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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

OMG, did you mean BLACK people?

"Petrolero!"
So we're talking about a friend's new boyfriend which no one has met yet.  Subtly my Cuban friend takes his right index finger and rubs it back and forth on the soft spot between his left thumb and finger.... the other Cuban guys squeal "OMG you mean he's BLACK.?"
 
"Gurl, don't you know it." He replies.  "A total petrolero."
 
"avanzando la raza"
I'm sitting in a community meeting for one of the more upscale neighborhoods in Miami.  The community activist is discussing the community. He is white.  As he discussing different areas of town he says: "well, there is nothing we can do for that area, it's what we call the uncivilized areas of (insert upscale neighborhood name here).  In my mind I know he's talking about the black and Hispanic area of that upscale neighborhood.
 
 
I'm at a neighborhood gathering in the same upscale neighborhood. This time an elected official states: "I know we're on the East Side because we are drinking and eating on glassware and not paper plates and cups."  In Miami, the East Side neighborhoods tend to be on or close to the waterfront, expensive and white and Hispanic.
 
I'm at a meeting for the improvement of Morningside Park.  A very old white lady states: "We need to close this city park (one of the oldest and loveliest in the city) and keep those "ethnics" out of our neighborhood."
 
"beautiful 3bed 2 bath in the uncivilized west side"
In the previous examples there was some strange commonality. In each case the groups were either liberal, gay or Democratic.  The affluent areas discussed are overwhelmingly diverse with no plurality of whites, Hispanics or Blacks.  So to hear no sense of hesitation when other groups are disparaged, called "uncivilized" is surprising. One thing is to joke among friends about somebody dating a black man. Fine, most of the guys at the table had at one time or another done it. Yet, to sit in a community meeting with a group of strangers and call a whole neighborhood "uncivilized" or trying to "keep those ethnics out" is ridiculous, sad and retrograde. Most of the people making these statements were of my generation or older.
 
In Miami it's been awhile since I've heard the coldness of white people racism. When it comes from old white folks there seems to be a sharpness to it I can't describe.  When Latinos speak about racism against blacks it's coached in humorous giggles but just as condescending. As someone who is half of one and half of the other, I find both offensive.  
 
I, like everyone, am guilty of racist thoughts and comments.   I even make them around black colleagues and friends. They are too polite to call me on it.  Gotta work on that too.....