A Tryst With Racism


pour over

He said his name was Carlos, and I wrote it on the cup and passed it down the line.  I, as I often do, immediately forgot his name as the plastic left my hand.  It’s a bad habit, but not an uncommon one at Starbucks.

He told me he needed another caramel macchiato, but this one was a hot one .  I wrote his order on the cup, along with a name, and slid it down the line of drinks.

Moment’s later, someone went on a break and I had to go bar.

It’s weird when you go on bar from register and there’s a long line of drinks.  You end up making drinks for people you already connected with at register.  It feels sort of dirty, like seeing someone you used to date while you’re on another date.  You hope they don’t tell everyone else you’re up to your old tricks again.

“Have a nice day?  A nice day?  He told me that not five minutes ago, and look how nice my day turned fucking out to be, waiting in a line for my god damn hibiscus.  Nice day?  Please.  Come up with something original.  And don’t listen to him when he says you have a nice bag.  He told me that one, too.”

So I just didn’t talk to the people I had already talked to.  They didn’t talk to me either.  There was shared understanding.  We both knew too much.

And then I got to Carlos’s hot caramel macchiato.

I doubt there’s anyone who seriously considers them self a racist, just like I doubt there’s anyone who considers them self a villain or a serial killer.  No no, they say, I’m not evil.  It’s everyone else that is.

I’m not a racist.

But…

I wrote Jose on Carlos’ caramel macchiato.

I don’t remember doing it, but there it was.  His name is Carlos, not Jose.  Jose is what a racist person would write on Carlos’ cup.  Jose or Pedro.  That’s what fat rednecks or Donald Trump call Mexicans when they complain about them taking our jobs or jumping the border or whatever.  And I wrote it on a cup,

I was terrified.  To me, for some reason, at that moment, Jose and Pedro were the most racist names possible.  I looked over at Carlos.

He hadn’t seen it yet.  Thank god oh praise the sun he hadn’t seen it yet .  He was watching, yes, he was watching, but he hadn’t seen it yet.  I reached around in my pocket and ah ha!  A sharpie.

The milk finished steaming.  The shots were done.  I had about six seconds to make the drink before the shots died and I had to start all over.

I scribbled out the name.  What was once Jose was now a big, black, angry scratch.  I looked up, and Carlos was watching me.

I handed him the drink.

I told him to have a nice day.

He asked me if I scribbled out the name.

I looked at the cup.  The name was clearly scribbled out.  There was no getting around this one.

I told him I had.

He asked me if it said Jose.  I blushed.  My throat itched.  I couldn’t stop blinking.

He knew.

I told him I’m not racist.

He said what?

I told him it was an accident.

He cocked his head and asked me why writing Jose was racist.

Well, you know, it’s like, a stereotypical name.  It’d be like writing George or something on white guy’s cup if you forgot his name.

He told me no it’s not.  It’s a name.  There are plenty of people named Jose.

So it wasn’t racist?

He said no.

Are you sure?

Yes, writing Jose on a cup isn’t racist, but thinking it was racist was.

I said oh.

He said bye.

And everyone was watching.  I went back to my drink, feeling like a big racist.

But then I realized that, since bad guys don’t think their bad guys, and evil dictators don’t think they’re evil dictators, and racists don’t think they’re racists, then, by thinking I’m a racist, I just proved to myself that I wasn’t a racist, right?  Right?

Right?

caramel macchiato

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22 Comments

  1. The Twentysomething Social Recluse

     /  August 28, 2015

    I enjoyed reading this, it’s pretty interesting. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  2. Interesting read

    Reply
  3. Reflecting on one’s behaviour when it comes to racism has to be a first step in rooting out any such action. Congrats. Good post.

    Reply
  4. Nice story man well delivered 🙂 Racism’s a tough subject mostly because I think people get the wrong idea. I would say you’ve more than proven you’re not racist by the mere fact that you were more concerned with Carlos taking offense than the chances of you becoming embarrassed for scribbling out his cup. Racism isn’t just the act of characterizing a race it’s the act of characterization with intent to belittle or make inferior a race based on those characteristics. I think it would go a long way if people understood what it really means to be racist if only to avoid those awkward moments 😛

    Reply
  5. Interesting.
    Jose felliciano is one of my favorite singers
    Next time say that.
    Racism exists but people who worry about this are not.
    Cool greetings from starbucks in Europe where i use the name”yoko ono”.

    Reply
  6. Alex Colvin

     /  August 28, 2015

    Very cool. I like both you and Carlos.

    Reply
  7. Thank you for sharing this experience! I could not help but laugh 🙂 – sorry! You are right some people are racist without knowing or admitting it… Being aware of one’s own tendencies to categorize people – be it by race, income, political stance – is the closest to being non-judgemental, I think. We all have prejudice assumptions now and again, as long as we are willing to challenge them it is not too bad 🙂

    Loved the ending – rationalizing one’s actions/thoughts is a great human trait 🙂 Ha ha…

    Reply
  8. All that stress. All that self doubt. The anguish. The torture. The embarrasement. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just “drop” the cup and have to get a clean one? 😉

    Reply
  9. Also loved the ending…great post x

    Reply
  10. Thanks william for liking my blog ‘Writing a boon or a bane’. I liked your style of writing too.

    Reply
  11. In my view it is brave to acknowledge and write about something you are not proud of. Well done!

    Reply
  12. Enjoyed reading this. Hahaha

    Reply
  13. You are so funny, why didn’t you think you grabbed the wrong cup? That’s what, I thought the story was leading to but, I was wrong. Good job.

    Reply
  14. When we grow up in a culture where racism’s so pervasive, it’s in the air we breathe. It takes up residence in our lungs. I don’t know if there’s any way to avoid the spores completely, but we can be aware of them and call them what they are, and antibioticize as many as possible.

    Reply
  15. I liked this piece, but near the end, every “their” should be “they’re.”

    Reply

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