Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What it is Like to be a Black Woman: Racism in Mexico City

The more we stay inside, the more I think about all of the places I have been fortunate enough to visit. My absolute favorite country so far has been Mexico. It is just a breath of fresh air to me.

I was recently looking through some photos from my first time in Mexico City in February 2017 and came across a photo of Palacio de Bellas Artes. It was taken at the beginning of what would turn out to be the worst trip I had ever been on. I'm reposting a Facebook status I wrote from the worst day of the trip below. Mostly because it reminds me that we learn a lot about ourselves, others, and the more hidden disgraces of the world when we travel. It was the first time I had experienced such blatant racism abroad and also such blatant racism from my classmates. I've since forgotten the names of all the girls involved and can only hope they've grown into more thoughtful women.

Even though this trip was a mess by the end, I'm still incredibly grateful for all I experienced.

February 24, 2017

Here is what it is like to be a black woman for those of you who aren't... 
I am studying abroad in Mexico this quarter and have spent the week in Mexico City with my classmates. Some friends and I decided to stay the weekend in Mexico City so that we could explore a bit on our own. 4 of my friends are black women, 1 is a brown skin Latina, and 1 is a white woman. There are 7 of us total. Keep this in mind, it is important.
We made a reservation in the hotel that we had been staying in all week out of convenience; it was inexpensive enough and all 7 of us could stay in the same room. A girl in my group made the reservation at the front desk and signed her name on the reservation card. We get the keys to our room -- the only room available in the hotel that can fit 7 -- and head on up. When we get to the room, we open the door and find that the room is occupied. The folks in the room were 4 white women who are also students in my study abroad program.
We figured the front desk must have made a mistake and went back downstairs to work things out with the hotel's manager. When we tell the manager there are other people in our room, he moves quickly to tell a bellboy to go kick the people out. We say, no, no, we know those girls, maybe there is another solution.
In speaking to the manager and trying to figure out how we can remedy this situation such that my friends and I and the other girls have a place to stay for the night, one of the white women comes down to the front desk. When we begin to explain the situation to her, she looks at her phone, does not make eye contact with us, and says that she and her friends are not moving. When we say that we will not have a place to stay for the night, she says that is the hotel's problem.
Now, the hotel manager tells my friends and I that we do, in fact, have the 7 person room reserved, and that there is a 4 person room that the 4 white women can move into on another floor. When presented with this option of a room change, the white girls hold steady that they are not going to change rooms, with the knowledge that 7 of their classmates, some of us whom they call friends, will not have a place to stay for the night.
The hotel manager and bellboys try several times to evict the white women from the room we have reserved. Eventually, they give up. When we press the manager for his poor management and remind him that we have that room reserved and they -- the white women -- do not, he says, we are too loud, we are too aggressive, too pushy. Mind you, it is three hours after check-in time and we still do not have access to our room because there are four white women who refuse to leave. Tell me, were we really in the wrong for being just a touch upset that we wasted an afternoon arguing over a room that was ours by reservation?
Eventually, the manager says that he would rather kick us out -- the group of (mostly) women of color who had the reservation -- than the white women who were essentially squatting in his hotel. And that is what did it. He would rather honor a non-existent contract with white women.
When we confronted the white women, explaining their complacency in the racism of the hotel manager by deciding to stay in the hotel, in that room, their brandishing of white feminism by expressing zero concern over the wellbeing of the women of color they know, we were met with shock and excuses. They had made the reservation weeks ago, it was a matter of timeliness, miscommunication, really the room was theirs. However, during this exchange, a bellboy brought up a blank reservation card for the white women to fill out, because -- oh my gosh! -- they did not have the room reserved.
This is what it's like to be a black women for those of you who aren't: It's a feeling of hot rage and embarrassment. It's knowing that people don't want you around just because you're black. It's knowing that had the roles been reversed, the hotel manager likely would have seen to the physical removal of my friends and I from the room. It's knowing that students you have to sit in class with everyday don't give a single f*ck about you. It's having to check yourself in moments like this -- moments when you are ready to succumb to the will of white women and remembering that there is nothing stronger than the will of a black woman with a mission. It's remembering that you will not give a single penny to place that employs people who have the audacity to say such vile things like that to you. It's remembering that in situations like this, call white women what they are: racist.
My friends and I left that hotel and are staying at another for the night. But, we are tired, tired, tired. When leaving the other hotel, the one white woman in my group showed herself to be a true ally and broke the situation down for the manager, pointing out when and how he had been racist, and why we would not spend our money at his establishment. If you are white, if you are white and a woman, don't lament how this situation is so terrible -- call out other white people for what they are: racist.
That is what it is like to be a black woman for those of you who aren't.

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