SBS 301 Cultural Diversity         Fall 2001        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Frances Torrez

My Racist Friend

I can remember that day at work as if it was yesterday.  There I was in the sporting goods area and I ran into Tanya.  She was not working because she did not have her uniform on.  She seemed agitated and asked her what was wrong.  She then proceeded to tell me about an event that had transpired earlier that day.
I knew Tanya before I started working with her.  We went to the same high school, but she was more like an acquaintance than a friend.  She then became employed with the same retail company that I worked for.  We started talking and slowly became friends, but we socialized mostly at work.  At first, this was just another conversation that we were having.  It was like the many others we had before.

Tanya, who is a white person, told me that she almost had an accident.  While driving her car, she came very close to hitting some people.  The people were black.  She said that they were jaywalking.  She told me that if she would of hit them it would have been their fault and not hers.  Luckily, nobody was injured because she stopped her car in time.  Then she said that she became upset.  Tanya became so upset that instead of just driving away, she physically got out of her car and tried to confront the jaywalkers.  She said that she began to yell at them because they were jaywalking and she almost hit them.  She told me what she had actually said to these people.  She said something to the effect of, “What do you think you fucking niggers are doing?”  Also, she yelled out, “What is wrong with you niggers?  She then got back into her car and drove away.  I do not remember if Tanya said these things directly to their faces or if they just kept walking.  All I know is that the situation did not turn violent.

When Tanya explained the incident she did it with a steady voice.  She did not stutter or repeat herself.  She had such an enormous control of her speech that the words just flowed out of her mouth.  Her steady voice made her seem unaffected by the whole incident.  Her indifference became quite clear as she was telling me about the whole tragic event.
In my eyes it certainly was not tragic for her.  She was not the victim, although she believed that she was.  She was the one who was terrorizing a group of people over something that was completely ridiculous.  Tanya had such an uncaring attitude.  She absolutely had no remorse for what she did and said.  Her attitude screamed NO BIG DEAL.  Instead, all she cared about was her precious car.  She was so thankful that her car did not get scratched or dented in anyway.  I could not believe how indifferent she was to the others involved.  It was like something I might read about or see on television.
Although the situation was first about jaywalking, it soon became evident that it was more than that.  The color of the jaywalkers' skin changed the whole dynamics of this event.  Before we knew it, this car comes out no where and almost ran us down.  Then the driver started to honk her car horn at us.  Tanya was very angry about the whole situation.  I wonder what the black people felt.  They were the ones who were being yelled at by an angry white woman.  Then we could hear somebody yelling and I knew it was the driver.  I stopped and turned around and sure enough it was she.  They were probably scared, as Tanya was angry.
It is obvious that Tanya had uncontrollable anger.  She physically stopped her car and got out.  That just shows how angry she became.  Her uncontrollable anger must have scared the black jaywalkers.  There must have been fear in their bodies somewhere.  Then she called those black people that horrible word.  When I heard that it sent chills up my spine.  I got scared and then angry. 
That word.  I hate that word.  At that point, Tanya's white skin stood out more than ever.  For a moment, all I could see was her white skin.  Her skin began to illuminate a milky, white glow.  What do you fucking niggers think you are doing?  What is wrong with you niggers?  When she said those words, the sound of her voice became strong and deep.  Those words stand out because it represents her anger and hatred for black people.  That stupid white girl started calling us niggers.  I wanted to turn around and knock that white bitch to the ground.  I could not understand why she had said those things.  I remember that I was in disbelief and expressed that to her.  I questioned her about the incident and asked her if it really happened.  Tanya told me yes.  Now I understand, but nine years ago the concept of racism was foreign to me.

Whites have an unspoken power that only they are entitled to.  I hate admitting this, but it was easier to walk away.  It is a power that whites can exert over any non-white race.  I was so scared and in complete shock.  It is evident that Tanya felt that unspoken power.  She tried to exert her white power over the black jaywalkers.  If I confronted the driver, she could have pulled a gun on me and my friend.  She tried to dominate and control the situation and the black people with her white power.  A person like that is probably in a white supremacist group.  She probably has a tattoo of a swastika on her body.  I guess now that I think about it, perhaps it was best that my friend and I walked away.
The borderland of race is evident in this incident.  Tanya is a racist.  This incident was not about nearly getting into a car accident.  Tanya sees black people in a class by themselves.  A racial class that is lower than humanity.  To her black people are not fit to co-exist with her and the rest of the world.  Those black jaywalkers innocently and briefly took away Tanya's superiority.
I am still puzzled as to why Tanya decided to share her story with me.  The only answer that I keep coming up with is that Tanya believes that all whites and Hispanics share her views about black people.  What stands out most about this incident is that I called Tanya my friend.  Her behavior was completely unacceptable to me and it was utterly disgusting.  I regret not telling her that.  I was just in such complete shock that I did not know what to say.  I knew what she did was wrong, but I could not gather my thoughts.  I felt like an idiot then and a part of me still does.  How could I have not said anything and how could I have been such a terrible judge of character?  That is why this whole ugly incident stays with me.

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