Saturday, July 14, 2007

What did you just say?

Perhaps, I am a little oversensitive, but some people just don't think before they speak. I am Hispanic, both of my parents are from Guatemala. My husband is Caucasian, hence the last name Mickelson. I have always been super sensitive about the way race is talked about. I acknowledge this and try not to hold it against people when they say something offensive. For the most part, people don't mean to offend. I just offend easily, I guess.

Two recent experiences have given me the need to say something about it. One friend (a very nice person) just finished reading my manuscript in which my main male character is Hispanic. She told me that she actually liked him which surprised her because she usually doesn't like Hispanic men because of their attitude. I was too shocked to respond which is usually what happens. What was I supposed to say? I wanted to say, "I gave birth to 3 Hispanic males and my father is a Hispanic male, how am I supposed to take that?" I truly respect and admire this woman and I'm not upset with her, but how can she think it's okay to say something like that to me?

Two days later, another friend who is sooo nice and would never intentionally hurt someone's feelings said something similar. We were discussing a classic literature book club that we are all a part of. She commented about a Hispanic man who just recently joined the book club and said that it is nice to see a Hispanic man who is educated and can make intelligent comments. Again, I was shocked. How can she say that in front of me? She looked at the shocked look on my face and said, "You're Guatemalan. I don't think of you as Hispanic." I have no idea what that means which takes me back a few years. A very good friend once told me that she didn't think of me as Hispanic. When I gave her a look, she said. "That's a compliment." I guess I don't know how to take a compliment.

I usually don't say anything to people because I don't want them to feel badly that they hurt my feelings. But, I'm starting to think that maybe I should say something to them so they can see it's not okay to say things like that, at least not to someone who is Hispanic. I don't know; I guess next time I'll just say: "What did you just say?" and give them a minute to think.


Marsha Ward said...

Wow! I guess some people have become "colorblind," so to speak, to those in their circles, but have held onto their preconceived notions about how people of whatever race or color "usually" are or behave. How unfortunate!

I served a mission in South America, and came home richly blessed for my associations with the sons and daughters of Father Lehi. One of the lessons I learned was to view people as individuals, which has stood me in good stead all my life.

Sure, some people of Hispanic origins, especially when they come from very deep poverty, are unlettered and unschooled. So are many people in the South in our own nation. Some Hispanic males choose to act like jerks when they subscribe to the "machismo" attitude, but judging a whole race by them is a grave mistake.

I met many educated, compassionate males during my mission (I might have married one if he'd gotten to the States before I became engaged). I also met some jerks, one in particular who brought his wife huge bouquets of flowers after she gave birth to his first son. Then he went out with his mistress. Pagh!

I'm sorry you've had to bear this burden, Marcia. Don't be afraid to educate the next person who says something stupid.

Stephanie Black said...

Oh my goodness! It's amazing the hurtful comments people make when they don't think through the implications of what they are saying. Thanks for an important, eye-opening blog.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Don't be shy to set them straight, Marcia -- you're doing them a favor by telling them how off the mark they are. Think of all the future comments you can help stave off!

Rebecca Talley said...

I have 10 children and people often feel justified in making very rude, very personal comments about my family size. I don't know why people don't stop and think before they speak.

I'm sorry they've hurt your feelings.

I think we need to remember we are all children of God and He loves all of us equally, no matter our skin color or ethnicity (or family size).