Friday, November 5, 2010

Say It Ain't So


An ugly word for an ugly mentality.

I've seen it. I've read about it. I've heard about it. But, I've not been able to say that I've ever experienced it first hand.... hmm... until now...

Yes, I'm a southern girl and I'll admit that there are some members of my family that are bigots. There just isn't a nice way to say it... It is what it is... I don't think about it often since I don't speak to them anymore. Oh, and just so you know... they are "equal opportunity" bigots, being prejudiced against ALL races and religions other than their own in a perfectly balanced way.

I was raised by my Mother, who was very open- minded and loving towards all, no matter what...

I've always looked at people and have seen their hearts instead.

What have I learned about people?

It does not matter if you're a man or a woman, young or old, what race you are, what language you speak, how ( or if ) you worship, or where on this Earth you live... we all have the same feelings.

We ALL have needs and wants, hopes and dreams, we get angry and frustrated, we all have fears... We laugh, we cry, we love, and we hate...  We grieve our losses and celebrate our successes.

The bodies, the faces, the preferences and the ideas may be different... but the feelings are all the same.


I'm having a problem with myself now...

I'm now finding myself fighting feelings of prejudice towards all of the people that I have met in the town that I live in now. I'm ready to just say that I think they ALL are a bunch of ignorant jerks just based on the few hundred that I've encountered... out of the thousands that are here... not really fair when I think about it...

But... I have been on SO many situations here where I have not been treated fairly AT ALL... What is going on?

I don't understand what has been happening to me here. I was thinking about it today... this latest "kitchen manager" job is the third job that I've had here where I was promised certain wages and certain hours and as soon as I started the deal was suddenly changed... Is that normal here?

Or am I just getting special treatment?

I reported for the "temp" job. It's another industrial gig. Okay. Fish processing. Hmmm... It started out pretty lame as we were instructed how to put on our plastic aprons. (Duh) I think I can figure that out. I was issued boots that I stuffed my jeans down into and these plastic "sleeves" that had elastic at both ends to fit from your  wrist up your arm... hairnets of course... yes, I know how to operate a hairnet also. Then we got these funky gloves, like work gloves but they had rubber nubs all over them. The nubs were small but kind of long and they were all over the entire glove.

No earplugs required.. YAY! Thank goodness!

So I was dressed to kill and ready for action and went out on the floor, trying to avoid being run over by a forklift, to meet the supervisor.

"Name?" he asked.

"Mendes," I said.

"Yes, yes..yes, I want you over there on the line. Just ask the girls what to do,"  he said.

I walked over to where he was pointing and the two young women standing by a conveyor belt. One of them flashed me a bright smile and called out "Hola!"  (uh oh.... did he put me here because he thinks I'm Spanish?") I instantly replied,"Como esta?" Then she asked me what my name was. I think. I only caught the word "nombre" ... (oh boy)  I told her my name and then she tried to pronounce it.. "Keem?" ... uh yeah... Kim... She leaned in close making a funny face trying to pronounce my name..."Keee-yam?" uhhhhh yeah.... close enough... "Ehh..." she said then with a nod and immediately dismissed me...

The rest of the night the ladies spoke only to each other and they spoke so fast I couldn't understand much of what they were saying. Their communication with me consisted of whistles, nods and hand signals.

Maybe they thought I was going to be a weak, lazy white woman? I don't know.

Through the night as we worked together it got better... maybe because they realized that I could pick up a wooden pallet and flop it down on the lift table with no problem... maybe others had been afraid to even try? Maybe it was because they saw that I'd pitch in and help where I was needed?

All I have to say is that I'm glad I've been working as a baker for the past couple of years because this was a full shift of constant lifting... It was kind of like doing weight training with aerobics for eight hours. I'm in fairly good shape luckily... if I wasn't, this would have killed me. As it was I came home very tired and rather beaten up... It was tough.

Those gloves I was telling you about? I wore holes in them... In fact I wore holes in TWO pairs of them. 

Oh... and fish?... dead fish?... are totally gross...

We all laughed when one of the forklift drivers got soaked by a power hose by accident and after that I was called over and included in the group when one of the other drivers came by and handed out sticks of gum.

By the end of the night I was accepted by the Hispanic group of people there. They didn't seem to mind that my Spanish is bad. Their English was bad. We understood each other well enough. 

I guess it turned out okay in the end... even if the hours were crappy and pay was pitiful... 

It just made me start thinking about the way I have changed... I look at people differently now. I've been judging them and putting them all into a category... just because they are from... HERE... 

Sometimes I think I am crazy. I think I am not well accepted here because I am from the South, and also they seem to think I am Latino. I don't understand it. How could it be? 

I start getting angry and thinking that all of "these people" are idiots. I find myself feeling like it's "us" against "them"... like we are different in some way. 

It's ugly... and I don't like it...

I don't want to be that way and I don't have to be anything I don't want to be... So, I'm taking a pause and trying to alter my mind-set about "this place" and "these people"....

Then Dani brought up the mail. An update from her high school was in it and she was excited to see it.

She opened it up and...

It was written in Spanish. There were no English interpretations included, just Spanish. 

I just sat there looking at it and blinked in disbelief.  

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