culture crit race


Every time I go to the bank for anything that requires a conversation with a person who isn’t behind an inch of bullet-ready glass, I seem to get the same lady. She added Rosario to my accounts after the wedding, ordered new checks, and wired money to an escrow company. She’s always been courteous. She keeps a professional distance, not asking more than the necessary questions.

Tall and trim, large brown eyes, long brown hair, medium to light brown skin. She’s got a mysterious look and a subtle accent. But it’s not a Spanish accent so it has me guessing Brazilian.

Today, I walk into the bank, write my name on the clip board and sit in a chair just firm enough to be unwelcoming. I notice my usual helper is with someone else. A guy walks toward and past me saying “I’ll be with you in one sec.” Before he returns, she finishes with the older gentleman at her desk and calls me over.

As she’s entering information into a screen I can only see the back of, a co-worker says goodbye and asks when she’s taking her day off. “I’ll be off Thursday because I’ll be doing the Latin festival.” I jump in, “The Latino Film Festival? Will you be working at a booth or something?” “Yeah,” she explains, working a table for opening accounts.

Counting on her accent not being Spanish, I ask what she thinks of the term “Hispanic.” She tells me she’s often asked to fill out forms at work that show they’re hiring a diverse workforce, but she always fills in “other.” “I’m from Brazil and I speak Portuguese, so I’m not Hispanic. Here they think you’re all the same. In Brazil, you call it by your color: white, black or in-between. In Brazil I’m white,” she explains.

“Do your Mexican clients ever get upset you don’t speak Spanish?” She says they get frustrated, not angry. “They do get angry with this other guy who is third generation Mexican-American ’cause he doesn’t speak Spanish. You know, he’s like, get angry at my parent’s; it isn’t my fault.”

She hands me the receipt and the transaction is over — just in time to keep me from embarrassing myself by regurgitating my thesis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *