From the moment we are born, we are thrust into classes that are solely meant to segregate us. We are assigned a name, a religion, a tribe and so much more. From that point on we are expected to spend the rest of our lives fighting to defend these predetermined assignments. Of all the forms of segregation one of the highest ranking is none other than racism. Basically, one group of human beings decided that the level of melanin or pigmentation in one’s skin would dictate their place in society. The more melanin you have, the greater the ridicule you are subjected to and the less you have, the more “divine” you are considered.
As I am writing this, I must confess that I am yet to travel widely around this globe (Hoping to change that soon). For this reason, my interaction as well as encounters with foreigners is somewhat limited. The one’s that I have met have left some lasting (mostly positive) impressions but there are those who left a foul and unpalatable taste in the mouth so to speak. The one who stands out the most (on the negative side) is the one who gave me my first direct dose of racial discrimination.
It was quite a long time ago but the experience is still fresh on my mind. I was at an institution (Name withheld) of higher learning in pursuit of sweet knowledge, young and yet to experience the multitude of ups and downs life had to offer.
One day I was trying to make a print out of an assignment that was due. For some reason all the students in the entire institution seemed to be in the same boat and so all the known printing venues were packed. After a little wandering here and there, I stumbled on one where the queue was shorter. The last on the queue was an elderly white priest who was possibly a Spaniard. I promptly joined them flash drive in hand, and relief on my face. As we slowly sauntered on, the priest hurriedly left the queue for some unknown reason. Perhaps he had forgotten a document or had brought the wrong one, I thought. The queue moved on and I got closer to the printer. After a while, there was only one person ahead of me. Finally. I had arrived. Just as I was about to place my flash drive in the machine, I got unceremoniously shoved of the queue.
Now in that moment, only one question ran through my mind; Friend or foe? A friend would have probably just been playing around with me. A foe would have come seeking a brawl but that was unlikely considering where we were at that moment. I turned around to face my attacker and enquire as to why they had opted to give such unjust treatment to a neutral party. I was genuinely shocked to see the priest standing there with a scowl on his face. “YOU ARE DISPLACING ME FROM THE LINE!!! I WAS HERE BEFORE YOU BLOODY MONKEY!!!” (Censored Version) He shouted at me. That right there was a genuine ‘what the fudge cake’ moment for me (censored, as I do not condone profanity). All I could do was stare blankly back at him. This did not add up for me. This was a priest. He had the black robe, crucifix and everything. I automatically accorded any man of the cloth respect as they served the supreme deity (God) that I had been raised to worship. They were supposed to be models of society that we could rely on.
Trying to make sense of it all and avoid an awkward confrontation, I walked away. Incase you are wondering, yes there were other people around but they all just looked away like it was of no concern to them. What really astonished me was his approach. All he had to do was request me to let him go first. He did have a right to go first but he spun it into a completely unprecedented scenario. Later on he bumped into me on a different queue and simply said, “I thought you had cut in front of me on the line”. Briskly he walked away without another word. That was his “explanation”. No apology was given. In that moment I lost all respect for him and his kind (Priests I mean). They were just a bunch of glorified humans no different from you or me who simply exalted themselves to divine levels by invoking the name of God. They believed themselves above reproach by mere mortals. No wonder so many alter boys got molested (Yes, I said it).
Religious views aside though, that was my first time being discriminated against for my race. As I watched him go, I looked down at my hand. “So, that’s what racism feels like”, I thought. It did not hurt, but it was surprising to actually experience it in real life. And from a priest of all people, Up until then I had only seen it on movies and television shows but now I could finally cross ‘Get racially discriminated against’ off my bucket list.