race issues

Published: July 12th 2011
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Few things really bother me about my community I feel like I really lucked out except for one thing .. race issues.. my first week here I go out with some locals and work in a field reforesting I come back as red as a cherry and there's no comment you know I'm white that happens but like two days later when my latent Hispanic genetic heritage takes over and I turn a warm golden brown I start getting looks. Halfway through my day I get told by one woman that I should be more careful or I'll end up as ugly and black as them... it's just like your hearts stops.. once I restarted my heart I told her that she wasn't ugly and she gives me a look before walking away... another woman stops me later in the day and asks me what will my parents think when they sent me away white and I come back black I try to assure her that they wont care though I am mentally thinking about the skin cancer thing and how I think it runs in the family but I don't say that .. she leaves too. I am like totally flabbergasted.. I had a presentation the next day just basic health stuff and since I had access to a projector I had made a power point for forms sake.. so I went home and spent hours changing every photo that I possibly could to a black person..though that probably made a piss-ants difference. I go to bed that night thinking I'll show them dark now I am gonna leave here blacker then they are but I know that thats probably not possible and would serve me right screwing myself over medically out of spite
A week later we are in Nicoya and I decide that I want a caramel cappuccino smoothie thingy the people I am with make excuses not to go with me which is like cool cause obviously who wants to watch someone drink a 3 dollar smoothie when ur not having one I get it.. I order and take the last table which is kinda wasted cause there are 4 seats and one me. I am barely started when a tall fit black guy stops in front of me with his donut and hot cappuccino and asks me in halting Spanish if he can sit with me I reply in English that he should go for it and he gives me a thank jesus she speaks english look before sitting down we introduce ourselves he's from Philly he is just having a good summer was supposed to travel with friends but one bailed and the other flunked two classes so his parents wouldn't give him the money to go.. he shares his donut I my whip cream we have the kind of conversation that often happens when two people who speak the same language find each other in a foreign land.. we are both long since done when I notice the women from my community standing on the sidewalk outside I rise and say goodbye we shake hands and both head out I get him directions to the Liberia bus station from one of the women and explain the intricacies of directions a la costarricense. He heads off and one women shakes her head and asks me why was I talking to him he is so ugly. I tell her that it was just a we both speak English thing and she looks at me funny.. I then tell her that he was pretty cute I mean not a fashion model but who is... one of them looks at the other and I realize its a black thing so I tell them we should get moving or we will miss the bus to avoid the conversation I really don’t want to have.. I see a large supermarket and suggest we go in. they demure again so I rush in while they wait outside I do my shopping as quickly as possible. We then head to the bus with them talking amongst themselves and laughing during the ride since I have my iPod on and cant hear them. I get that feeling that they are talking about me so I pause the music and listen in. they are talking about me they seem to think that I am silly for liking black people and If they were as white as me they would not let their kids be less white then them. My first thought is hey what do u look like expletive deleted and I slam my music back on with a sigh.. then I get to thinking about how they see me I have never thought of myself as white I mean like Taylor Swift is white I'm just somewhere in between. But maybe my thinking that is part of the problem. I say nothing and continue saying nothing ignoring the digs at Nicaraguans and Colombians cause I just don't want to go there though I stop hearing cracks about black people at least though I actually choose an English textbook because it has pictures of blacks and Asians in it..
I am watching Hawaii five O one day waiting for my second meeting of the day and two people, a man and a women stop behind me and tell me that Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim are pretty for Chinese people. I internally pause every cell in my organism tells me to ignore it except for this little voice in the back of my head that tells me that I went to that two hour cultural sensitivity training for a reason.. I take in a deep breath and point out that they are actually Korean and most other Asians don’t like to be called Chinese off their blank looks I added they wouldn't like being called Panamanians the man nods and walks away the woman leaves with no reaction. (I Google it later and they are actually of Korean descent so 1 point for me or is it 2)
a week later and the news of the nation is that teen soccer phenom Joel Campbell will probably sign with a European team and make over a billion colones a year (somewhere between 15n 20 million euros) and somebody actually says that he is lucky he will be rich cause he is so black he is ugly . This is where I find my delicate line is formed I need to be forceful but not shrill if I am too annoying they wont listen if they were listening at all. So I tell them jokingly that envy kills I then point out that he has worked hard for everything he has. natural talent wont get u on the national team before u are 20. I then make a slightly vulgar joke of how he was probably never alone even when he was an amateur to much laughter but I don’t know how effective I was.
And then sunday this group of Nicaraguan tourists came for a city tour and lunch. So they basically drove 5 hours from Liberia the last two hours on a bumpy road from hell to walk around for 20 mins cause nobody opened their houses up like they usually do for white tourists and have the privilege of paying ten bucks for lunch.
Come Monday morning there is just bitching about how they weren't polite I point out that they were promised a house tour and didn't get one also the ride here from Liberia is no picnic she starts to tell me that no the nicas are just like that I tell her that they don’t like being called that they are nicaraguense. She gives me an incredulous look before asking me why shouldn't she call them what they are. I look at her and ask her oye negrita como esta su comida (hows ur food) and she cringes I ask her why can't I call her that since she is dark skinned she tries to tell me that it not the same but someone else interjects that it is. She then goes off on a rant about how if I go to Nicaragua I will just get raped cause thats what they do and that Colombians only want to sell drugs and screw everyone over. I ignore the first part cause that conversation can only go bad and tackle the second by asking her about Shakira and Juanes and if she thinks they take time off of their world tours to go home and be drug dealers she points out that those 2 are special I try to tell her that every society is like that some bad people some good I then ask her if we think of all the people in jail for drugs are they all foreigners or are there costarican criminals as well. I segway into there are some people in the US who think that everything will be perfect if all the Hispanics leave including Costaricans she begins to shake her head in disagreement I ask her how those two things are different she tells me the second ones wrong but the first I just don't know enough and she gives me a pitying look. I take in a deep breath and tell her the first rule of business is serving people you don't like with a smile and that since they were not given the city tour they were promised they could ask for a refund of what they paid she put a take my money look on her face. They can also tell people you mistreated them making other people not come here. With that I took my leave saying I had too much work to do I went home and put my ear phones on and tried to groove to my Hawaiian jams but I couldn't.
The self hatred and lack of respect for other cultures (don’t even get me started about indigenous people) is one of the motivating factors for me giving my self-empowerment course to young girl's. Now I am sure I can do i'm proud to be me I got that but can I do i'm proud to be black?
I mean I do have obvious qualification flaws.


12th July 2011

Your effort is commendable. Remember success here is measured in tiny bite size pieces. In Puerto Rico, we here similar chatter about the Dominicans. Unacceptable racism exists everywhere. Continue your quest but not at the expense of your mission. You must have influence to cause change.

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