Little Instances of Racism

By Guest Columnist Nov 01, 2006

Last night a good friend, a well known hip-hop DJ and scholar, text messages me from D.C. – he was at a Halloween party in Georgetown and a white boy had just walked in with black face on. Two weeks ago I was at a conference in Marin called Bioneers. It was the last day, I went to grab a burger at the hotel on the way home and was sitting in the lobby, waiting for my food, chatting it up with two folks I’d been on a panel with and one of the av staff I’d befriended. They called from the bar that my burger was ready and I reached the bar right as this confused white woman wearing a badge was trying to order. They were telling her she had to go to another counter to order but she wasn’t hearing it…they asked her to wait a second while handing me my plate. And that’s when it happened: she looked at me and said, "Oh I didn’t know you had wait ladies, I’ll go sit down." My DJ friend felt he couldn’t say anything – his friend was the host and everyone else seemed to be cool with this. I reacted with some shock, told the woman I wasn’t a wait lady, and went down to eat my food as the physical feeling of racism spread up over my face. It’s still shameful. As this election approaches, less than a week away, I am reminded of how this sort of overt ignorance has played out in recent elections, how this unscientific determination of race has found voters turned away and targeted for disenfranchisement. On a small scale it is such an affront to be faced with other people’s ignorance. For some time now, our democratic process has been the grand stage for ignorance writ large. Based on the reporting on early voting happening nationwide, this time around is no different. It don’t feel right. As with these little instances of racism, the state of race and democracy in the U.S. still feels shameful. I’m involved in an election protection effort – – it’s past time to do something.