With the racism and sexual assault allegations that have befallen the Governor of Virginia, the Attorney General of Virginia, and the Lt. Governor of Virginia, I was reminded of all the racist altercations I experienced growing up in Virginia for public high school and public university in the mid-to-late 90s.
Given the revelations at the senior levels of Virginia government today, you know racism in Virginia wasn’t unusual decades ago. Racism wasn’t a constant ubiquity, but I did experience some type of racist encounter about every 10th time I went out of the house.
One of the more milder examples was while waiting in line to go to the bathroom at a gas station off I-95 heading south. A white guy behind me said, “Hey, don’t you understand English? What are you waiting for? The bathroom is open!“
I turned around and said, “There’s actually someone in there. They just didn’t lock the door. Do you understand the English that’s coming out of my mouth?”
He backed down with an “Oh, never mind.” But I was ready to rumble.
The amazing thing about all these racial experiences is that it’s all I knew after coming to America for high school.
I thought it was normal to be on the receiving end of racial slurs or racial innuendos every so often. I just endured and fought back as hard as I could each time.
Yes, I got suspended from school multiple times for fighting, but it was worth it to defend my honor. Kids stopped messing with me once they felt my fists of fury.
After I got a job in 1999 in New York City and again when I moved out to San Francisco in 2001, I realized that being a minority in America felt so much more comfortable in a diverse city.
My racial conflicts dropped from every 10th time I went outside to maybe every 25th time I went outside in Manhattan. In San Francisco, I can’t remember my last racial conflict because we are a minority majority city.