One important theme I’ve been hearing lately is “humanize.” Whether it be from other writers, friends, colleagues, or a panel at the ACLU I’m hearing “humanize” your experience, your story, your struggle. The more you humanize your story the less likely people are to accept laws, ideas, opinions, etc. to dehumanize, degrade or belittle you and people like you. So a lot of this blog is stories about me and people like me to humanize us and our stories that may at times be unbelievable to those on the outside looking in.
After Barack Obama was elected there was a lot of talk going around about how we lived in a post-racial America. I could write and refer you to a ton of sources that can better explain how incorrect that idea was but that’s neither here nor there. I bring this up because I really think it was the beginning of the political atmosphere that we live in today, where saying racist things-and not even trying to pass them off as a joke-is somehow OK now.
This story is a perfect example of the above and oddly enough friendship. Way back when I met my Brown Girl Best Friend (BGBF) in Law School she had a friend who was not brown but we liked her anyway 😉 The three of us became relatively close, we hung out on the weekends and even studied for the bar together. Turned out she and my best friend had some hometown ties so she came with other friends and for the most part most of them weren’t so bad. To be honest they were from a completely different high school clique I would have ever hung out with but in adulthood I could handle their occasional camaraderie.
Honestly, I should have called my friendship with this girl a long time ago. One night my BGBF, this girl and I went out to dinner. We had a little too much to drink and started talking about politics. There are some political issues that I can stretch my belief system enough to not hate the person after we are done talking about our respective “sides” but there are a few I do not budge on–the Right to Choose is one of my non-negotiables. So we’re on this topic and this girl says (and I’m paraphrasing) I don’t think it’s fair that my taxes should pay for them (referring to inner city minorities) to get abortions, like after a certain amount we should force them to be sterilized. Now I was heated at this point and I should have just gotten up and walked out but I didn’t I said something like sure I can see that point because “it’s your money” (UPDATE NO I FUCKEN CAN’T) but really we need to make birth control more accessible and sexual education better so that abortion isn’t the issue it’s become. There’s way more to this story but that’s the end of my aha moment where I should have realized that this was not someone I wanted to be friends with anymore. The rest of this story isn’t my story to tell but if my BGBF ever wants to tell it BGT is here for it, honey! (insert shimmy)
Fast forward about three years later and this girl is getting married. Like I said I didn’t cut off the friendship so we stayed friends-and avoided politics at all costs. So she’s getting married I’m invited, my BGBF is invited and two of our other best friends are invited too. As a quick background my BGBF and my friend 2/3 were my friends independently in law school and eventually they started dating and fell in love-I like to consider myself part of their relationship because besides my SO they are the only people I willingly share my burritos with, hence 2/3. The 4th spot was a nice Michigan boy (NMB), also a great friend of ours in law school. Those four people pretty much rounded out everyone I am thankful for meeting in law school and everyone I knew well at the wedding plus the bride and her husband.
This wedding takes place in a weird Red State in a weird Red City. I stayed with my +2’s at my BGBF’s house and that’s what inspired My Best Friend. We got ready took the obligatory Prom pose photos and headed out. If you’ve ever been to a wedding where you are part of a small group of invitees (i.e. not family or friends from childhood) you’re already feeling a little ehhh–what will the seating chart look like, when my +2’s are dancing to a slow song will they let me cut in the middle, etc. Anyways things were a little weird, I felt like my dress was a little too short maybe a little too tight, I wasn’t completely in love with my body or my hair so I had a lot of insecurities going in. But like any good wedding guest, I drank and danced those away! I danced with my BGBF and my 2/3 and I got a good laugh when NMB fell asleep in the men’s bathroom.
At the end of the night we were moving to an after party at some bar “downtown” which isn’t a real downtown but whatever. So in this weird town 2/3 calls us a lyft or uber and it takes like 10 minutes for it to show up. While we’re waiting outside for it, watching parents and sober drivers picking up guests 2/3 get’s a notification “you’re ride has started.” Well this was a huge shock because we were all STANDING OUTSIDE and obviously not in the car. So 2/3 calls the driver who answers and says something like “you’re in my car aren’t you?”
Turns out there was another group, two girls and guy that were in this car who had lied about being 2/3. Luckily the driver was in this half circle driveway and she had to stop where we were before she could exit so she pulls up and tells the group that’s currently in her car to get out. 2/3 and my BGBF, NMB and his gf go to the back seat and solo dolo BGT heads to the front seat. Everyone is confused and the girls in the car slowly start to get out of the backseat after they realize they’re in the wrong car but Taylor (that’s his real name) is not getting out. He’s obviously drunk and disheveled and not really understanding what’s going on. So I open the front passenger door and I’m like “Hi you’re in the wrong car can you please get out?”
Taylor is basically pretending to not hear me, is refusing to get out. He keeps saying this is his car he’s not getting out so I’m just responding ok this isn’t your car though please get out-progressively sassier. At this point I’m just standing by the door waiting for him to exit. Finally after his chickies are yelling “Taylor get out! Taylor come on!” he starts getting out. I will say I kept saying “ok well that’s great but you need to get out now,” over and over and over and over in response to whatever he was saying until he finally got out.
So, he finally gets out wobbles, tries to balance and starts saying whatever bullshit he was saying. He’s yelling at me and I’m responding something along the lines of “Ok that’s great please move,” because I’m trying to get into the car. Slowly he’s wobbling closer to me and at one point I’m looking at this guy eye to eye, he’s not very tall, I’m much more sober than he is, I still have my heels and this too short dress on but my mind immediately goes into defense mode because he’s so close to me that at one point I thought he was going to become violent so I’m prepared to kick him in the balls should he lunge at me.
Then while standing about two inches from my face says “Shut the fuck up you fucken Mexican!” This is when the record skipped. First of all I thought he was for sure going to go the “Go back to Mexico you fucken Mexican!” route, which has also been shouted at me, but no… I respond “Oh wow fucken shocker you’re racist!” and in the moment I say that I realize that my forever 2/3 has somehow magically appeared standing between myself and Taylor and 2/3 and NMB are now physically moving him away from me. In this moment all of that weird stuff you feel when you go to a wedding alone with a bunch of people you don’t know very well and kind of feel like you’re on your own fell to the waist side. 2/3 said somethings I can’t really remember but I think they included something about smashing Taylor’s face in. They pushed him out of the way as he was screaming profanities, 2/3 put me in the car and we drove away.
NMB and his girlfriend decided to stay in the ruckus and so it was just my BGBF, 2/3 and the driver who was having the weirdest night of her damn life. Turns out this was her first night driving and probably her last! She witnessed the entire ordeal and began to apologize to me. “I’m so sorry, this isn’t how we are here, I swear.” “I feel so terrible about this.” We got dropped off, told the story to a few of BGBF’s friends who met us up, they all sincerely apologized-although it wasn’t their fault-and we just tired to let it go and have a good time. We never met back up with the wedding party, thank god, because I was mortified.
Through the remainder of the night I just remember thinking-thank God that we weren’t going to see any of them because I was so embarrassed over what happened. Somehow while a large group of people were waiting outside this dude felt like it was OK to 1. shout at me 2. degrade me using my ethnicity as an insult. Like I’m not embarrassed of being Mexican, no, I’m proud of it I could write a book about all of the reasons why. But this was a get out of my face, shut up, who do you think you are talking to, you Fucken Mexican. And everyone there knew it was an insult and he meant it as such although it wasn’t to me. Because my ethnicity isn’t an insult and it shouldn’t be used as one, but somehow everyone understood it to be just that. I think what made me see red was not just that he used it as such but that everyone else there understood it as an insult too. So of course following this I didn’t want to see any of them because I felt like I would have 1. died from embarrassment or 2. fought everybody in the bar while shouting “Being Mexican isn’t an insult!”
A part of me felt really bad that this would get back to my friend and she would feel so badly that this happened at HER wedding. Embarrassed for herself and her friend that said it-maybe in a moment of drunkenness. Embarrassed for me being the victim of that stupidity in an environment full of strangers. By the end of the night I wished that we could all forget it happened-even her-and that we would never talk about it again. Of course I didn’t forget and no one else did either and we told my BGBF’s sister and the next day she was ready to drive over to Taylor’s house and punch him in the face, she had already drafted a number of messages she was ready to send him and was ready to go to bat for me because she’s fucken tough (again see My Best Friend). Eventually I flew back to the windy city and was thankful my friend was on a two week honeymoon so I didn’t have to see her for a while and relive this.
Honestly I was expecting her to reach out to me after she got back, “Hey I heard what happened, I’m so terribly sorry,” “My husband’s friends really laid into him after that and so did I…” something like that. I didn’t see her or talk to her again until my BGBF and 2/3 moved back to the City and we all got together for a welcome back party at her house. I was nervous hoping that this wouldn’t be brought up, this party was basically everyone who was at her wedding and saw what happened, and I just wanted to proceed as normal.
For the most part it did until after a few drinks some of her girlfriends were saying how they hadn’t seen me since the wedding and asking how I’d been. I was working crazy hours and my BGBF was living in DC so I wasn’t doing a lot of socializing in general but I definitely wasn’t avoiding socializing. To that comment, my friend responded “Well you know I just stopped inviting you places because you never come out.” This is the first time we had seen each other since her wedding and this is the bullshit she said to me. I responded with something like yeah I’ve been really busy and kept eating my burrito-yeah I’m the girl that brought a burrito to the party. But seriously THE FUCKEN NERVE. This girl really thought that she was the one that stopped talking to me. She thought that she said ok I’m done with this friendship. Newsflash: I stopped talking to you because your friend is a racist piece of shit and you did and said nothing to defend me. Per usual someone in a position of privilege completely ignored the situation then flipped the problem so it was a me at fault not her or her friend, typical. I can’t say I was surprised…believe them the first time they show you who they are, right?…
There’s a lot of turns I could have taken with this post and I didn’t know where it was going to go until I started writing. Like fuck these small town, small mind assholes, am I right?! Let’s burn that town to the ground!! But my life’s theme is fuck this shit/scorched earth policy, so after a few years of reflecting on this I decided not this time. I’m choosing optimism because reliving and writing about this made me feel better not worse.
As disheartening as that entire experience was-I saw someone who I thought was my friend’s true colors-I love what it gave me. It showed me I had the strength to walk away from a friendship that no longer served me and how that feels when you’re in that situation. It reminded me how vital it is to not compromise your integrity and who you are because you think you need friends in a new place. And it showed me that if you put people in their comfort zone their true feelings come out, ask Taylor.
More importantly though, it gave me this beautiful reminder of how even in a sea of terrible-I wasn’t alone and not everyone there was awful. My forever 2/3 stepped up without me having to ask-maybe my BGBF asked him to and I didn’t realize but he didn’t have to. His actions spoke volumes to me and his future fiancé. I thank him every time we sit down for a meal together by letting him eat off my plate before I’ve decided I’m done, a privilege that I normally reserve for my significant other. If you haven’t noticed food is a big deal for Brown people and sharing your food is a big deal. I hope this realization serves as YOUR reminder that not every white guy is awful and doesn’t understand, some are on their way to being woke and if you’re lucky-like me you might just befriend one.