The First Time I Saw Racism
My first experience witnessing overt racism was on a summer vacation in Chicago when I was 18. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City and went to Catholic schools so I had very little exposure to diversity throughout my childhood. For the decade I was born, 88% of the residents my home town were white. Yeah, we took vacations once a year to different places in the US, and we went into NYC more times than I could count, but I guess we tended to stick to the tourist parts of our destinations so we did not witness anything that would leave a tourist with a bitter taste in their mouths.
That all changed in 2004 on our family vacation to Chicago. We were staying at a hotel in the North Side about 15 minutes south of Wrigley Field, in an area that was more residential than tourist. On what I believe was our first or second day in the city, we heard a white male cop screaming at two young black males wearing baggy clothing to take the L Train (public transit) back to the South Side. For those unfamiliar with Chicago geography, the North Side is a majority white area whereas the South Side is predominately black. I have no idea if those individuals were known troublemakers, since from my angle, it looked more like racial profiling than anything else.
We did not encounter anything similar to that on the rest of the trip, a trip on which we walked to and from Wrigley Field on multiple occasions, took public transit to the Loop (the business district with a lot of tourist attractions), drove to Comiskey Park (which is on the South Side), and were approached by one or two homeless people as we ate lunch near a major museum or in one of the major parks in the city. I can't remember us really talking about the incident aside from maybe discussing the "Wow factor" of it.
Since that trip, I've been in diverse settings more frequently than I was growing up, but to this day, I've never witnessed anything even remotely close to that. However, I'm sure I've been around covert racism that I forgot about because the shock factor of the experience in Chicago was not part of it.