Staring at this picture long enough, I started hearing voices. Some came from the tomato, some apples.
Discrimination doesn’t come with a sound or smell. It’s difficult to prove its existence. Some aren’t aware of been discriminated; some don’t know they discriminate.
“Is it possible that you were oversensitive?” I asked my friend this question after he described how a guy, in a pretty empty elevator, asked him to push the floor-button for him.
“Of course, it is possible,” he said. He looked into my eyes. It was clear to me that he didn’t tell me the whole story. I decided not to ask.
This conversation happened many years ago. Now I am older and know better, I wonder if there was some extra meaning behind one of my colleges’ question: “why don’t you go back?” or one of my landlord’s comment: “you guys took all the good jobs away from us.”
In first case, I simply ignored my college’s question because I didn’t know what was going on, and in second case, I politely asked, “What are you talking about? Who are ‘you’ and who are ‘us’? You are an American just like me, right?” (By the way, my landlord’s son is a lawyer.)
The only time I was so sure that something wasn’t right was when I took my daughter and her friend to a local restaurant for lunch. We waited for a long time for our service person to show up. When she came, she had an expression that I could never forget. It was the same expression I saw on my daughter’s face many years ago when she spitted out the food I fed her.
I ordered a cup of soup. It took forever for soup to come; when she came, she dropped the bowl on the table, making a disturbing noise. And the soup was cold.
She is so young; what had happened to her? I thought to myself. I wasn’t upset at all; I was puzzled (maybe even a little amused). I tipped her anyway. However, when I walked out the door, I told the manager what had happened. He said, “No, we don’t treat anyone like that here.”
I smiled. “I think I know how I was treated more than you do,” I said and walked away. I never went back to that restaurant again.
A week ago, I emailed my friend to apologize. I assured him that when I asked him whether he was oversensitive, I wasn’t questioning what he said. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any misunderstanding; I wanted the truth.
Truth may remain mystery in many cases, of course.
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