“You live in a racist world, get use to it,” said my boss after I attempted to communicate my discomfort with an older man’s comments, who is also a regular customer at the coffeehouse where I work.
I played Bachata that morning as I had on many other occasions. I had also chosen to ignore the man’s remarks: “Can you change it to American music?”.
What was it about this one day? The need for him to understand he doesn’t get to dictate what American music is; the hurt I felt with this kind of classification; the desire I had to reverse the hurt and show him his mistake?
I politely asked that he not repeat his comments because they hurt and they felt racist. Instantly, I found myself needing to defend the fact that I called his comments racist and not him. I was ambushed, and immediately cast aside as I was told to go home for offending this customer with my comment. He had blatantly made the most ignorant and hurtful remark I had ever experienced as a UCLA student, and as a Hispanic currently living in Westwood for that matter.
My boss being of Mexican descent would feel a rude awakening when her own boss charged towards her with hateful words that questioned her managerial skills. And then my boss’s words became, “We cannot let them do this, we will fight this.”
There was no satisfaction in exposing this man, because that did not happen. There was no attempt to start a riot, and we didn’t. This was about being heard. The feeling of having risked the job I heavily depend on brought me to sheer panic. But having to tolerate his comments made me even more uneasy. The “investigation” continues as he still is allowed to dictate what American music is.