they would explain once I got to the customs agent.
The line I was put in was long and was not moving at all. Meanwhile, my friends were rapidly advancing through the line they were directed to. As I stood in line, for nearly three hours, fearful I was going to miss my connecting flight, I began to take notice of those who stood in line with me. What a beautiful and brilliant tapestry of color and shades it contained. And then it dawned on me why I had the X. Why they had the X.
When I finally reached the front of the line and the customs agent, I spoke to the fact that so many of us were persons of color. He vehemently denied it was a matter of profiling, but instead claimed there were certain triggers that caused people to have to go through additional clearance. I demanded to know what those triggers were and how I had set it off. He threatened me that I better settle down or else he could make things much worse for me.
He spoke of things like age, one way travel, length of stay. He specifically said, for example if you are a young male, who spent extended time in the Middle East, and is traveling one way to the US. I replied that I met none of that criteria and wanted to know exactly why I was detained for nearly 3 hours.
He told me if I gave him a moment he would tell me. His answer: your last name. But remember, this wasn’t some systematic form of profiling.
And, he saw nothing wrong with his answer. He had no problem that a US born citizen was detained simply because of his heritage. It was not the first time I have been separated on the basis of my name. I should be accustomed to it by now. In the eyes of others, I am a threat and deserve to be treated as such. We have been taught that our entire lives.
Come, live with me.
I went looking for a new place to live after my landlord decide to sell the condo I have been renting for nearly 10 years. I found an apartment complex on line that looked like it might be a good choice, so I filled out the application, paid the application fee, and made an appointment for a tour.
I showed up to the office for the tour with the manager, and after looking around, decided this seemed like a good place to call home. The manager handed me off to the receptionist to fill out the required forms, pay the deposit fee, and to determine a move in date.
The receptionist said they simply needed to do a background check, but that was merely a formality, and I could take possession as soon as that weekend. I left and began making plans to move in, including contacting a moving company to come pack up my belongings.
Two days later, the truck was packed and I turned my keys in to my landlord. Sad to be leaving a place that has been home for so long, but ready for a change.
But when I arrived at work, there was an email from the apartment manager saying they were revoking my right to live at their property due to my criminal record! The email also said as result of failing to indicate my criminal past on the application, I forfeit my right to my security deposit.
For the record, I don’t have a criminal record.
I frantically called and asked what they were taking about and the receptionist said that according to the background check, I had committed several felonies in the state of Texas. Understand, I have lived in Colorado for forty years.
I asked her for more details and she said according to the report, one Antonio Garcia, a 5’7” male, weighing 180 pounds, had committed several felonies including drug and weapons possession. Also, he had a history of driving while intoxicated charges against him.
You have the wrong person I pleaded.
First, I explained that my name is not Antonio, but rather Anthony. Next, I asked if she even paid attention to the person who was sitting across from her two days earlier. I am 5’3” and weigh 125 pounds soaking wet. She did agree that something appeared to be wrong with the report and put me in touch with the manager.
The manager told me my complaint was with the reporting agency not her, and there was nothing she could do for me. She hung up and from that point forward, refused to take any of my subsequent calls.
I contacted the reporting agency, and for the next 48 hours, I spent all of my time trying to clear my name. Do you know how difficult it is to prove you did NOT do something? That you were NOT somewhere? That you are NOT someone else?
The crazier part? The more agitated and defensive I became, the more guilty I sounded.
Okay, so yes, his name is Antonio, and yours is Anthony. But that’s basically the same. Okay, so yes, these offenses happened in Texas, and you live in Colorado. But you could have come to Texas to commit these crimes. Okay, so yes, this individual is taller and weighs more. But you could have lost weight.
All things that were said to me. Ridiculous? Not to them. You see, I basically fit the description. I am a Hispanic male. That alone incriminates me. We have been taught that our entire lives.
This is my America, America.
If it is not yours, I respectfully ask you not to tell me how to feel, how to respond, how to behave, how to protest.
If it is not yours, I respectfully ask you to speak up for me, to stand up for me, to look upon me in a new and different light, to help change my history moving forward.
Sit with me. Walk with me. Ride with me. Live with me. Respectfully. ~GForce”