I’m shaking my head at the amount of (white) people responding to my most recent comic with “I don’t think this really happens now,” “This is probably exaggerated,” “No one says stuff like this to someone’s face,” “Those are innocent questions,” and my favorite: “Actually, minorities are pretty much more privileged than whites at this point because they are given so many opportunities!” I guess these are the same people that claim our society is post-racism because they don’t know anyone who’s racist.
The thing about the questions being asked on the right side of the comic is: those people really don’t think they’re being racist or inappropriate. When people approach a person of color and ask, “Are you the first person in your family to go to college?” they genuinely believe this is a positive assumption. Usually this is followed by “Your parents must be so proud!” before you can even respond. They think they’re giving you the opportunity to beam and trot out your inspirational horror story of clawing your way out of the hood and avoiding teen pregnancy and gangs while simultaneously helping your single mother raise your 5 younger siblings. There’s nothing wrong with that story, or being the first person in your family to go to college, but the negative assumption is and it’s hurtful. I mean, all black and latina women are proudly uneducated welfare queens pumping out children to various fathers, right? These questions will come from the mouths of people who think they’re progressive and unprejudiced, but you can bet they’re not asking whites the same things, hence the left side of the comic.
Luckily, I’ve never faced violent or hostile forms of racism, but I’m hyper-aware of being treated differently and it’s more apparent the older I get. It’s the little things, like being asked “When did you get your GED?” instead of “When did you graduate high school?” It’s customers approaching you at work and slowly and loudly asking “DO - YOU - SPEAK - ENGLISH?” It’s the cashier at the grocery store asking for your food stamp card because she assumes you have one, and she thinks that assumption is OK to express publicly.
If you’re white and you read my comic and thought “This isn’t real,” just look at the literally thousands of comments saying, “This is my life,” “Welcome to my reality,” “I constantly get asked these questions,” “So accurate it’s scary.” I hate the phrase “Check your privilege,” but seriously, check it and be thankful you aren’t reminded of your race constantly from merely interacting with the world. It’s not always lynchings and screamed epithets. It’s happening all around you, and just because you never noticed it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.