Leo’s Comments

After the June post, “Life Sure Is Interesting In America!” and  the July post of “Four Words”, Leo wrote several interesting and insightful comments to me on the subject of race relations, which is a favorite topic of his:


Thanks…for sharing some of your experiences…I had 2 different reactions to the 2 situations.

The chick at the restaurant, yeah, she should know there are Whites all over Latin America, and Blacks, Indians, Asians and various points in between. Even non-Latin me knows that Mexico’s last president didn’t even have a Latin name, let alone being non-White. God bless her though.

The Black chick, though and about you being Colored, I think is different. You mentioned her “erroneous impression,” but to me it’s more a matter of what she means by Colored. She obviously didn’t think you looked any different after she heard you speaking Spanish, but rather, saw you (quite correctly) as belonging to a different ethnic or cultural group, and in this country, as you and all other Americans know, the ethnic group described as “White” has traditionally meant “non-Hispanic White.” To this day, law enforcement agencies have racial designations of “Black, non-Hispanic” and White, non-Hispanic.” You are Colored, in the same sense that Louis Farrakhan (with his 50% or – more White ancestry) is Black. In other words, culturally. Genetically you might be completely Euro, but probably most people down there in Dixie, if they knew you were Puerto Rican would not describe you as White but rather Puerto Rican. Which as we have discussed, is perfectly stupid if we’re trying to speak precisely and are using “White” as a racial designation….

…Let me give you one aspect of it from the perspective of the prison culture: You’re out there at the Y and a beef jumps off between the Whites and the Latinos—which side do you ride with? My guess is with the Latinos. Not because of anything other than the fact that more of who you are and where you come from has to do with your Latin culture than with your White DNA. As well it should. And that’s what I think your old Black chick means when she says you’re Colored. She means you’re not riding with the Whites, which to an old Black chick, from the South, is probably significant enough. The way the other Whites reacted to you afterward, even in this “post racial” era of ours, seems like testimony enough to that.



4 thoughts on “Leo’s Comments

  1. I wonder if we’re overanalyzing the event in the restaurant. I’m sure the waitress is aware of the various ethnicities in her home country, but the majority are probably short, brown-skinned people who speak Spanish and/or a Native American dialect.

    As she approached our table, I’m sure she briefly categorized us in the way we all do when we approach strangers. She saw two white females having a cheerfully animated conversation and figured her interaction with us would probably be either friendly or neutral. If we had looked Hispanic or Latino, she would have been more confident the interaction would be friendly.

    When Carole was placing her order, the waitress was astounded to hear grammatically correct Spanish – the typed spoken in her country by educated, influential people whose skin color might be brown or might be white. Depending upon how long she has been in the United States, it might have been the first time she had heard perfect Spanish spoken by a white woman. I think she might have blurted out the 4 words because she was so surprised that her initial assumption was wrong.

    Also, if a beef jumped up at the YMCA or another public place, I don’t think Carole would be choosing sides, preparing for a rumble. The smart person avoids physical fights and the possibility of injury, when possible, by leaving the scene. If it happened to be a verbal beef, Carole might respond, and depending on the situation, she might use humor to defuse the situation.

  2. Thank goodness the “beef” question was an intellectual exercise. And thank you for your faith in my ability to defuse a bad situation with humor.

  3. I always enjoy seeing how pleased the waiters and waitresses are to be able to comfortably converse with you.

    I’m glad the “beef” was an intellectual exercise. When our country gets past the fear generated by this economic downturn and the shock of having elected an African-American president, I hope race relations will be more harmonious in the United States.

    One of our greatest fears is always the unknown. I’m always happy to see Obama doing everyday things with his family because, over time, hopefully that will make polarized people realize that skin color is not that important.

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