Pico de Gallo and Racism

This is a difficult post to write, but the topic of racism has been weighing heavily on my mind lately.  I’ve been volunteering in the Cultural Diversity Department for the City of Auburn for almost a year now, and through that position receive enough information and current events about diversity and racism to overwhelm even the most avid learner.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love learning, and I know it’s important to at least have an awareness of the happenings of your community, country, and world.

What’s difficult is that so often as I sift through the information to find what’s relevant for our community, I read story after story of hurt that is forced on people based on their ethnicity, culture, religion, sexual orientation, or economic status.  I’d like to try to pretend that this isn’t a common occurrence, that I’m just reading a collective gathering of stories from across the country, representative of the few and not the many.  But I see examples all around me day by day.

I stopped at a store a while back (which I will not name because my intent is not spread anger or hate, but awareness) and was shocked by the way the Caucasian clerk treated the Hispanic woman in line in front of me.  As the woman, red faced with embarrassment, sifted through the contents of her purse to find some change to cover what her food stamps did not, the clerk began disparaging the woman for not speaking English and stealing American jobs.

She may have thought she was doing so under her breath, but it was certainly loud enough for me to hear at the end of the conveyor belt, and as the woman’s face turned a deeper shade of red and tears welled in her eyes, I became pretty certain that she understood exactly what was being said.

“Excuse me!” I butted in.  “That is completely inappropriate and unprofessional.  I will be speaking to your manager about this.”  Then I apologized to the poor woman as she handed over her change and rushed out of the store with shame written all over her face.

Again I’d like to pretend this is an isolated incident, but then I remember the times I’ve found hate propaganda against specific races plastered on light posts.  I began crying as my husband helped me to frantically rip them down in the hopes we could destroy the hate before it reached its target.  I’ve even gotten hateful comments on my blog that having nothing to do with the content other than using racial slurs for people who do or don’t eat whatever food I have in a certain post.

Our city (like the United States) is a beautiful place, rich with diversity, and most people embrace that and find it exciting.  But it only takes one bad apple to taint a beautiful thing, and I will fight bad apples for all I’m worth.  To me it’s not just because it’s the right thing to do, it’s personal.

Growing up in Hawaii was for the most part a wonderful experience.  The majority of the local people have a beautiful view of ohana (family) and once they welcome you in, you’re in for life.  But some locals were so bitter toward white people, and Hawaii is where I gained a unique experience that very few Caucasians ever have.  Sometimes, a person I didn’t even know  looked at the color of my skin, and hated me.

The sting of that goes straight to your soul, to the core of your being.  You feel guilt for being born the way you were, and confusion for why they judge you without even knowing you.  Then anger bubbles to the surface and you’re tempted to yell something hateful back, but no, you’re above that and don’t want to add fuel to their fire.  For 15 years I was the minority, and it gave me an understanding I hope I never lose.

So the next time you’re in the grocery store next to someone who looks different than you, instead of wondering (as that clerk was so quick to assume) if they’re stealing  jobs, or how they got into the country, choose to view them as a person, like you.  We’re all just people!  I don’t know the solution to immigration laws, in fact I’m so thankful that’s not my job because I don’t think there’s an easy answer.  But I choose to make everyone around me feel welcome, to embrace the diversity of America because that’s part of what makes it beautiful.

So in honor of that lovely woman who was in line in front of me, today brings a recipe for pico de gallo.  I asked one of the chefs at Club Med Ixtapa for the recipe for the pico de gallo they had out for us every day.  I finally made it last week and the freshness of it took me right back to Mexico!

Pico De Gallo Recipe

makes 1 cup

Ingredients

2 large Roma tomatoes
1/3 a jalapeno seeded and chopped
1/4 a red onion finely chopped
2 TBS cilantro finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
juice of one lime
salt and pepper

Instructions

Mix all ingredients but the salt and pepper.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 10 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Approximate cost/serving: I bought all the ingredients at our Latino Market down the street for only 85 cents! Although I didn’t use all the onion and jalapeno, we’ll say it cost 85 cents.  It made 4 servings, two with tacos, and two with nachos the next day.  That means only 22 cents a serving!

Vegetarian/Gluten Free: Good to go on both counts.


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26 Responses to “Pico de Gallo and Racism”

  1. Jamie
    May 21, 2010 at 7:30 am #

    Thank you for sharing that story (and the recipe). It makes me so sad that people can treat other human beings like they are less than that. Living in the Midwest I have seen plenty of negative reaction to immigration, it shocks me that we can quickly forget that many of our grandparents grew up as the first or second generation in the US. I’ve heard so many stories about how my grandparent’s parents generation spoke German or Danish, etc. in the home and my grandparent’s generation had to learn English and translate for their families. This isn’t all that different than what is going on now with Hispanic families. I don’t know the solution either. We just need to share our love and compassion with everyone to help make the best of it.

  2. Teaspoon
    May 21, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    Well said. I hope the manager takes the necessary steps to train his or her employees in appropriate behavior.

    • Anonymous
      March 27, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      I certainly hope the employee in question lost HIS job that day.

  3. Memoria
    May 21, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    What a fantastic post. I completely agree with everything you stated. Many people say that racism no longer exists in the U.S., and that clearly isn’t true. If you are a minority, you especially know that that isn’t true. I’m saddened yet glad you had that experience in Hawaii b/c many Caucasians don’t understand how it feels to be judged unfairly and solely based on one’s skin color. We can control the color of our skin, but we can control our behavior and attitudes.

  4. Carrie
    May 21, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    Diana, In my opinion, you handled the situation properly. I get so upset when I see someone bully another person and it takes courage to stand up to that. Most times I stand up, but sometimes, I’m just too afraid to. I like to think we, collectively, are making great strides with abolishing the ignorance of racism. We , collectively, are not making strides to treat bullies. Have faith.

  5. Kelly
    May 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    What a horrible experience. I’m glad you stood up. It reminds me of that segment they do on tv (I think it is ‘What would you do’) where they have all kinds of bad situations and show how everyday people respond. Recently they had one in which a waiter was treating different same-sex couples poorly and it was interesting to hear people’s responses. I’m glad you said something!

  6. SundancerSEM
    June 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    I’ve shared your experience growing up in Hawaii, and I am glad you are such a warrior for justice! Love you sis!

  7. Tofu Mom
    August 2, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    Ran across your lovely blog (and this story) while doing a random search for something else. Thank you for sharing the story and standing up for someone when they’re the victim of such treatment. Thank you, also for the lovely blog – I always like running across fellow Puget Sound foodie blogs!!

  8. Glinda Bustamante
    October 15, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    God bless you my sister!!! Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom, it is much appreciated my friend. If you are ever in Texas look me up!!!! Praying for you and your family, The Bustamantes

  9. Jan Nash
    November 8, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    I just discovered your website today and it is fantastic! When I read about your experience and your reactions to the racist behavior of that clerk in the market it made me cry. Like you, I feel very disturbed about this anti-immigrant sentiment growing in our country and around the world. It’s connected to the difficult economic times we’re experiencing, and hopefully will subside again when/if times get better. For some reason, when some people experience economic fears, they take it out on others. And in this day and age of misconstrued information and fear mongering, people are more susceptible than ever to negative propoganda. For some of us it triggers more compassion and empathy for others, but for some it triggers their worst characteristics: racism, hatred, vindictiveness, anger, lack of compassion. Keep writing your supportive thoughts, no matter what others think. Now that I know about your website I will check in regularly.

  10. Amanda
    February 25, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    I appreciate this post, despite it being a year old. I work in youth group at my church and we bus kids in from all over the city. We have a wide variety of children, all colors, ages and temperaments. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Most of the time we all get along very well, but every so often one child picks on another and I have to step in. It breaks my heart. I can appreciate someone who stands up for someone no matter what the color of their skin might be. We’re all people after all. We all need the same things. Love being first and foremost.

  11. Carol
    March 6, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I was just looking for a recipe for salsa verde and found your wonderful blog. Like Amanda I appreciate your comments even though they are over a year old. I agree with everything you said and I want to add that we need to remember that you can’t tell where a person is from or their ethnicity by the way they look. I have met people who I thought were hispanic based on their name but they were from the Phillipines. While in Hawaii I was mistaken for a native. I was behind a man in line in a store once who became outraged because the clerk spoke to him in Spanish. He said he was from Northern Africa and didn’t speak Spanish. I don’t know why it made him so angry but since then I try to see people as individuals and not as members of a particular group. Am I making any sense? I’m making your salsa verde right now (tomatillos roasting). Can’t wait! Thanks so much for being here.

    • diana
      March 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

      Thanks Carol, yes you are making sense! I think it’s wise to keep in mind that everyone has different life experiences that can cause them hurts, and not thinking of them as an individual can really trigger some raw emotions. Good for you for learning from that experience!

  12. Joe
    April 1, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    I stumbled upon this looking up a recipe … I have to say that your perspective on “not being from the majority” is rather unique in the US. Well, unique outside of Hawaii. I grew up in a city in Southern California where my friends were (racially) Hawaiian, Samoan, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, white, black and Filipino. Growing up, we weren’t taught “tolerance.” There was nothing to teach…we just accepted each other, and our diverse cuisines as “normal.” The first day I realized I wasn’t “normal” was high school in a completely white neighborhood. To this day, my reaction is the same … “how ridiculous … how sad.” I can understand making certain assumptions about a person based on their race … that’s normal. In my neighborhood, the best Chinese food was at my Chinese neighbor’s house. But to assume that one’s character is questionable etc .. is completely ludicrous. Kudos to you … keep cooking.

    • diana
      April 1, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

      It’s so interesting that it’s intolerance that’s taught. I’ve noticed that children are welcoming of pretty much everyone, the ones I’ve known who aren’t make me so sad, especially when I meet their families and understand where they learn it. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind and insightful comment!

  13. tom legan
    May 15, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    judging from the photos it seems that you pico de gallo is short of jalapenos, most resturants in my area have the same problem the pico needs more jalapeno chunks and cilantro. fresh pico is the only way.

  14. Carmen
    June 5, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Wow, what an experience. You did what was right, what all people should be doing. Did you end up talking to the clerk’s manager? Do you know what the outcome was?

    • diana
      June 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

      Hi Carmen, I did talk to the manager. I don’t know the outcome, but never saw that clerk again. Don’t know if it was related or not.

      • Anonymous
        March 27, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

        Diana, if the manager had any sense, that employee was fired that day, within minutes after you complained. For an employee to treat any paying customer badly, much less to do so publicly in front of another customer, and even less to make racist comments like that, is unconscionable. A former relation by marriage of mine (divorced after less than a year, I’m happy to say) got a part time job in a supermarket deli after he was laid off. He decided to make homophobic remarks to the two gay employees he worked with, and was fired that same day. Grocery store managers cannot afford to alienate customers, and I’m sure he was grateful you alerted him to the situation.

        Heaven knows how many folks were treated that way before this noxious employee was brought to the manager’s attention!

        • Diana
          March 28, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

          So many unfortunately don’t face consequences for things like that, but glad your former relation did. Sometimes it takes consequences like that for people to realize they need to make a change.

  15. Susanne
    June 18, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Hi there!

    Was looking for a salsa verde receipe and ran across your blog. A lucky find! Pico de Gallo was next on my list and you have that as well. I agree with your other readers – yours is a timely post still.

    Are you still posting receipes?

    • diana
      June 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

      Thanks Susanne, I am! I post 1-3 recipes a week. Thanks for commenting, look forward to hearing from you more in the future!

  16. Carol Solomon
    August 19, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Thank you for your recipes and for standing up for one of our sisters. Years ago I had an experience that I will never forget. It involved my 2 year old son and a five year old. I married a man whose father is from Syria. I am very light complected. together we have children with a range of colorings, beautiful. When my beautiful son, (olive complected, dark eyes, very kinky curly dark hair) was two he was playing near the fence of a neighbor. The five year old boy (blond and blue eyed) came over to the fence and began yelling at my son and telling him to go away and used the “n” word. I heard it and went to get my son. I will never forget what I saw in his eyes. While he didn’t understand what the boy said or why he was yelling at him, he did totally understand that it was because there was something the boy didn’t like about him. The memory and the hurt may fade over time but the emotion around it does not, it still hurts. I grieve over that lost innocence not just for my boy but for the other one. There is no way he came up with that hatred and those terrible words on his own. He had been well trained..

    • diana
      August 19, 2011 at 9:52 am #

      Wow, how heartbreaking. I hate seeing children acting out the hate that has been modeled for them. They’re too young to know any better. But on the other end of the spectrum are the beautiful examples of children whose parents teach them unconditional love. I so enjoy seeing examples of such great parenting.

  17. Sharon
    December 4, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    My grandson’s wife is undocumented and they have a beautiful son, my great grandson. Her parents came here illegally when she was 2. Although the girl’s parents have been here 25 years, they haven’t learned English.

    I was forced into retirement because I don’t speak Spanish that most jobs here in Texas require.

    I understand racism and discrimination, as my husband is discriminated against daily. He is an ex-biker, drug dealer, now ordained minister, counselor for 13 recovery houses.

    You can see, I am looking at this issue first hand and through understanding eyes. I can see both sides of the terrible immigration situation in our country. I know how cruel it can be and how damaging it can be at the same time.

    When my husband sold drugs, he would cut people off if they weren’t paying their rent or feeding their children. He fancied himself “An undocumented pharmacist.” – but it was illegal all the same.

    I love my great grandson – albeit, his mother and grandparents are here illegally.

    The most unbiased demonstration and explanation I have ever seen concerning this dilemma is at this link http://youtu.be/LPjzfGChGlE

    There’s a lot of injustices on both sides of this issue – It’s going to require us getting someone very wise, at the helm before we fix this situation.

    • diana
      December 8, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

      Thanks for sharing that video Sharon, and your unique experiences. My husband and I have been very involved in Celebrate Recovery at our church and led the teen program for a couple years. Always love connecting with other recovery people!

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