by Leina Ussin
I’m sitting underneath a starless sky with a beautiful river flowing in front of me. I’m surrounded by loved ones, and people just as delighted as I am to be outside enjoying the festivities. It’s cool for July, and we’re all damp from the rain, but no one cares! It’s the 4th of July! Independence Day! A day we come together, BBQ, listen to good music, and most importantly, we light fireworks.
And as I am sitting underneath this gorgeous night sky, with a variety of beautiful colours cascading down on me, there’s a pain lingering within me.
You see, moments before this amazing event took place, I witnessed/was involved in a verbal disagreement. I hear two people arguing, an older man and a young lady, while I awkwardly fiddled with my scooter, I make sure to pay attention to my surroundings. The argument is heated, but both parties are walking away, so it can’t be that serious. As the woman shouts out, “A**hole,” all-time stops when this man’s rebuttal was, “You black b***h.”
Before I could fully comprehend what was taking place, I was in the man’s face telling him their argument had nothing to do with race, and how others around him were offended by his statement! He immediately tried to toss the blame on the young lady who was breaking her way through the crowd to confront him. Out of nowhere, a police officer intervenes, but to my disappointment, stops her. He tells her calmly, he understands, and being a Hispanic officer, he hears racist comments all day. He tells her to be the bigger person and just walk away.
And as those words left his lips, I felt a frustration grow within me as I realised I had heard those words too often before. Be the bigger person.
As I watched this young lady calm down, a wave of questions hit me: Was I angry because he called her out of her name? Was I mad because he used the term “black” as if it were something bad? Or was I mad because he was so comfortable saying it in a crowded place with a variety of races, ethnicities, and genders before him?
Was I mad, that on a day of all days, July 4th, a day we’re supposed to celebrate as Americans, ALL AMERICANS, that in 2019 a person’s race/colour of their skin is used as a term to insult them?
The answer to all these questions was yes, and as I faced each question, my anger continued to grow. A rage I couldn’t do anything about, because in this day and age, we have to continue to be the bigger person.
We must be the bigger person as women since we’re reminded of our physical incompetence to challenge a man, and it’s better to walk away and be safe as you’re being disrespected.
We must be the bigger person as a race to avoid being placed in a stereotype and getting upset when our own complexion is thrown in our face as an adverb of something horrible.
We must be the bigger person in a land that we helped build, helped groom, and helped grow. A land we involuntarily and voluntarily died to protect so the generations after us could have better lives!
We must be the bigger person for all those who feel they can get out of character and express themselves freely when they’re upset.
We must be the bigger person.
So, as I force myself to overcome this encounter, and remind myself that I am on my honeymoon, and unfortunately this is not the last issue like this I will face, I find myself stuck on one more question:
Was I offended more because I’m a woman, because I’m black, or because I am an American?