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I’m the most colorful and most ghetto person at my work. I’m mostly non-white and I grew up on the streets, while all my co-workers are German, Swedish or Irish. I shit you not, for once in my life, I’m the non-white of the group, which is weird because I’m usually the white fucker that talks the cops out of an aresst. However that’s not really the point here.

I work at a popular sandwich shop, and most things are really customizable and all the employees try to get the lowest price and the best deals because we like our customers and hate our owner. Well there’s one girl I work with whom I particularly dislike, and she’s a horrible racist on top of it. Her favorite thing to say to me is “Emilio don’t think this includes your family, but I really hate how lazy fucking Mexicans and all those people from down there are.” I wish I was shitting you. It’s only made worse by the fact that we have a prominent Hindi and Hispanic customer base from the other local businesses and I work with her at least 3 days out of the week.

However a couple of days ago we had two men of Latin or South American origin came in, and since I wasn’t paid to ask where they were from and I don’t really care so long as I can understand them and they put money in the tip jar I didn’t bother asking, however my detested co-worker decided that they were Mexican. I don’t know how she came to that conclusion, but again I don’t like her, so I’m not going to ask.

They asked if they could put whatever they wanted on their sandwich, and I said yes so long as we had it, they laughed, I joked and they ordered a ham and roast beef sandwich. Usually everyone rings that kind of sandwich up as a much cheaper Turkey and Ham sandwich because the production coasts are the same. Now being a militant vegan I don’t really care for having to sell animal products, but people are going to eat animal products one way or the other and if they have change to spare then I’m getting a tip and that means I can pay rent for one more month, win-win really. However my co-worker (we’ll call her Kesha from now on) charged them for the most expensive sandwich we had which was a club sandwich, I told her how to charge it and her response was “There’s no turkey on that!”

Kesha was the one who taught me how to charge for this particular sandwich because it made the customer happier. She only charged for a more expensive sandwich because she knew she could get away with it. She told me later that they probably wouldn’t be able to figure out what she had charged them anyway because they spoke Spanish to each other, so it didn’t matter to her.

Again I’m not exactly fond of her.

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If you don’t get the titles reference it means that basically herbivores are loud fuckers, especially compared to those that think they’re nomable. On another note, I’ve been wanting to switch this blog over to stories of more subtle racism, so that last post is probably going to be the last of a dieing breed of posts here on Coloring outside the lines.

So I used to know this white guy who was about 15 years older than me. I was 14 when I met him and we got along fine, mostly because I used him to get out of walking while spic, and he was one of those white boys that wanted to look “thug”. Not the best arrangement, but it worked for us at the time. We’ll call him Ben.

At the time I was working as a server at a Vietnamese restaurant in the Little Saigon area of our city, Usually afterwords I would hang out with my actual friends, however a few times I would go out with Ben because everyone else had plans, and for other reasons that aren’t really important to this post. He lived up in the rich part of the city on Whitey McCracker street. Okay not really, but it was the very rich very white part of town and we always went to his part of town if we were hanging out on our own.

Because he was rich he also liked showing it off and would often take me shopping for no reason, though luckily he didn’t really try to buy me anything after the first time where I tossed all the frivolous shit he gave me. If it can’t be practical it gets tossed away, or it satisfies my pyromaniac tendencies and need for bright shiny fires. However that didn’t stop him from shopping for himself and picking up useful things for me.

Usually he didn’t shop in places that were cheap enough for non-whites to shop in, however every rich neighborhood has at least two token non-whites, usually an Asian and a Black. One time he had taken me to some rather trendy and expensive store, claiming he needed a new pair of shoes. Really it was just an excuse for him to get a $200 pair of Nikes to go with the insanly expensive jeans he had that made him look like he had something sagging them down. I still don’t understand how those pants have been in style for almost 15 years now, they’re not useful and they look ugly as sin, but whatever.

On that day there was a Hispanic kid in the store who obviously wasn’t rich, but he wasn’t poor either. He’d probably had to save for a few months, but he could afford to get the shoes legally and there was no doubt about that. Ben picked up the shoes he wanted after about 30 minutes of of staring at the exact same designs just with different brands and price tags. When we went up to the register the Hispanic kid had just pulled out his credit card. it wasn’t signed on the back though and the cashier refused to accept it without an I.D. The kid was obviously embarrassed and mumbled an apology as he went about searching for his I.D.

The whole spectacle was only about a minute in total, and when the kid left the cashier barely told him to have a good day, not something I could get away with at my job. When Ben came up though the cashier apologized for the inconvenience and took his unsigned card without any problems. He wasn’t even asked to sign for it like the Hispanic kid was.

Ben was dressed in “better” clothes than the kid, however Ben also had a very obviously poor tag-along that looked like they could be his male prostitute from Rentboy or some shit like that. Over all Ben looked like one of the guys I often served who I knew wouldn’t tip because they were rich and had hired a girl so as to have the girlfriend experience with, so they felt entitled to not have to pay attention to others or common decency. If it wasn’t for it being too low brow for his type, Ben would be more likely to steal from the store. But the cashier asked the kid instead of Ben, and than we left the store and didn’t say anything about it, because Ben didn’t think it was odd at all and I was just so horribly uncomfortable with what had happened, especially since everyone else seemed to be fine with it and I wasn’t.

And people wonder why I’m paranoid about being caught in the rich part of town.

Yes I do have some West coast pride, leave me ‘lone kay?1

So I’ve mentioned that I’m only half-Mexican right? Well the other half is about 1/6 to 1/4 Cherokee depending on if I believe my grandpa about how my great grandmother had kids with only her 1st and second husbands, of I believe my great aunt about how my great grandmother got around and my great grandpa was a dud, I’m going with 1/6 just to be safe. The rest of me is made of blood so White that it created the race of Cracker.

Now if you know anything about Hispanics at all, we’ve got a prism of colors and we can range from just a touch lighter than black to olive to red to just a touch darker than white. And it don’t matter how dark your papá or your mamá are if even just one of them is even a slightly different shade than the other. So add in a more dominant color gene like white and you’re playing a game of Russian roulette as to whether the baby will look like they’re part Hispanic, or if they’re going to look like the whitest child to ever be born.

I fall in to the second camp when I’m indoors almost all day for a prolonged period of time, however if I get even a hint of sun, it’s up to the interrupter to see if I’m white enough. It doesn’t really help that I have gray-blue eyes. Really the only part of my appearance that really points me out as Hispanic is my hair, which is very curly, dark and has a slightly pushed forward hairline. So yeah I often have a problem with people thinking I’m lieing about either being half-Mexican, or being anything really. I actually had someone threaten me because I was lieing about not being Greek, however that’s not the story I wish to tell now.

Back in 2008 I was working at a rather large local chain grocery store that’s owned by an extremely large national chain. I worked as an overnight stocker and my co-workers were of every race and level of sanity that exists on this good green earth, including the assistant manager of my crew, who claimed to be street wise and have gone to the “roughest high school” in the state. She was about as street wise as a thumb tack, and the school she talked about was actually a middle-class high school that was known for having more Hispanic kids than Wyoming. However she was nice enough so long as she trying to be our manager instead of our friend.

I’ll call her Jenna, and she’s source to probably some of the weirdest racist moments in my life.

One such weird moment happened when my crew and the other night time crew for the store had taken lunch at the same time, and it had turned in to a game of telling what your origins were. Me and the guy who was half-Dominican and half-Ecuadorian were making some in jokes on growing up Dominican in the inner-city – I had a few Dominican friends so I could get what he was saying – when Jenna joined the conversation.

“Wow you grew up in the inner-city? You don’t sound like it, either of you.”

I and the Dominican shrugged it off. Jenna was prone to making an ass of herself.

“I guess. What does inner-city sound like boss?” I asked, trying not to sound as edgy as I actually was. I’m sure it didn’t work, but Jenna didn’t seem to pay it any mind.

“Well you know, not so well educated, or white.” She actually did seem to notice she had said something wrong there though, and corrected herself “not that you’re not white enough or anything Emilio, I mean you’re very well educated.”

I didn’t really know what to say to that, and if I’m to be honest I probably still wouldn’t if put back in that situation again. Instead of saying anything I looked over to the other crews manager who was keeping time to make sure we didn’t spend more than the allotted amount of time for lunch break, and who was also higher on the ladder than Jenna. He was shocked as well, and was just staring at the back of Jenna’s head like he really could not believe she had just said that because oh my fucking god. His cough finally broke the silence, and he muttered something about lunch being over, even though we still had 8 minutes left.

Really I was never so happy to get back to work in my life, especially since Jenna had paperwork for the rest of the night that would keep her off the store floor.

1: If you don’t get this reference, A lighter shade of brown was a California based hip-hop duo in the 90’s that only had one real hit. The now work as DJ’s in California.

I never grew up with my Mexican father, and contrary to what most people think most Hispanic kids are not fluent in Spanish if they were born and raised in America and raised by non-immigrants, which also contrary to popular belief not many Hispanics are immigrants. My mother was also violently opposed to me or my older half-bother (who was the product of her and a white man) speaking or learning Spanish in anyway, to the effect that she grounded my at 3 years of age for learning what bobo and gracias meant. So by the time I was 5 I certainly didn’t know enough Spanish to converse with the grandparents of my friends let alone the immigrant kids that lived in the mostly poor and Hispanic neighborhood I was being raised in.

While I was light skinned for being mostly non-white most of the kids, parents, and police in the area considered me to be Hispanic and often made comments about how my older half-brother and I looked like we were from different families and that it was just oh so surprising that he wasn’t my mama’s newest – and whitest – boyfriend. Outside of these remarks constantly getting on my nerves it often meant people would try to speak to me in Spanish before asking me whether or not I knew the differences between hola and the hulla.

This landed me in the Spanish-to-English kindergarten transition class, when I was finally old enough to attend school. At first I didn’t really notice anything, because my neighborhood was in between the Hispanic and the black parts of town, so the idea of seeing a white kid in my class didn’t really cross my mind, and the absence of black kids could be explained by how few black kids there were in this side of town. I thought they were all just in the older classes. It made sense to my five year old mind, even if it was a bit illogical and ignorant of real life.

The first day of kindergarten is confusing for almost any kid, but none of my friends had been able to attend with me due to living two blocks down the road from me and thus just outside of my schools radius, and my half-brother hadn’t been able to take me further than down the hall from my classroom so I didn’t have even the comfort of being able to take my first glimpse of school life with someone I cared for. I blame this for not noticing that my teacher was speaking in Spanish as she herded us to our desks or our “estaciones de trabajo”.

I actually didn’t learn that the class and the teacher were weird until I was dragged off to the principals office after getting in to a fight with another child in the class. The teacher and kid had been yelling in Spanish and when I was dragged in to see the principal she asked the teacher to “translate” for us since it was only the first day and the principal “doubted I knew enough English just yet”.

This wasn’t the first time I had been confronted with the idea of “oh you’re a spic you must speak Spanish.” with white people completely ignoring the fact that I’m more a pocho than a spic if you’re using racist terminology here. No one ever gets that, even to this day, it makes me doubt humanities good nature.

Anyway when my mother came – because yes they just had to pile the shit on to the fiver year old – they tried to tell her that they needed my mother not an aunt that married in to the family. I had never seen my mother so close to hitting another women in my life. After shouting about how she hadn’t given birth to a “bastard child” and how I wasn’t “some dirty immigrant baby” – never mind that my father was a temp worker from Mexico when she met him, got knocked up and kicked him out – she requested I be moved to the “normal” kindergarten class. She was told there was no room for me, but the teacher would converse with me in English from now on, and I’d be allowed to move to the English class by mid-year when one of the students was slated to move and be withdrawn from the class.

My mother was less than happy with this, but she dealt with it and sent me back to class the next day. I got greeted in Spanish and when I tried to say “yo hablo Ingl├ęs”, and than backed it up by saying so in English I got told that it was great that I was “learning so quickly”, by the teacher who had been there when my mother had said I didn’t speak Spanish.

It took three months of this being a daily occurrence before I was pulled out of school for the year, but only because the normal class actually wasn’t going to have anyone dropping out that year. I still don’t know what my teacher was constantly yelling at me about, especially since my English work was always perfect.