Real Talk: My First Encounter With Racism

Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has been gaining a lot of momentum, because of all the things happening in the U.S right now.

Racism has always been a weird topic for me. As a Filipino, I’ve never really experienced racism to the same degree as many other races do, and often find it hard or awkward to speak out on those issues when I haven’t, thankfully, experienced much racism first hand.

Though, with all that’s been happening, I remembered my first real life encounter with racism. Before that, I had only imagined racism being something on T.V, on the news, and not something that could happen in my own life. After all, I grew up in quite a small town/city (though currently, my city is expanding at the rate of an exponential function), which at the very least gave me a very enclosed ‘bubble’ to live in.

I was in an outlet mall with some of my extended family from my mother’s side. It was the Labour Day weekend, and my grandmother wanted to get some shopping in after spending the night away from home for the holidays. At this time, I was still a pre-teen, probably 12 or so years old. I remember going into a fancy store that sold $500 handbags and $50 umbrellas. I was with my grandmother, my mom, and my aunt. They were looking at some cross body bags that were on sale, when my aunt got a text from her husband.

Now, interracial marriage is rare for those in Asian culture, but I had never really noticed it until this point in my life.

My uncle, (my aunt’s husband), had married into our family. He was Pakistani, though raised in North America. Honestly, he is one of the kindest souls I’ve ever met. In fact, my earliest memories of him are when he used to come over for birthday parties, etc. with my aunt, and would always always play with my sister and I.

This was around the time when the Nintendo DS Lite had just come out, and my sister and I had gotten the game Yoshi’s Island for Christmas. Now, we both played for fun, but we also both sucked at the game. My uncle would always play it for us, and let us watch, even when he could probably be doing so many more interesting things.

Not only this, but my uncle is also very very sharp. Every time I talk to him, I feel like I’ve been enlightened. He’s an engineer, and talks a lot about his job, and I always find it so fascinating that someone can be so intellectual and passionate about the things they do.

But I digress, up until this moment in time, I had never once thought of my uncle in terms of his race, and how he was different from the rest of my family. But it was on the Labour Day weekend, that race finally became something I noticed in my every day life.

See, my uncle had texted my aunt, because he was stuck at the front door of the store. There were a line of people, and my uncle had asked if he could get in, not to shop, but because their daughter wanted to be with her mom, and he just wanted to accompany us in the store. He was denied access of course, which seemed to be fair enough, considering the line of people waiting to get in, but it did not end there, even though I wish it did.

The manager of the store accused my uncle of making up this whole story because he wanted to get into the store to steal something.

Why? Simply because he was Pakistani.

I remember the hurt on my aunt’s face, as she fought with the manager. My uncle, bless his soul, really didn’t want any sort of confrontation, and decided just to wait outside.

Of course, my aunt would take none of this, and boycotted the store for the rest of the day.

It was a shock to me, really. To think, someone as kind, smart, and golden-hearted as my uncle could be denied entry into a store, simply due to the colour of his skin was an outrageous idea.

But unfortunately, a sad reality.

Up until that moment, I didn’t understand the weight of racism. But because of stories like these, I had to come to the awful conclusion that some people were judged and therefore systematically oppressed because of their race; plain and simple.

I don’t write about this to gain sympathy or attention. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in my family that even remembers this story (and Lord, I hope I’ve remembered it correctly). I simply write this because I think it’s unfortunate that every human being will have a moment in life where they will realize that people are not treated equally to each other. Especially so, on such trivial things like differing skin colours, religions, cultures, etc.

We need to speak out for the minorities that are fighting for equality. There are so many wonderful people that are treated poorly, and it just burdens my heart that this happens.

Never forget to show love this week, next week, and every week onward. Our world feels full of hate right now, but if we each make a conscious attempt to spread just a little bit of love, eventually, that love will reach someone who really really needs it right now.

– Carole