I write this post with the acknowledgment that I own many privileges as a male, heterosexual, college-educated, Christian, able-bodied, employed, and a person living in America. Even with these privileges, there are times when I am faced with situations that remind me of my inferiority as a person of color. It was only last week when I went to a Best Buy store, and the salesperson would not even acknowledge me when I was just a couple of feet away from him. It probably took more effort to ignore me than to say hi or say the words “how may I help you”? Did I not look like I had any money to spend? It bothers me when a server ignores my table and treats my friends and us like we don’t belong there. When a salesperson at a Nordstrom store goes out of their way to help a white couple, looking affluent, across the store and ignores me while I’m standing next to him, it bothers me. It bothered me enough I went and spoke with the store manager. I asked myself, was it my age, my look, the way I dressed? Today, a person at my university told me, unsolicited, “I didn’t wear my tie today just to feel important.” a reference to the fact that I was wearing a tie like I do most days. I half-jokingly pointed to my arm and told him, “I have to wear ties just to be equal to others because of my brown skin.”  This person says, “Oh no, I didn’t mean it that way, not at all.”  When another person jokingly, I think, asked me, “whose ass did you kiss to get to where you are?” my immediate reaction at that moment was that they were kidding and laughed it off, to wonder later on what they meant. Did they think I got to where I am through some exception or tokenism? Maybe I don’t need to prove myself, but I feel I need to prove my worth by working harder and longer hours. When a vendor I invited to demo a product chose not to look at me during his one-hour presentation and focused on my two white colleagues the entire time, I wondered why that was.

As a person of color, and an immigrant, there are things I notice that maybe my other colleagues or those around me probably don’t. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a gut feeling that things just don’t seem right where things happen. I’ve gotten a response when I’ve questioned situations: “I was too sensitive.” Am I too sensitive? I don’t know. Maybe. At some point, I stopped sharing some of my concerns so as not to hear those words. What I do know is that I sometimes find myself trying to find reasons to justify the actions of others directed at me and leading me to ask myself why was it that I was treated in a certain way. Is it simply because of how I look, act, and speak, that I’m short? Is it because of my skin color, my race? Maybe it has nothing to do with me. It’s just them.

When I was a freshman at UCSB a couple of decades ago, several of my hallmates discussed how we were accepted to UCSB. One of them told me I was born because of affirmative action and that he had other white friends who had better grades than me and did not get in. Somehow I still remember this situation probably because throughout my life since this occurred, I am reminded of the fact that I am still seen as inferior, and my accomplishments may have just been a result of tokenism. Maybe somehow, I did not earn them.

These negative experiences I’ve had pale compared to what other friends have told me. I’m fortunate I didn’t have to go through what they’ve gone through as persons of color, and here I am again, trying to minimize the negative impact these experiences have had on me, but sometimes, they get emotions out of me. Individual incidents probably don’t amount to anything, but when these things happen often enough in one’s lifetime, they become hard to ignore.