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Posts Tagged ‘Prejudice’

I voted. Have you? (Those of you, my readers, who are citizens of the United States, that is!)

If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for? Read this post and then hurry to the nearest polling station, please! 😊

Before I move on to the crux of this post, I’d like to mention how much I admire the volunteers at the polling places across the country. Their commitment to civic duty, the bedrock of democracy, is commendable. Especially this year, with COVID-19 numbers on the rise again, those who are still willing to volunteer are nothing short of heroes in my book. Thank you, volunteers!

This year, I couldn’t wait for early voting to begin in my state. Illogical though it was, it felt as though the earlier I voted, the more weight my vote would carry.

So, one bright, shiny morning last week, I drove to the nearest polling station. I carried my ID, and I’d made sure I was registered in the county in which I live. These are the two requirements—in addition to being a citizen, of course!—to vote.

Or so I thought.

Everyone was wearing masks, which was a good thing, but that definitely added to the charged election-atmosphere.

I stood in line, six feet apart from the person in front and the one behind me. So far so good. Soon, it was my turn.

An older, white gentleman was processing my ID. I was prepared for this scenario: he’d try to say my name, and I’d gently correct his pronunciation. Because it happens in 99% of such interactions.

But he didn’t say my name. Instead, he looked at me directly and paused. Then, he casually asked:

Can you read English?”

The world fell away from me. My skin turned hot. At least a dozen answers and questions raged in my mind, but I couldn’t voice a single one. I couldn’t even nod.

Not because I consider not being able to read English a deficiency. Far from it.

But because that man had judged by what he saw for a single moment, not to mention only part of my face above the mask, and penned me firmly into a box.

Because that question was an unmistakable microaggression (though it felt much bigger and weightier than micro) against me.

This was definitely not the first time I’d been asked a judgmental question solely because of the color of my skin. The shape of my eyes. The accent in my speech that exists because I speak multiple languages.

But I have always been able to stand up for myself and give it back better than I got.

So, what was different about this time?

This time, I wasn’t prepared to be singled out.  

This time, I wasn’t prepared to be questioned—even if indirectly—of my capability to choose.

This time, I wasn’t prepared to be challenged whether I belonged.

This time, I’d gone in totally vulnerable.

Why?

Because I’d considered a polling station a safe place.

I’d forgotten that divided as we stand, there doesn’t exist a perfectly safe place anymore. Not for people of color.

So, why did that man ask whether I could read English? Because—I later learned—the ballots in my state were available in Spanish as well as English.

Okay. Then, a more respectful and less aggressive question would have been:

“Would you like your ballot in Spanish or English?”

As simple as that.

Counties, do better! Train your staff and volunteers to be respectful. Civil.

Because if we can’t be civil to each other at a polling station—a place where as citizens of a democratic nation we come together to exercise our basic right and privilege—then we’re in deep trouble as a country.

And because:

America, we can do better!

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