white supremacy in action: skipping the line at the consulate04 May 2017
a couple of weeks ago i was at the brazilian consulate in boston to pick up my visa. i had an infuriating (and yet totally unsurprising) encounter with white supremacy. if i hadn’t just finished this piece about when “life-hacking is really just white privilege,” i wouldn’t have thought twice about it. but now i feel like i at least need to write it down. even if just to process it.
ok so the brazilian consulate in boston has a standard numbered line system. you walk in, get a number from the security guard working the front desk, and then sit in the waiting area until someone calls your number. i’m 654.
a tall, muscular white man comes in and gets 655. the waiting area is full. there are only two people working at the windows and things are moving slowly. i’m just sitting and reading; most people are either on their phones, tending to their kids, or thinking/daydreaming/staring off into space.
after about 15 minutes, the couple sitting at one window is finished and gets up to leave. white dude grabs all his stuff, walks up to the window and says “hey, sorry to be a bother, but i’m wondering if i have to wait in line if i’m just here to pick up?”
the desk worker says she can help him out. he responds, “thanks so much! this is so great!”
so now i’m angry. why would they have a number system if you could just skip the line?
it takes about five minutes for her to get his visa, have him sign some stuff, and then pack up. as he’s leaving he says, “thanks so much for helping me out. you’ve been so human! i really appreciate it.”
now i’m fuming. what the fuck was that supposed to mean? she was human? would she not have been human if she didn’t accommodate his needs?!?! is he referring to some other moment in time when he didn’t get his way?
ugh. this is just one of the many ways supremacy shows up. this guy, probably unbeknownst to him, likely waltzes through the world, just asking for what he wants, regardless of what other rules or systems are in place and probably gets them most of the time. now, some people would say, “well you could have that stuff, too, if you’d just ask.” but the problem is that racism is a thing and in reality, when non-white men ask for things like that, we’re often told no. or told to play by the rules.
but this is why fighting for equal rules and just laws, without changing the underlying conceptual framework of supremacy, will never create a just society. yes, the rules can help, but if some people can just ignore the rules, the rules are a literal sham.
ps - now, to be honest, i thought about doing the same thing. i thought about asking if it’d be too much trouble to just pick up my visa without waiting. but i didn’t go through with it because i had no idea why everyone was there. if everyone was there to “just pick up” i didn’t want to look like an asshole. maybe i’m just mad because he did it and i didn’t. but i’m glad i didn’t. i think.
pps - i also wish the attendant had just told him no and that he needed to wait in line like everybody else. but she didn’t. i don’t know how her identities and his identities interacted to make her accommodate him, but i wonder if i would have gotten the same treatment…
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