Dare I complete sentence? Well that was racist.
I was about draft a post on egg dishes I came across this past month but something happened to me today. I felt compelled to share while it’s still fresh. I am still a little shaken from the incident. I believe writing it out will help me.
This afternoon I went to the a different park with my kid and my two dogs, Teddy and Koda. I like to explore different parks whenever I can. It was a nice park with tennis courts, open grass area, a place to learn how to ride a bike and scooter, and an enclosed playground. On this enclosed playground there was a sign that said “no animals in the play area.”
Initially, I tied my dogs on the fence from the outside of the playground and took myself and my kid in the playground. Then in the playground I observed a family with their dog. I thought “I guess dogs are allowed to be on the perimeter as long as they are NOT in the playground like a slide or on the sand.” Because of this conclusion, I took my pets inside in the playground. Then I got stopped by a woman who chastised me for bringing my dog inside the park. She tells me, “didn’t you see the sign when you came in the playground? There are no animals allowed! Your dogs are clearly animals.” I told her, “well that dog over there is clearly in the playground side.” And she goes, “It does not matter! Your dogs can’t be here. There are signs here you know.” I was ok with tying them outside of the playground but she kept gesturing and telling me, “look here’s the sign.” When I tied Teddy and Koda at the fence, I did not see her walk to the other family telling them they could not bring their dog in.
When I walked back to the playground side, I told the other parents that I was sorry that happened because it was an uncomfortable experience not just for me, but for everyone else. I felt better to receive support from the other families telling me the woman was rude and they too did not understand why the other dog gets to still be at the playground. And of course, that made the family with the other dog uncomfortable hearing the disgruntled comments from other people they ended up leaving the park. Nobody was ganging up against that family, they just saw the unfairness I experienced. To placate the incident, I told everyone that maybe she must really hate dogs or she’s wildly allergic to them. It could be possible.
Outwardly I had to show grace, I had to show the higher road to her pettiness. I had to charm people with kindness. But inwardly, I call the humiliation I experienced as racism. I had to put a lot of thought into deciding what I want to call it. From my experience when I tell people — and I’m referring to people I know — they diminish my experience. Even fellow Asians would tell me whatever I cry out is not racism. Here are some scenarios I am likely going to come across to diminish the incident:
- “You broke a rule. You were not supposed to bring your pets in the playground in the first place!” The rule was already broken when I got to the playground. Keeping my dogs outside of the playground did not correct the problem because there was a still a family that got to keep their dog at the playground. When Lana and I ended up leaving the playground, she look relieved and accomplished as soon as we stepped out.
- “Did it stop you from being successful in life?” I am usually left speechless when people ask me this question. I’m not sure if this is supposed to motivate me. It makes no sense. Also, what is successful? Are they telling me I got what I deserve because I’m “successful” (and presumably they’re not)? It’s more telling of the person revealing their insecurities and fragility.
- “She wasn’t commenting about your physical features.” A lot of the time racism is not about the physical features, it’s more insidious than appearance. It’s more about the belief that one group possesses the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior/superior to one another. She probably assumed I do not speak or read English.
- “Did you get hurt?” Well yeah…mentally but I guess that doesn’t count unless I was beaten up.
- Some version of “Are you going to start hating me (or hating my friends, significant other, relative, etc.)” No — unless there’s something I need to know. I see why people want to diminish my story and of many others’ because they fear a hate tirade. I am not going to put the blame on an entire group of people. I only hate the individual who wronged me. The only tirade I choose to be up against is racism.
The therapeutic benefit I get out of blogging is that I get to tell my side and not have the other person tell me otherwise. It can be lonely when people don’t seem to support you. I understand that people get uncomfortable when someone calls out racism. Because of that discomfort, they do whatever they can to diminish it because let’s face it, nobody wants to face the fact that the world can be a cruel place. They want to believe so badly that everybody gets along. But how can you get to the world you want if you just ignore the problem and cover your ears singing “la la la”?
6 thoughts on “Well that was…”
Goodness! Found my way here from your latest post to catch up on what’s going on. I really feel for you -highly charged exchanges like you experienced are never pleasant (particularly with strangers & in public). It is so challenging to respond graciously like you did – I only hope I could have done the same (I’m afraid I’m not the calmest of people in these situations).
Racism & discrimination take such varied & insidious forms – in Singapore, it is less vocal and upfront … it’s shown more in behaviour than direct confrontation. In any case, I feel like as long as you feel aggressed against, or uncomfortable from an exchange, then it’s not acceptable.
Appreciate your courage in sharing your feelings about the experience. We need more honest sharing like so we can be more aware, and hopefully, be more sensitive to those around us.
I think there is a way of telling people things. You can take the moral high road and snap at someone when they’re not doing the right thing. Or, you can explain things more calmly and perhaps say that perhaps you hadn’t seen the sign. However, if this woman comes to that park everyday and is always seeing dogwalkers with their dogs around the play equipment, I can understand her being short or rude. Perhaps, she felt that by telling you, the other dogwalker would hear and response.
I don’t know what the rule are where you live, but its a blanket rule here in Australia that no dogs within a certain range of the play equipment and the signs are visual so it’s not a language thing. A lot of children are terrified of dogs and there’s that risk of attack. We don’t have rabies here, but that would be a concern having dogs near children as well I’d imagine. I have three dogs, and I’m forever seeing people walking them in the dog free section on the beach where people are swimming, which annoys me although I never say anything.
That’s not to say racism isn’t insidious in our society. I have a disability and experience discrimination in that way, and know how subtle that can be and how people just don’t get it half the time because they haven’t experienced it.
I hope you’re next outing goes better.
By the way, my dogs don’t like other dogs and can lunge and be aggressive and so they don’t get out too often. Not always easy being a dog owner.
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I agree. I think the more explanatory tone would have created less tension at the park. You did bring up a good point that maybe the sign at the park is there to protect the children or prevent aggressive dogs in the play area. I wished that was brought up to my attention but instead it was more like “did you see the sign?” like I could not read and I perceived it as her correcting me but not the other dog walker. There are many parks in LA. Most are accepting of dogs in all places in the park. This particular one did not want dogs in the play area.
I am so sorry that you experience discrimination as a person with a disability. I do sense pushback from other people when they hear that a person with a disability wants to do “normal” things like work or volunteer or drive or get advanced degrees. I tell people it would more productive if they approach it with an open mind rather than create barriers before anything begins.
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Agree on all points.
Hope you have a wonderful week ahead.