On my birthday two weeks ago, I had to renew my driver’s license. It was the first time in six years that I had to sit in the dusty, old, bursting-at-the-seams with people, Department of Public Safety building. Of course, as only my luck would have it — my phone died within the first few minutes of checking in and filling out a form, or five. So I found a decently position plastic chair and seated myself where I could see the number call screen and began the wait.
Others around me began to bide their time on their phones, utilizing game and social media apps to waste the minutes that I had to spend within myself. With no watch and no clock, the minutes felt longer.
That Friday was my 24th birthday. Cheers and happiness, of course, but then I began to think about all of the things that had happened between two licenses.
I graduated from high school, and university. I grew 6 years older, and in those years so much wiser. As I matured in those years I learned many things, I even began to understand prejudice and racism, from both sides of the coin.
The hardest thing I ever learned was that I already knew what prejudice and racism looked like, I already knew what stereotyping and the subsequent outcast of a person based on their color or creed felt like to that person, and I hadn’t even realized it. Once you learn about these terms and what they mean and how they learn as a minority, or as a person of color or as a person who has been pushed into a particular subset of society you slowly begin to review every memory, and every experience and realize what it was. A glance into hate, or ignorance, or unintended bias.
The first time I remember experiencing something that would not have happened if I were white, like my mother, I was four years old. As someone who is multiracial, I have been afforded a rare opportunity to experience biases towards me and witness privilege towards my own white southern mother, who has an easy name and fair skin.
“How was your first day of school,” I remember her asking me at the end of the day just after we walked into the house.
I began crying, I was genuinely upset. “Everybody thought I was spinach and kept asking if I could speak spinach.”
My mother laughed because I meant Spanish. I had been harassed by other students multiple times during the day as they insisted that I was Hispanic and could speak Spanish. Looking back, on such a small thing that left the four-year-old me stressed and frustrated, I can see the humor. The problem is I can also see the issue, those other students didn’t even understand that they were stereotyping all brown people into one little single language group.
I am so blessed that I have an extremely diverse family, that comes from so many different racial and religious backgrounds because it afforded me the ability to see both prejudices and privileges that different groups endure in America.
We call ourselves a “post-racial” society, but the issue is we aren’t, and allowing people to claim we are inhibits our ability to fight social injustices various minorities face. It dumbs down the instances of racial inequalities we experience in our lives as minorities in America.
Going through 12 years of public primary schooling in America involves a lot of racism when you take a deeper look. We are institutionalized with movies and society to view the cool kids as predominantly white. We are taught that millions of Natives were slaughtered, but it’s in the past, without being taught that to this day Natives in this country are still at a huge disadvantage and are still not afforded many privileges.
We are told that Slavery happened, and somehow we all just moved on and everything was rainbows and butterflies. No one teaches our students what happened between the “end” of slavery and the beginning of the civil rights movement. We are left with a half-educated youth that has just enough information to shut down the idea that racism is rampant, that institutionally facts show we aren’t equal.
I guess that’s the thing about licenses, you get one to drive, but why do we (intentionally or not) give out licenses to hate?
-That’s what Heba Said