Wednesday, February 7, 2007

You won’t shake my hand because I’m Brazilian?

I used to live in an apartment in Phoenix right near a mall. It wasn’t anything fancy, the hot tub didn’t work. The pool always needed repair. There was a squash court and a decent exercise room. So, it was okay, but nothing fancy. The apartments across the street were pretty beat up though so we stood out as being “up-scale”. It naturally followed that all of the kids (and adults pretending to be kids) selling magazine subscriptions would flock to our apartment building in search of much needed funds. I always try to listen to every idiot who comes to my door, just in case someone happens to have something I need. So far this has never happened, so I am all the more intrigued when a new loser comes to my door. Could this one possibly be the one with something worthwhile to say or sell?

As I already mentioned, so far it hasn’t happened. So this story is about one of those times.

One day a guy comes to my door and spouts out a barrage of artificial pleasantries and puts out his hand for a shake. I say, “can you get to the point?” He says, “you’re not going to shake my hand?” I replied, “Just get to the point!” He then thrusts his hand inside my door so the light can hit it and turns it around so I can see a 360 degree view and says, “Are you afraid of that? You won’t shake my hand because I’m black!"

Of course, that never crossed my mind. I didn’t know that he considered himself black. It would be just as foolish to assume someone is black because they have dark skin and curly hair as it would be to assume that someone was white because they have light skin and straight hair. Here’s why I have good reason not to assume someone is black (I don’t need it, but I have it): Many people who are very dark and have what many would consider “African-American” features would have to trace their ancestry so far back to get to africa that they might as well be pure white (which of course isn’t even possible). My point is that there are many “black” people who aren’t from Africa, at least not for the last few hundred years. And there are many “black” people who would get pretty upset if you said they were black, because they are not from Africa, or they are not comfortable with that label. They would honestly see it as a prejudiced statement, which it may be, depending on how it was meant. They could feel that you unfairly labeled them without even asking where they were from, Cuba, Australia, Haiti, Brazil, or almost anywhere. There are also many white people who can easily trace their history back to africa. But I am getting sidetracked by a meaningless point.

The point was, I didn’t know and didn’t care what his background was. Since he came to my door he needed to properly introduce himself and his topic before I decide whether I like him or not. I could have said, “You only want to shake my hand because I’m white.” But I chose to shut the door on him and let him think I was a prejudiced jerk. I figured, what better way to get back at him than to not clue him in that he was the one that was prejudiced, and a total idiot.

Besides, I don’t consider myself “white”, I’m more of an “autumn breeze” or something atmospheric like that.

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