This post is a lot harder to write than I thought. So I’ll just start at the beginning.
I watched a movie tonight, under the recommendation of someone I know. The movie had many odd moments and an intense racial moment about midway through. I actually stopped the film at its halfway point…unsure if I could carry on.
I’ve seen some harsh movies dealing with race, gender, orientation, etc. I’m always hesitant on whether I can view certain images. However, I wasn’t prepared for the ending of this film. Something told me it wasn’t going to end well. But I pressed play. Mind you, I’ve seen much more graphic scenes (the curb check in American History X to name just one). But this one still struck me.
It wasn’t the brutal beating of the Jamaican character. It wasn’t the use of “Nigger” or “Coon.” It wasn’t the kid crying in the hallway while the Jamaican man remained still. It was the moment the kid helped the attacker move the Jamaican mans body and the attacker kept saying, through his tears and the childs sobs, “don’t look at his face.”
As if not looking erases the fact.
As if me not watching this movie will turn such hate into make believe.
And I rewind to eleven years ago when I moved to Kansas. When I enrolled in my senior year of high school. When I was met with questions of “have you ever been shot at?” “Do you own a beeper?” ” You smoke weed, right?” “Are you legal?” “Do you have a green card?” “What exactly is Puerto Rican? Is that some kind of black?”
I rewind to eleven years ago when I stood at a gas station and watched a car drive by as the passengers screamed “Nigger.” I rewind to all of the nights when I could hear people throwing bottles and garbage at my house. I rewind to the morning I scrubbed the word “Nigger” off my front porch.
I rewind to the moment I witnessed a group of ten year old white boys gang up on a little Mexican boy and hit him in the face repeatedly with a basketball. To the moment when I stood up for him. To the moment after when one of the other boys went and got his mother. To the moment after that when this woman stood in front of me and justified her sons actions with someone I considered family. When that supposed family member admitted to using “wetbacks” in her everyday speech.
I rewind to the moment I sat at a dining room table and awkwardly tried to explain what a Puerto Rican was. To explain politics and geography to a table of ignorant people so they could understand what commonwealth means.
I rewind back to the moment when I was forced to hide in a backyard so my ex-mother-in-law could explain to her mother that her son was dating a “colored girl.”
I rewind to every moment I had to fight to nullify a dead end conversation in which every Spanish person is responsible for the fact that “real union workers can’t keep work.”
I rewind to the moment he said “well, I thought that’s what spics did – suck dick and eat sardines.”
I rewind to the moment in the hair salon when the woman repeatedly questioned the texture of my hair because she mistook me for being black and thought my hair was relaxed despite me explaining I’ve never had to.
I rewind to every moment I have been put in that awkward, uncomfortable situation in which my race is a punchline.
I rewind to the moment when a 16 year old snob gets away with calling me by my race instead of my name and I didn’t take the opportunity to knock his fucking teeth in.
I rewind to the moment I had to reprimand someone I thought to be a friend for playing the race card when he was losing an argument against some guy I didn’t even know.
I fast forward and hope that my son doesn’t have to know what I’ve known. I fast forward and hope that my son will never see what I’ve seen. Because I’ve seen the face of evil. In so many forms. In those that spew hate in ignorance. In those that spew hate with conviction. In those that spew hate under the name of their god. In those that equate pride of their own with hatred of others.
I want to shield my son from the reality that is much more horrific than any film. No matter how much I say “don’t look at his face,” the face of hatred will always loom in the shadows…waiting for the moment to stick it’s venomous fangs into the innocence of my boy. I can’t say “don’t look into his face…don’t look into her face,” because in this sad world…you never know where the hate will come from.
I can turn the film off. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the flaws of man.