Saturday, December 30, 2006

i could kick myself

O.K., so i called up Michaels yesterday. i had put off doing it mainly because after i calmed down about the whole thing, i didn't care anymore. but it was still nagging me in the back of my mind. it's the principle of the matter. you just don't treat people like that. plus, i'd never get away with treating clients that way. ESPECIALLY BEING BLACK. why should she?

so, the kids were with grandma, hub was at work, it was nice and quiet. i called and asked to speak to the manager. his name was tracey. or stacey. i actually don't remember. anyway, i went on with this big spill about Pam, and how she treated me like shit (didn't say shit), blah, blah, unacceptable....blah, blah, blah...she needs to brush up on her customer service skills....blah, blah, blah.

all the while thinking that i'm probably talking to myself anyway, because he probably doesn't give a rats ass about what i'm saying. so i finished my piece, and then it was his turn to talk.

once he started apologizing, i could tell right away he was a black man. so sue me, i called it. i know he was black. he had that bass in his voice (yeah, i said it). so he began telling me how sorry he was and he'll have a chat with Pam.

i'm thinking GREAT. he probably thinks i'm just some old white snob...i should have made myself sound black, so he'd know where i was coming from. i can turn that on and off when i want, and most of the time it's off.
Damn. oh well.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Not the race card

tonight, i went to Michael's craft store at Airport Way to pick up some dried flowers for a rustic vase i have in my living room. so, when i got to the section i wanted, the thing i wanted was way up on the top shelf. i couldn't reach it. the closest clerk was this lady named Pam ,sitting at the floral "arrangement" desk. she was sitting there, staring into space. i guess from the way she acted, she's must have felt exempt from showing any type of customer service whatsoever. i walked over and asked, "excuse me, would you be able to grab something down from this shelf for me over here?" she did a really obvious sigh---not just any sigh but an abrupt "ughfff" sigh to let me know i was SERIOUSLY disturbing her "floral meditation". in my head, i was like, Oh, no she DIDN'T. she then asked WHAT it was that i needed her to get down, very irritated. come again???
so, long story short, she grudgingly showed me somewhere else in the store where the same item was sitting. "thanks" i told her. if there's one thing i learned in my twenties, it's how to handle situations and people like that. she made no comment back after i thanked her. so, a few minutes later, when i saw another employee (who turned out to be her supervisor) i explained what had just happened. the supervisor stood there and made excuse after excuse for her. 'oh, we all have bad days....she's only one can be 100% all the probably just caught her at a bad time....' yeah, whatever. i replied that i understood that but it's not an excuse for such bad customer service. she ended up finally apologizing for Pam, but only because i pressed the issue after she gave excuses for her. but that wasn't good enough for me, because i could tell she was mentally filing my complaint way in the archives of her brain.. you don't just back up an employee when they are clearly out of line, and the customer is always right. hello, that's Customer Service 101. "oh, um hmmm...okay, and what is YOUR name?" because now, SHE'LL be named also when i talk to the manager.

couple of things: i don't know if i got that treatment from the first employee because of being black or not. it doesn't matter in this case. i mean, PROBABLY, that's just expected. but that's not the point of this post. white, black, red or yellow, that employee was in the wrong. i'm just observing that most likely it was a race factor.
secondly, i wonder if i had been white if her supervisor would have blew it off so nonchalantly. i don't really know.
and thirdly (okay 3 things), now, the supervisor is out of line for making excuses for that. i realize that it's only Michaels craft store and not Nordstrom, but still.

here's the point of my post, which ties in perfectly with one of my previous posts about the way i talk. i'm calling the manager asap tomorrow, and i'm not playing the race card. that gets me nowhere. i mean white people usually never believe it when black people claim that anyways, and just think you're just trying to take advantage somehow. i thought about talking to the manager while i was at the store, right then and there, but why take the risk of them blowing me off too because i'm black ? they need to hear my complaint objectively. i will call the store, in my most professional and diplomatic tone. they WILL think i'm white. i know this because it's happened before. they will apologize, they will take me seriously, and take some kind of action against PAM (i'm not saying she needs to be fired, but she needs a lesson on customer service. if she was just having a bad day, that's got nothing to do with me). over the phone is the only way i'll make a complaint-that way or i'll write a letter. NEVER in person. believe me, i've done it in person, and i know it felt like they never took me seriously.

Friday, December 22, 2006


i was at work yesterday evening, shooting the breeze with a couple of co-workers. one was another black girl and the other was a really cool white guy. they were catching up on gossip around the office and started talking about how i never know what's going on around there because i only work about 20 hours a week. i usually go into the office in the evening to finish up so i can be with my kids during the day. so, i was being clueless as usual, admitting to not knowing who's sleeping with whom or who got promoted, etc, when out of the blue my friend, the white guy turns to me and says (irritatingly!) , " Black girl, does your man make THAT much damn money that you only have to work 20 hours a week?!"

i was taken aback. that's what people at work think? that we're so well off that i choose to work 20 hours a week because i have nothing better to do? i smiled and got really embarassed. flattered, i triedto pretend that my embarassment was because what he suggested was true. what do you say to that? because actually the opposite is true; my man makes just enough that we get by and those measly 20 hours i work really helps us out. in the field that i'm in, even just 20 hours make a difference. in other words, we need my "little" 20 hours.

i smiled and laughed it off and didn't try to dissuade him from thinking that. how does someone get by working 20 hours a week? the truth is, that the perception of my husband making such big money and me working only 20 hours a week because i'm a bored well -off semi-housewife is a nice thought, and honestly what i'd like people to think. actually it's mainly other black people that i'd like to think that. well, aqaintance black people who don't know me well enough to know otherwise. but i'll settle for anyone thinking that.

i married my husband because i love him. this is going to sound so wrong but here goes. now that we're married (and we've been married 10 years), i feel like there's a status thing to live up to, him being white and all. i mean, if you're a black woman married to a white guy with no money, what's the point? obviously i don't feel that way, but i know there's a lot of black people who do, like, they'd only get with someone white if he had money. why else would a black woman be with a white guy???

here's another truth: that nice, big Landcruiser(and i'm sorry but i love that thing) you people at work see me driving? pretty nice, huh? how can we afford that thing with me working 20 hours? for one thing, my husband insisted we have his dream suv. but let me put it this way. if i weren't working that 20 hours, i definitely wouldn't be rolling it. and the cost to fill it up? i wouldn't know these days, since i haven't been able to actually top it off in almost a year with the gas prices.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


i decided to rearrange some furniture in our house. in all of this, we ended up with a piece of furniture that just didn't fit our taste anymore. so we put an ad on craigslist. within a few hours, i had several emails and a couple phone calls.

i got the first call early in the day while i was in Fred Meyer shopping with my daughters, and it actually surprised me because with all the commotion just trying to get through the store with my kids, i had totally forgotten about the ad. the woman on the other end sounded so nice and i could tell she was a little older, maybe 40's or 50's. she talked to me like we were old friends and she was coming over to borrow something. she was so sweet. she made arrangements to come to my house, which is only about 5 blocks away! she even told me my name was cute (my first thoughts were to wonder what her angle was...).

later in the day she called, and addressed me by my name and made other arrangements to come see the furniture as something came up in her schedule. again, her voice sounded so familiar, and friendly. i was almost certain i'd recognize her from someplace when she finally showed up.

and then i stopped. i KNOW i sound white on the phone. i have a very sweet, white-ish sounding voice (yes, i said it, I sound white). we had 3 conversations on the phone and i could tell that when she finally came over we'd relate in a very friendly sort of way (same neighborhood, etc). and then i got all insecure and started not wanting to be home when she got there. i didn't want her to be disappointed when i opened the door and saw a black girl.

does that matter to people? 'cause whenever i'm in a situation where i talk to someone over the phone before meeting them (job interviews, or buying something from someone off Craigslist, etc), i always cringe because i know they'll be shocked to find out i'm black. and no, i'm not exaggerating. i've experienced that look of surprise before. i hate it. i don't know why i care so much. i don't know why i sound white. well, i guess i do. my mom majored in english and corrected my english all the time growing up. plus the fact that i grew up with a lot more white friends than black so i guess i never learned to have that "edge" in my voice. oh god, did i say that?

i know i'm gonna get flamed for that statement. but it's true. but the funny thing is, i could and probably will turn right around and blog about how ridiculous that there's "white way" and a "black way" to talk, and how dare any white person tell me that i talk white.

Monday, December 18, 2006

asian salon

today i took my son and daughter to an Asian Salon joint for a hair cut. i was apprehensive in going, because i never quite know if there's some unspoken only asian rule. i know that sounds stupid, i mean i know there's no rule-maybe it's an understanding, or maybe it's just me?

i love going to asian supermarkets. there's one, it's called Fubonn ( love that name, i love the way it sounds!) on 82nd. i went in there about a year ago and i swear, all the people looked at me like they were wondering what the heck i was doing in there. it wasn't really a mean stare, it was kind of like they wondered if i knew where i was. some asian business seem to be really mainstream, and everyone goes there. but one day i went to Pho Hung on 73 and Fremont, and i got the look again. it was all asian inside.

so today, i went to the salon, and the two girls were really nice. they did give kind of a weird look when i first walked in the door, which made me think maybe it was for asians only. but hey. how difficult can it be to pull out some clippers and cut a boy's hair? they spoke to each other in vietnamese, which to me personally feels the same as someone whispering in front of you. i made sure to smile though. after they were done, i wanted to use my debit card to pay for it, but they didn't have the setup for that. so you know what? they let me write a check! i was so surprised. maybe they figured that the potential of a bad check or any check is better than nothing at all, since my other options were to either not pay, or leave to go get cash (and possibly never come back ) i gave them all this unsolicited information about how i just lived down the street and offering up my phone number and other stuff. for them to take a check just wasn't what i expected. almost every asian business i've ever gone to wont take checks. i 'm sure i'll be going back for my kids' haircuts and my brow waxing.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Do you know any white people with the last name Washington??

well, DO you?

i was talking to my brother today, i don't remember how we got started talking about it, but he was talking about ancestors. he asked, "where are all of George Washington's family??" down the line, generation after generation. i wasn't sure what he was getting at, my first thoughts were that i didn't know and why should i care?

then i realized what a common name Washington is. i went to school with several unrelated people with the last name Washington. and they were all black. i must have known at least 10 different families in my life with that last name. not one of them a white family. So where are George Washington's decendants?

i'm not sure what my brother's implications were but it's an interesting point. i mean, his family must have had a GRIP of slaves, is all i can think of. but what about his family? do you know any Washingtons? are they white? i'd LOVE to know.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

what's my point?

just wanted to say thanks for the interesting comments. i love the discussion and perspectives from different people. i might just mention however, (as someone somewhere asked what exactly my point is with this blog) that i might not have a point. i started this blog to just write down what i feel, what i see, what i experience regarding race in Portland Oregon. that's it. some posts may have a point, some might not.

Monday, December 11, 2006

No wonder white people love it here

i just got back from a mini-vacation to see family in Atlanta. everyone knows that "hot-lanta" is nicknamed the chocolate city. lots and lots and LOTS of black people. for the black people that live there, it's NO. THING. but when people that are from up north go down there, it's like being a kid in a candy store. to walk the streets and everywhere you go there are black people? it's really something. and not just the average joe black person, but black professionals. there's never a feeling of feeling like you don't belong. instead, it's the white people that are mentally dismissed, like the way they do us. it's an indescribeable feeling. i feel SO "in place".

so it got me thinking. white people must feel that way ALL THE TIME. i mean, everywhere they go, there are their people. no wonder it's so easy to feel invisible in portland. well specifically the Hawthorne district, where my mom and i went this past summer.

we took my kids over there to stroll around in the evening time. all along Hawthorne street is riddled with novelty shops and eateries. we walked past several restaurants where the white people were laughing and drinking, having a good time. it's hard to explain, because of course who looks around at passersby while they're eating? but this was different. it's like, we were in a sea of white people who were chatting and having a good time, and never even saw us. we were invisible. like i said, it's hard to explain. it's something as simple as someone looking at you and instead of giving you a "hello" smile, just merely looking past you. it's like that. and it's not that i wanted attention, it's the feeling of not being thought of as important enough to be noticed.

but the same way i felt so at home, and felt so much like atlanta was where i belonged, all the white people here must feel that way and so much more. no wonder they love it so much here in Portland. what if portland was only 7 percent white? would they love it as much? i dont think they would. would portland be the same city if it were only 7 percent white? i'll have to get back to you on that one.

Monday, December 04, 2006

black (and white) people and their dogs

i don't remember exactly how this conversation got started, but i was in the car with another black friend of mine yesterday while passing a group of dog owners and their dogs at an off-leash dog area at Wilshire park.

"That's such a white thing" she says.

"what's a white thing? dog parks?"

"OFF-LEASH dog parks."

"really? i don't think so."

"you don't think so?"

"no, what's race got to do with it?" ( i've never given any thought about it until today)

"have you ever seen black people at the off-leash dog park???"

i had to stop to think. "well um, no...."

"that's my point."

that conversation unleashed (no pun intended) a long discussion about the relationship between white people and their dogs, and black people and their dogs. there really are differences, starting with the dog park thing. i have never seen any black people at the dog park letting their dog run wild. have you? and not that it's a bad thing, i've just never seen it. i've also never seen or heard of any black people who let their dogs sleep in their beds. have you? but i've met plenty of white people who do.

my first argument was that yes, there are many black people who regard their dogs as family. there's no difference there. but from my observations, i've never seen a black person take a plastic bag with them while walking their dogs, picking up the poop with their hands, through the bag. and i never see them at off-least dog parks. and not that there's any particular reason why, but on the flip side, i don't think it's just coincidence. i guess it's a cultural thing.