Excuse Me, Do You Work Here?

By Guest Columnist May 07, 2008

by Jarad Sanchez Why is it every time I walk into a Home Depot people ask me where to find the plumbing fixtures? It’s not like I walk around wearing an orange apron. And why is it that when I dress up for a black tie event, people let me know that their table could use some more wine? Or how about when I walk into a Kinko’s copies, people tell me their ready to have their order rung up? They have uniforms too. They even have name tags and I usually don’t walk around wearing one. Could it be that the color of my skin, a dark chocolate shade, tells people where my societal and economic status ought to be? I used to think it was just me, but maybe it’s really not. Today, even some of the most accomplished people of color have to deal with the unabated ignorance of people whose hands they try to shake. The first bit of news comes from that champion of racial insensitivity, Rush Limbaugh. He bragged that while having dinner at some swank restaurant, former President Bill Clinton introduced him to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa whom he mistook for the “shoe shine guy.” Who thinks, “Of course, the former President of the United States introduced me to a Latino in a suit so that he could shine my shoes?” Of course, this is the same Rush Limbaugh that called Senator Barack Obama a “Magic Negro.” This is, also, the same Limbaugh who resigned from ESPN for saying NFL quarterback Donavan McNabb was overrated because people want to see a Black quarterback succeed. But even Senator Barack Obama sometimes suffers from mistaken identity. When he tried to speak to one North Carolina resident, he was waved away with little acknowledgment. The man later explained that he doesn’t care for Muslims. Isn’t it interesting that the Senator would be called a Muslim, as if that’s a bad thing, while being knocked for having an outspoken Christian preacher. It makes me wonder. If an accomplished Latino and potentially the first Black American President are met with such disrespect, will the day ever come when someone won’t assume they know what my tax bracket or my life story by the color of my skin? Maybe someday, but it’s clearly not this day.