Just when I thought . . .

As I get older my mind and my heart want to tell me that we have come a long way from the early 60’s when the world was a much meaner and heartless place. No, I did not go to Selma, nor was I involved in the farm workers strikes, which even as a young kid showed me how less than perfect the world could be. But I did not have to be there to see the cruelty in the minds and hearts of people.

My mom raised my little brother and I as a single mom for a large part of my life. That sweet woman, a Mexican immigrant, worked harder than anyone I have ever known to provide a life for me and my little brother. She did this while having to answer the questions of people who would see us together and ask – “Where is those boys’ mother? Do you have permission to be out with them? Shouldn’t you be back at their home taking care of them until their mother gets home?”

You see, my brother and I were much lighter than my mom. These clueless people thought that our dear mother was the maid that was taking care of us. It never occurred to them that we belonged to her.

I was exposed to that sort of crap early on. We would walk to the park a block from our house and the Border Patrol would follow us. My mom would try to find a place for us to live and had to subject herself to claims that the place was rented once they saw she was “not like them.”

I have a vivid memory of being in first grade and my mom looking for a cheaper apartment for us to live. As we walked around the Sunset Heights area in El Paso, we encountered a sign that is clearly imprinted on my mind. I learned to read pretty early, even before starting school, and the sign clearly said “apartment for rent. No dogs or Mexicans allowed.”

You know, it was not until that time that I realized that people looked at us differently. Even though they called me the little gringito or “el pocho” when I visited my grandparents in Juarez, it didn’t affect me because I spoke the language, played the games, and fit in regardless of how “guero” I was.

So I carried this in my heart for a long time. Being in El Paso, which is predominately Hispanic, and going to a high school that was overwhelmingly Hispanic, this feeling of discrimination slowly started to fade away. Then one day, a sportscaster on an El Paso television station (Chip Taberski) called a football game between our school (Riverside) and our big rival (Ysleta) the “battle of illegal aliens.” Boom! the feeling was back.

After getting married to my high school girlfriend, we moved to Austin where I was finishing law school. We went to eat at a fast food joint, and in conversation another patron asked us if it was difficult being in a mixed marriage. My wife, a Mexican-American, and me (the half Mexican kid) were apparently considered an oddity to these people. He was quite surprised when I questioned his lineage in Spanish as we left the place.

I finished law school, moved to Laredo where I worked in a city where everyone, regardless of racial or ethnic background, spoke Spanish. We all got along, there was little to complain about in terms of disparate treatment. Naive as I was, I thought the tide had turned.

After a couple of years, we moved to El Paso. We looked for an apartment, and found a great and affordable place in the newspaper. We called, made an appointment to see it and showed up at the landlords house, which was the other side of the duplex. When she answered the door, she took one look at my wife and told us that the apartment had been rented. We told her that we had just called, but she insisted it had just been rented. When we returned home, we called back, and this time I talked to her on the phone. She was friendly as heck and insisted that we come right over and look at the place. After mentioning to her that we had just been there and been told that the place was rented, she quickly hung up.

Shall I go on? I could name you several times when this type of stuff has occurred in my life. Previous posts to this blog talk about many other experiences.

So why do I call this post “just when I thought . . . ?”

Probably because I had lulled myself into self delusion and thought that this sort of crap doesn’t happen anymore.
I thought that little by little we were approaching a society where blatant racism like that had gone away. Don’t get me wrong. Recent events in this country show that it is not all gone, just the contrary. But I really thought that the old plantation mentality had at least mellowed somewhat.

Then this showed up on my Facebook page.

http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/austin-landlords-demolish-pinata-store-jumpolin-sxsw-party

I cannot recall having felt this amount of unfettered rage when I read about this. Roaches? Really?
Drug Dealers? Is that the best you can come up with?

This has set me back quite a bit. Quite frankly, it just pisses me off. All those memories of the stuff my mom went through, of the unfair treatment we received growing up, and the kind of junk that people talked about Mexicans not knowing that I am Mexican despite my last name came flooding up.

What a disappointment. I just have to work harder in my own little world to try to make sure my grandkids don’t ever see this. Good luck with that. OK, now I have partially vented. Discuss.

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5 thoughts on “Just when I thought . . .

  1. Erica

    …or the time the Border Patrol agents stripped our car and found nothing.

    …or the time a BP Agent refused to believe I was American. (Shaun was PISSED about that one.)

    I cried a bit for that piñata place. I know where it is. I cried a bit for the Mexican market 2 blocks from my house that just got the go ahead to be torn down for condos. I feel more and more on the fringe in my own city. I moved over here for the sole purpose of reconnecting. What now?

    The weirdest moments are wheni realize I’m the only brown person in the establishments I visit. How is this possible in such a “diverse” town? People say it doesn’t matter but they just don’t get it- too many layers to even start explaining.

    Also, you never mentioned the story of being denied to me! That is so crazy?

    Reply
  2. Molly

    As society gets more complacent with accepting crude remarks and references directed at people which are obvious different actions like these will continue. The cure…… It’s out there but society tends to look the other way.

    Reply
  3. Jaime Solorza

    When I had my company ISG, we got hired to troubleshoot and hopefully fix wireless network issue for the Georgia Port Authority in Savannah. Two other companies from New York and Florida had failed so they were skeptical we could do better. We found problem in 20 minutes and proceeded to fix the wireless connection issues for 12 cargo cranes used to unload containers off large ships into rail cars. These cranes were about 250 ft. tall. After three days, when project complete, the operations manager took us to dinner. During dinner he said, “You guys are pretty smart for Mexicans…. “, and I answered calmly, and “we can read as well! “. He apologized saying all he saw was Mexicans in area as dishwashers, janitors and construction ,etc. I told him while his ancestors died from Black Plaque and lived in shit, mine built pyramids to study the stars and had running water toilet system. A week later, we received a case of Jack Daniels and letter of apology. Texas and Arizona is where I have experienced blatant racism. I have tried hard to make sure my children and grandchildren are well educated. All of my 7 children can handle themselves and are passing it on to my 13 grandchildren. I pray for our country , history has taught me to be vigilante

    Reply
    1. Randy Bullis Post author

      damn straight. My mom was a Respiratory Therapist at Providence Hospital. She was giving a treatment to a female patient and was having trouble keeping her form talking. All the lady wanted to say was how dirty and lazy all the Mexicans at the hospital were, and that she would have rather been in the hospital in Dallas, where the staff was white or Filipino. After the treatment, she complimented my mom and asked her how long she had been away from the Philippines. My mom said she had never been there. The lady responded “oh, you were born in the US?” My mom very loudly and proudly told her “No, I was born in Mexico. I wasn’t too lazy for you, was I?” Love and miss that woman.

      Reply

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