let's talk about race

Yesterday a grand jury in Ferguson, MO, decided not to indict the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. Riots are breaking out across the county and race is being alternately discussed and then swept under proverbial rugs by various factions. I'm distraught by the injustice. But as a half-Colombian, half white American, I'm never sure where I fit into this narrative. I've never slung insults at others and I've rarely heard them used against me.

In college, I joined the Hispanic Student Association (we were not allowed to use the word "Latino" as the administration felt that term was "too political"), and my Mexican friends who had grown up in Texas or Chicago sometimes bandied about the word Spic to claim it or disdain it. To me, they taunted, “Half-breed,” good-naturedly. I remember once being at the mall with them, three or four of us fingering soft sweaters and holding up hoop earrings. Then my friend Liz whispered, “We’re being followed.” I turned to see a security guard loitering just outside the shop, watching our every move as if we were zoo animals on display. Or wild animals attempting to escape a hunter. “Let’s get out of here,” my friend said. We fled, giggling and whispering. My friend said, “Get a bunch of Spics together and you’ll get followed at the mall.”

That happened to me once. Once.

For millions of Americans it--and worse--happens everyday.