Standing While Brown: A white lady tried to get me to valet her car

by Lalo Alcaraz on February 16, 2012 in El Now

I was not dressed like this

Representing Pocho.com, I was a panelist along with a table full of young, savvy Latino digital media types as part of last night’s Digital LA Latino Content event.

Afterwards, I finished up networking and headed outside to leave. As I waited to get my car in front of the host restaurant in Beverly Hills, you’ll never guess what happened: A white lady tried to give me her car valet ticket. Twice.

You’ve heard this story a thousand times before; it’s a Latino cliché. Or is it a tradition?

Anglo person assumes brown person is a worker, there to serve them.

An old Chicano chestnut goes something like this:

I’m a Mexican-American, am married to a white woman, and I was mowing our lawn in front of our nice, big home. A white lady pulled up in a car and asked, “How much do you charge to mow a lawn?” My answer: Nothing. The lady of the house lets me sleep with her.

One of my own family members, a brown-skinned attorney, was approached demandingly by a white office worker in their high-rise parking garage. “Where’s my car? Where’s my car!?” she shouted at him. He answered, “Hey lady, I’m an attorney!” I guess she took that as a legal threat, because she ran off in fear.

I posted about my Beverly Hills incident on my Facebook page, unleashing a flood of responses of similar anecdotes, some biting and muy funny. This is just a small sampling:

  • I know that one
  • Where did you leave it?
  • Should’ve took it for a spin and left it on Pico Blvd for the less fortunate.
  • Jeez… It never ends.
  • There’s so much work still to be done! If I only had a dollar for each time I’ve heard, “You’re the principal?”
  • You should have check out her car and perhaps ‘upgraded’. At least she didn’t ask if you did yards on the side.
  • People are always asking me where to find things in stores…a little more subtle prejudice, at least.
  • Dude you should have taken the ticket and then let her try to explain to the valet why she doesn’t have one to get her car.
  • Happened to me once. B-Hills / Took the keys, waited for them to be seated, and asked if the car was my tip.
  • You should have driven it right into the nearest telephone pole.
  • If the lady had ever seen the way you drive Lalo, she never would have done that.

And perhaps my favorite:

  • White people will hand over their keys and their kids… but driver’s licenses or amnesty? not so much.

At our Latino digital content panel, we discussed how Latinos are ignored in mass media portrayals. I chimed in about how lame the forced “positive” PC portrayals end up being unrealistic and never entertaining,  and how we can address that by making our own media to set the record straight.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with working in a service job. We should all respect the working class more, and pay them a living wage. The problem is the assumption that if you do not have light skin and blonde hair, it must mean you are there to serve the people that do. On my FB page, Jose Torres summed it up perfectly:

Why do so many white folks think Latinos are their servants? Because too many of us are their servants. And that is the real issue not the slights we receive at restaurants, stores etc. I agree that these slights are f’ed up….. but they pale next to the lousy schools, high drop out rates and a variety of social problems facing the Latino community.

Give that man a new Mercedes!

So, back to the sidewalk last night. I was not dressed like a parking valet; I was wearing a suit coat and a nice shirt and carrying my own laptop bag. And I wasn’t standing behind the valet stand.

But that white lady was not getting served fast enough.

She just looked for the first available brown person. Of course I was asking for it, standing there, looking all Mexican. In front of a Mexican restaurant, no less!

Once I realized what was going on, I just stared at the lady and looked away. Two times! She finally stopped waving the ticket toward me after she realized her mistake. Not much would have been achieved had I yelled at her and made her feel stupid. She already was.

I waited for my car, wished her a good night (tipped the valet generously) and soon, instead of SWB (Standing While Brown), I was now DWB (Driving While Brown).

I made it home through treacherous Beverly Hills without further interruptions. This morning, after I finish posting this, I will go outside and mow my lawn.

Nothing could go wrong, right?

 

 Photo by Pulpolux !!!

{ 50 comments }

Mexican February 16, 2012 at 11:45 AM

In simple terms, you were stereotyped and you repeat the cycle (contributing to the problem) by doing the same. At the same time, writing a meaningless blog, ranting of how white people see us as servants? You are part of the problem.

corsa February 16, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Lalo IS part of the problem, just like I am and you are. The difference is that Lalo’s career consists in pointing out the problem so that people like me and you don’t get comfortable ignoring that there continues to be a “problem”.

CHO CHO February 16, 2012 at 12:10 PM

I’m not sure how writing about an experience that actually happened is perpetuating the problem. I don’t get from his post that he is saying ALL white people look at Latinos (or blacks or other minorities for that matter) as servants, but it is pretty clear that a lot do have a bias. That is worthy of discussion and maybe by talking about it and sharing the story, it will make more people aware of their own attitudes.

JDLuz February 16, 2012 at 3:06 PM

I agree with Cho Cho. A conversation about a situation that happened, though in some cases can give ideas to people and perpetuate the action, in most cases only results in highlighting things about our society that we can change. Change will not happen by itself and people ignoring the problem or not engaging in discourse about a variety of topics will not alleviate any problems because the in the absence of any dissent the assumption is that there is nothing wrong.

Though I do take it upon myself to educate people around me, if and when, they make assumptions about me, my education, or my employment. I dare anyone to come up to me and ask me to valet their car….they will be feeling pretty stupid.

Gustavo Arellano February 17, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Please take your self-hating comments to the Orange County Register’s website and leave the serious conversation to us grown-up Chicanos.

mecca February 18, 2012 at 8:48 AM

As a ‘white guy’ I deal with the assumption that I must have money. Raised in a single parent, woman headed household back in the sixties without Federal Assistance, I saw my fellow classmates move away and buy homes and cars and such. I was raised without knowing how poor we were because my mother gave us so much love. Enough said… I just wanted to say that not all us white folk sees hard working fellow service workers as anything but that: hard working people making their way.
With respect to All.

agua blanca dude February 20, 2012 at 10:14 AM

mexican makes a good point. racism is a universal sickness that plagues every ethnic group and complaining about how we are treated or stereotyped serves only to perpetuate that sickness. we need to discuss solutions. we know what the problem is… how do we fix it?

Morgana February 16, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Great post. Thanks for the laugh. Would be even funnier if you didn’t feel the need to drop the ‘lame’ word. Disability politics and race politics go hand in hand.

Mexi-ucla-tlan February 16, 2012 at 12:12 PM

What are you talking about “Mexican,” if you are one. What is the “same” you talk about?
by posting meaningless comments, ranting about another person’s personal experience of being a 2nd class citizen… you are actually mixing the cocktail of societies’ ill of prejudice – assumptions implemented into mainstream media – and ignorance; failed to acknowledge the experience of being seen as a servant by the privilege-group. In summary, analyze the content of a story/article/blog before posting; you might save yourself from consumption of stupidity… have a wonderful day.

JDLuz February 16, 2012 at 3:17 PM

A blog is basically someone’s experience….whether you choose to like it or not. I think most of us are aware that a blog is like using wikipedia as a primary source of information…lol

Christina February 16, 2012 at 12:23 PM

I think almost every Hispanic person probably has a story like this one, or ten stories. I think the most insulting I’ve ever experienced happened about4 years ago at my then fiancé’s house. He was having a house warming party and invited a lot of work buddies over fajitas. Well,. I volunteered to make the rice, beans, guacamole, and tortillas. It was around the time of my fiancé’s and his coworkers birthday, so I also make a chocolate cake and a tres leches cake. I love to cook…..anyways my fiancé’s mostly white friends coming I the house, I was finishing up in the kitchen and heating up the tortillas. Well, one specific white man sat at the bar In the kitchen and just watched me…..and watched me….anyway, the night went on, and it was time for cake. Everyone came inside and sang and blew out candles, when my fiancé thanked me for making the cakes. I received lots of wows, and oohs, but Mr. Googly-eyes felt that it was appropriate to suggest to my fiancé in front of everyone else, that he should rent me out. RENT ME OUT!! Unbelievable, what I’m Mexican so I must be for sale? Like everything that’s would do for my fiancé would be available as payable services? And this was not some ignorant old man, he was an educated man in his 20′s. Un-freaking-believable!

JDLuz February 16, 2012 at 3:14 PM

He should have gotten some cake all right….ALL OVER HIS FUGLY FACE!!

Freddie February 16, 2012 at 12:37 PM

Uhm…maybe he just liked your cooking? A good tres leches cake will make a man do and say almost anything.

Christina February 16, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Lol, thank you Freddie.

Dante February 16, 2012 at 1:04 PM

For fake shit stories from mixed race people who have no culture so pretend to be people from latin america, because they haven’t contributed anything to the United States yet.

SO FUCKING FAKE

Give it up with your made up horrer stories about “White people”, they will always be superior.

Beatrice February 16, 2012 at 1:22 PM

“superior” to…..?

ChingaDOH! February 16, 2012 at 1:51 PM

I think you’ve just shown by example, that clearly not ALL white people are superior. Gracias Dante.

Helen February 16, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Um, its horror not horrer. Clearly white people aren’t superior spellers.

Trey Buchet February 16, 2012 at 8:27 PM

1) pochos, is they’re from the US, not Latin America. 2) This incident was real, not fake. 3) Whoever named you “Dante” felt Italians were pretty superior, otherwise they would have named you Bubba or Buford.

Zorra August 15, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Not so sure he’s white, sounds like he has internalization issues about his identity.

Mack Reed February 17, 2012 at 7:48 AM

Spittle drenched bile like Dante’s always makes me cringe to be white.

Gigot February 23, 2012 at 9:58 PM

@Dante: I think I hear your white privilege shrieking through your angry voice. And it’s making you sound like a big, one-month old baby.

Zorra August 15, 2012 at 12:21 PM

@ Dante, about your statement that reads: “mixed race people who have no culture so pretend to be people from latin america, because they haven’t contributed anything to the United States yet,” first, ALL folks are mixed, there is no such thing as pure race, and second, Chicanos have and continue to contribute to the US. How do you think you get to eat, unless you’re picking your own vegetables or packing your own meats.

LaConcha February 16, 2012 at 1:36 PM

My teen son had his first ‘out while brown’ encounter a year ago. He’s 1/2 Mexican / 1/2 white. He was approached by someone who thought that he did not speak English. The guy spoke to him in broken Spanish. Mind you that my son was wearing a suit (had just done a presentation at school), stands 6′, fair skin and with jet black hair. He wasn’t even walking in our barrio! It was right outside the local community college. My son learned then that day that there are some down right ignorant people walking this earth.

Michael February 16, 2012 at 2:42 PM

Wow… and I was next to the valet podium outside last night too. But I was dressed like some kid in high school… surprised I wasn’t asked where my parents were.

Julio Ricardo Varela February 16, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Damn, Lalo, that sucks. Sorry to hear that. No matter what others think, it must have sucked in that moment.

Jesus Suarez February 16, 2012 at 4:53 PM

You should have taken her ticket and then thrown it in a garbage can……let her worry about how to get her car out and explain to the management why she gave the ticket to you. In the mean time you should have called the management and explained it to them so that they could give a hard time….that’s exactly what I would have done…

Ana February 16, 2012 at 6:06 PM

I hear and feel your pain. I am an attorney but I am always asked if i am the interprer or the legal assistant even by court employees… When I state that I am actually the attorney, they usually ask “really?”. how come? How you dare to ask how come? well I actually have two law degrees plus a masters in laws, plus many years of experience plus intelligence. grrrr….
My kids are blond and I have olive skin and brown hair.. everywhere we go, people aske me if I am the nanny, how much I charge to the family I work for.. or they state.. how cool you are teaching the kids Spanish, I bet their parents like that…
A couple of months ago I was dressed in my attorney attire and went to the county office asking for a letter of residence. The worker has the ovaries to say ” you should go and talk to YOUR welfare officer, you know the one handling your food stamps case for help with that letter… ! I loathe these experiences

Christine Pinkham February 16, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Oh heck no!!!!! I would have bowed my head right then and prayed to God to give me patience and not demand her head on a silver platter. I hope you did not get the person fired only because they would have accused us of stealing their job. However I do hope you educated her that not all Latinos are on public assistance and that we don’t have to overcome adversity to go to a university, for some of us it is a natural progression. I just wish people understood that there are poor people, uneducated people in every ethnic group, hence trailer parks lol

Christina February 16, 2012 at 6:56 PM

Omg Ana! Did you ask to talk to her boss? That is horrible!

Christine Pinkham February 16, 2012 at 7:20 PM

I was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, CA my parents are Central Americans.
I lived for a long time in a small city outside of Seattle, WA and I loved it because if you are poor ragardless of your ethnicity your living in the same ‘hood. My children went to school with children of different ethnicities. Now that I am married to a white guy in the US Navy we live on a base that is located on an island in WA and let me tell you, it is a different world filled with more prejudice. We have two daughters and no one believes that a half Garifuna/Salvadorean can produce two dirty blonde, blue eyed girls. So people assume I am the nanny or that my white friends are the mommy. My other pet peeve would be is that I always get asked if I want Tabasco sauce, yet other patrons don’t get asked if they want Tabasco sauce, honestly the smell of Tabasco sauce is gross to me. Next time I get the Tabasco sauce inquiry my reply will be this, only if the food you serve here is so bland and disgusting then I will ask for some, thank you and smile my devious smile lol

Elayne February 16, 2012 at 8:19 PM

Years ago in front of Yamashiro Restaurant in LA, my boyfriend in ratty jeans got out of the car and tossed his keys to an Asian gentleman in an Armani suit waiting for his car in front of the restaurant. Thought Free.

Trey Buchet February 16, 2012 at 8:28 PM

She messed with the wrong pocho!

Claudia February 16, 2012 at 8:53 PM

I have experienced the same kind of treatment but on the opposite end of the sprectrum. I am not Mexican but I have dark hair and dark eyes and the only Spanish I know is from what I learned in high school. But, if I had a dollar for everytime a Mexican person came up to me and started speaking to me in Spanish, I would be a millionaire. Half the time once I tell them I don’t speak Spanish, they start talking to me in English. What’s up with that??

Zorra August 15, 2012 at 12:24 PM

Claudia, not the same, you a comparing manzanas con naranjas, (if you don’t understand what I just said google it!) It’s not like your dark eyes and dark hair has gotten you deported right? So get over yourself and be happy Mexicans even address your dumb ass!

Estelle February 16, 2012 at 9:10 PM

Really sorry to hear that happened to you, Lalo.

I, of Mexican descent, had a similar experience on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in about ’98 or ’99. I was standing at the cash register counter, and I was waiting for the hostess to come to the front so I could pay my bill. A white woman came up to me and rudely demanded from me that I clear her table. She also shouted at me, you know, just in case I didn’t speak English.

There’s nothing wrong with working in a diner or in any service industry, but I have a major problem with biased people who assume that if you’re a brown person, you’re only there to serve them.

SR February 16, 2012 at 10:18 PM

I get this kind of treatment from foreigners in my country (India) too. In its most innocuous form, they ask me, slowly and loudly, whether I speak English. When I say yes, and start to help them with directions or whatever they need, they interrupt me, and say patronisingly, but still slowly and loudly, “Why, you speak English *very* well.” Why thank you lady, but I majored in English in college, and English-medium schools are quite common in cities. Considering American TV’s way of representing even second-generation South Asians though – with unpronounceable names, unhappy arranged marriages, and comically singsong accents that reference Peter Sellers in the party or Hank Azaria’s Apu on the Simpsons, I understand. But it’s hard sometimes not to feel that bitter taste of colonialism sloshing up like acid reflux.

gabriel san roman February 17, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Valet Verga!

Diana February 17, 2012 at 9:13 AM

Growing up in San Diego, Ca I never really faced things like that cause everyone there spoke Spanish regardless of heritage. But when I moved to the Bay Area in Northern California it was totally different. I remember being a 16 year old working at McDonald’s on the weekends and boy did I deal with a while lot of shit there. But one particular incident that to this day I still haven’t forgotten was one busy Saturday morning, I was in the front counter taking orders. There was a middle aged white gentleman that starting ordering. There was so much noise in the background that for a second I didn’t hear what he said and i said “I’m sorry sir, what was that? ” and he replies “I said I wanted 4 creams in my coffee did you not hear that or do you just not understand English? ” I looked up with an evil smile and said “Sir, I speak 3 languages believe me I understand perfectly. Or would YOU like me to ask you in another language? ” boom, slap in the face for him! Quickly, he apologized and said English was fine. As I continued with the order, the guy tried to make conversation about how he had studied Spanish in high school and thought it was a great language to learn. Riiiiight, ok. Mind you I studied french for 5 years, so of course I had something to back me up. I didn’t let it affect me but I sure did learn that ignorance is a very, very sad thing.

Manuel Herrera February 17, 2012 at 11:04 AM

One of The most memorable ones I have is when I was a store manager at a well known electronic store in North Carolina (I was the only Latino in the store) I was talking about one of our products to an older black couple (so it’s non only whites) after I answered all of their questions they turned arround & walked towards a white employee saying to me “ok let us now talk to the manager”.. The employed just looked at them & me & told them that they were already talking to the manager. Lol

Daryl from LA February 17, 2012 at 11:29 AM

I think it is safe to say, no individual, group, race or religion is immune to ignorance and insensitivity. We need to transcend this reality and find productive ways to educate and re-train people when given the opportunity. Many times our initial reaction is anger, which is understandable, but I suggest that we all strive to move to a second, more engaged reaction, that of representing ourselves in the way we would like to and expect to be viewed and treated. I think in this case, after getting over my initial irritation, I would have said something like: “Ma’am, clearly you are eager to get your car taken care of, but I’m not the valet. If you need the valet, I think he is over there…you know, in the valet uniform.”

Sometimes, slowing someone down and getting them to stop and contemplate how inappropriate they are being is enough to get them to start changing. Anger, violence and aggression, just begets more of the same when dealing with ignorance.

Your thoughts?

Jerry February 17, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Great article carnal.

Jose gonzalez February 17, 2012 at 5:10 PM

Have had that happen as well. One time i was at the mission inn for a dinner, i made the mistake of wearing a white shirt with black slacks. All the whites kept asking me where the bathroom was, i kept answering, “i don’t know”, not really realizing what was happening. So then i overhear this woman tell the husband that i was incompetent for not knowing where bathroom was. I turned towars her and said, “excuse me, how much longer do i need to wait for my table? I’ve been here 20 minutes and this is unacceptable. Bt the way, why don’t you know where your bathrooms are?” she just stared, turned red, and walked away. Unfortunately, my wife walked away, too, and left my ass there, continuing to field bathroom questions

Hip Hop Hoodio February 17, 2012 at 8:41 PM

Just a drive-by shout to say, nope, I don’t know the Steinbergs from Toledo and sorry, I can’t help you find a good tax accountant.

Comic Saenz February 17, 2012 at 11:06 PM

DOWN RODEO: Rage Against the Machine
Yeah I’m rollin’ down Rodeo wit a shotgun
These people ain’t seen a brown skin man
Since their grandparents bought one

So now I’m rollin’ down Rodeo wit a shotgun
These people ain’t seen a brown skin man
Since their grandparents bought one

So now I’m rollin’ down Rodeo wit a shotgun

Bangin’ this bolo tight on this solo flight can’t fight alone
Funk tha track my verbs fly like tha family stone
Tha pen devils set that stage for tha war at home
Locked wit out a wage ya standin’ in tha drop zone
The clockers born starin’ at an empty plate
Momma’s torn hands cover her sunken face
We hungry but them belly full
The structure is set ya neva change it with a ballot pull
In tha ruins there’s a network for tha toxic rock
School yard ta precinct, suburb ta project block
Bosses broke south for new flesh and a factory floor
The remains left chained to the powder war

Can’t waste a day when the night brings a hearse
So make a move and plead the fifth ’cause ya can’t plead the first
Can’t waste a day when the night brings a hearse
So now I’m rollin’ down Rodeo wit a shotgun
These people ain’t seen a brown skin man
Since their grandparents bought one

Yes I’m rollin’ down Rodeo wit a shotgun
These people ain’t seen a brown skin man
Since their grandparents bought one

So now I’m rollin’ down Rodeo wit a shotgun

Bare witness to tha sickest shot while suckas get romantic
They ain’t gonna send us campin’ like they did my man Fred Hampton
Still we lampin’ still clockin’ dirt for our sweat
A ballots dead so a bullet’s what I get
A thousand years they had tha tools
We should be takin’ ‘em
Fuck tha G-ride I want the machines that are makin’ em
Our target straight wit a room full of armed pawn to
Off tha kings out tha west side at dawn

Can’t waste a day when the night brings a hearse
Make a move and plead the fifth ’cause ya can’t plead the first
Can’t waste a day when the night brings a hearse
So now I’m rollin’ down Rodeo wit a shotgun
These people ain’t seen a brown skin man
Since their grandparents bought one

Yeah I’m rollin’ down Rodeo wit a shotgun
These people ain’t seen a brown skin man
Since their grandparents bought one

Yeah I’m rollin’ down Rodeo wit a shotgun

The rungs torn from the ladder can’t reach the tumour
One god, one market, one truth, one consumer

Just a quiet peaceful dance!
Just a quiet peaceful dance!
Just a quiet peaceful dance!
Just a quiet peaceful dance!
Just a quiet peaceful dance for the things we’ll never have
Just a quiet peaceful dance for the things we don’t have

Sharon K. February 17, 2012 at 11:18 PM

This makes me sick, seriously…boo fucking hoo! Every human being falls victim to some type of profiling whether it is race, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation or educational background. I am a white blonde female and I cannot even tell you how many people have treated me like a “dumb blonde” in this lifetime. I sometimes feel that I have to work extra hard to prove to people that my hair color does not in fact reflect my intelligence level. However, I am not about to complain about it because I like who I am and do not feel the need to project my insecurities via the web! Instead of complaining about being stereotyped as a “Mexican” why don’t you write a blog about how ignorant some members of our society are for making such assumptions? People living the Beverly Hills lifestyle are waited on hand and foot and it is safe to say they do not “get out that much.” Too bad they have such poor etiquette and life skills that they are not able to properly identify a valet worker.

PS- Hispanics make up approximately 38% of the population in California. Growing up in Long Beach and Los Angeles I was very often a minority and most of my friends are not Caucasian. I had to move to Newport Beach to obtain employment after failing in the heavily saturated minority areas in LA County. I worked my ass off at school, received ZERO financial aid because of having to check the Caucasian box and I was denied for every grant and scholarship I applied for. Blah, blah, blah.

Zorra August 15, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Interesting, the sheer fact that you utilize the horrible euro-centric label “Hispanic” tells me a lot about your vendida self. Get over yourself!

Kyle Wegner February 19, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Speaking of media made by Latinos, here is a movie made by Latinos looking for a distributor:
http://highlandpark-ca.patch.com/articles/independent-film-shot-in-hlp-depicts-modern-day-quixote#youtube_video-9140646

anthony February 19, 2012 at 8:03 PM

Lalo funny how you always play up to stereotypes and then they hit too close to home and you cry about it.
Maybe you should portray us the way you want people to see us instead of how you expect them to. That would help clear they air. But pochos, cucarachas and barrios with fleas in it. Come on, your energy must bring this to you. I have never been asked for the bill, keys, a mop or anything like that because one look at me and you know instantly you are NOT in the presence of a servant. But you Lalo mi tocayo you must be giving off that servant vibe. Even in a suit your nopal sigue rifando! Ajua! I love it.

Perfecto February 21, 2012 at 5:30 PM

The reason the lady mistook Lalo for a servent was that he was in Beverly Hills. If you are not a person of color in Beverly Hills, then you know dam well that any person of color you may encounter in Beverly Hills is a servant, unless of course you are seven feet tall and wearing a Lakers uniform with a BIG ASS Kardasian hanging on your arm.

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