My Lingering Toothache
For my soon-to-be family-in-law, enjoying the lake life in Northern Michigan is a yearly ritual every fourth of July. During one of the evenings of this year's trip, we ate dinner at a local biker bar. Shortly before our dinner arrived, one of my siblings-in-law and I ventured to the far side of the bar to order a drink. At the time, we were both bearded.
While we were waiting, we overheard an over-served young man trying to charm a young woman. He, of course, was not particularly charming but was trying his best. As he was conversing with the woman, he said something which compared me to a member of ISIS and how he wouldn't be surprised if I did something to harm the patrons of the bar. He was obviously trying to use hyperbole to be funny.
I gave him a befuddled, "Are you serious?" jaw-hanging glance from across the bar. He was extremely embarrassed. When I ordered my drink, I bought him a round to demonstrate I didn't have lingering ill will toward him. This of course, made him feel more foolish.
I'm not interested in making preachy platitudes about racism, prejudice, or patriotism. Rather, I share this story to illustrate why I have a barely-noticeable, but persistent, anxiety in public places. I honestly don't know if someone's going to bother me because of my race (which in my case makes me arbitrarily different from others). What's worse, is that I don't know whether someone will hassle my family or friends because I happen to look like someone they think they should be afraid of.
The slightest uncertainty of safety is what I find difficult about my racial identity - like a toothache that I have to just grow accustomed to.