I had a rather interesting encounter with racism. Interesting, confusing, and just wrong. I went to Zara’s with my sister for their annual, huge sale. Since we were in Montreal, everything was written in French, so the first task was to understand which items were actually on sale. As I approached the back of the store, and mounds and mounds of unfolded sequined tops and embroidered jeans filled the store, I assumed I found the sale. Innocently, I was not in the rushed panic everyone else seemed to be in. Were they all worried they would have a Hannah Montana: The Movie moment where they are forced to savagely fight for the last pair of heels with Tyra Banks? Who knows. Instead, I gently dug through the piles of clothes, picked some “adult clothes” for college, and immediately put them all back. Growing up is for posers!
Meanwhile, as I was taking my good ‘ole time, two young teens were impatiently standing right behind me. In all the panic, the store was quite crowded, so it seemed to be an understood yet unmentioned agreement that we were all sacrificing personal space for ruffled tanks. However, these two girls didn’t think we all deserved the same respect. In a matter of seconds, they pushed me aside, and under her breath, one of them felt the need to say, “fucking Mexicans” in which the other replied, “yeah, I know”.
With my limited vocabulary, the only word I know that can describe how I felt was “shook”. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Last time I checked, I am not Mexican. In fact, she was about 13,282 miles off. Good try.
2. I was in Canada! Land of syrup and free health care! How can their people have any reason to so passionately dislike Mexicans? If they hate Americans right now, I completely understand. But Mexico?
3. Is there some sort of racial stereotype about Mexicans having a slow pace in clothing stores? How could simply taking your time connect to Mexicans?
Now, I admit in the moment I could do nothing but laugh. It was so utterly strange I didn’t know how else to respond. After the moment passed and I understood what had happened, I tried to find those two girls so I could ask a few questions. I have experienced my share of racist and islamophobic remarks, but those actually makes sense (well, it shouldn’t, but that’s a whole other thing). If the young teen said “fucking terrorist” while we were in America, I wouldn’t even mention it. As I looked for the two girls in Zara’s, they were no where to be found. In an ideal world, they realized their mistake, felt terrible, and were currently at a Mexican celebration to understand the culture and respect their differences. In reality, I think they might have simply left the store to share their inspirational thoughts and new sundresses with the rest of the world. Thank goodness!