I fraking love traveling. LOVE IT. But there is always something I have to consider when I’m traveling to new places that I really wish I didn’t have to consider, and that is what the diversity and “tolerance” is like at the place I want to travel to. Especially if I am traveling with family. Not going to lie, I’m jealous of people who don’t even have to consider that. Whether they are a person of colour or not. Due to my past experiences it is something that I simply must.
If I am going somewhere to vacation and relax then racist shit is really the last thing I want to deal with. This is not to say that I never experience racism at home, but there’s a comfortable familiarity with one’s surroundings at home.
Recently I went with my family on a vacation to Hawaii. It was awesome. What was not awesome was this particular interaction I had with a elderly Caucasian man whilst there.
Setup/Background – My family and I were walking along a road that is just crammed with shopping stores and malls, therefore it’s largely populated with tourists. We were all standing at a busy intersection waiting for the walk signal dude to light up. My dad wears a turban and has a beard, my mom and grandmother wear dupatta’s that cover their head. I wear pretty much a bandana head covering and on this day I was also wearing a t-shirt that says “All power to the people” and has a raised fist on the front. (Kinda like this one – http://s639.photobucket.com/albums/uu111/northstar007/?action=view¤t=fist.png&newest=1). So that was all happening when this happened.
*I feel like to save a bit of face I should note that I’m one of those people who is horrible in a moment of confrontation and/or a verbal smackdown and then will think of amazing comebacks well after the fact. I mean, WELL after the fact. Meh, slow and steady wins the race people.
Random Elderly White Dude: *walks right up to me, completely invading my personal space* Power to who?!
Me: What? Oh..*Looks down at t-shirt* ..that. Power to all people.
REWD: To who? Just other Muslim people like you?! Huh?
Me: No sir, to all people from all different backgrounds.
REWD: Oh riiiiiight (I feel this was said with a pinch of sarcasm on his part, btw). They have to cover their head like you though right? (at this point the dude was starting to shout and getting hostile)
Me: No sir (I actually don’t really ever use sir in daily conversation but in this instance I couldn’t stop saying it, maybe it was the nerves. It just kept coming out like verbal diarrhea) it really means power to all people, Sir.
REWD: Go back home! Leave America and get out of our country. We are going to track you all down and take care of you all.
Me: Sir, I’m Canadian.
REWD: Ohhh well that just explains it! YOU’RE ALL COMMUNISTS! GO BACK HOME! (starts to walk away)
Me: Sir, that really isn’t the case.
REWD: (keeps walking away) We’re going to take care of you all! *incoherent speech, mumble grumble* just leave!
Me: (to his back, although he could definitely still hear me) Have a good day sir!
*End of conversation.
This happened two weeks ago now, I’m still thinking about it. That’s why I’ve decided to post after so long. I’ve had the opportunity to think and hash over it a bit now.
1. I didn’t take this whole thing seriously at all at first, rather I found it hilarious in that I was laughing at the guy’s stupidity and narrow mindedness. Then it really hit me that he literally threatened the safety and well being of my family. What the balls was that “we’re going to find you and take care of you” shit. I really doubt he wanted to track us down so he knew where to send a gift basket. You got to admire the hypocrisy in that if I had threatened his safety and well being I’d be seen as a terrorist. However it was perfectly fine that he did cause he was being patriotic.
2. I’m not Muslim. In the moment all I can remember thinking is that was not the point at all and the douchebag probably didn’t know the difference between Sikhs and Muslims anyways. The bottom line is that his actions were stupid regardless. I felt like it would have been a write off to just say but I’m not Muslim therefore continue on with your ignorant prejudice and discrimination, just make sure to aim it at the right people. Also I had a feeling he wasn’t up for a in depth intelligent and thoughtful discussion about the state of racism and Islamophobia in America so I just left it. What surprised me was that as soon as he made the assumption that we were American I felt the need to clarify that we were Canadian. Ha. Who says we Canadians aren’t proud people, eh?
3. Many people witnessed this interaction. It was a busy intersection and they were all intently watching. All of them were white people. No one said anything. I can’t say that I really expected any of them to step up and say something but a little part of me did. After the REWD walked away they just kept averting my eyes.
I think that this experience is sticking with me more than usual because my whole family witnessed this. Stuff like this, albeit not as intense usually, happens to me quite frequently but I bare the full brunt of it and I can handle it myself. It was just really disheartening to witness my family having to go through it too with my own eyes.
To end I’d like to give a shout out to the very stereotypical Southern American lady, in terms of appearance and accent, I was sitting with on my flight home. She was a lovely woman and very warm individual. We talked about our respective trips and had great conversations. The kindness she showed me affected me more then she will ever know.