I was walking home last week, and two middle-aged men walking with pitt bulls off-leashes got close to me on the pavement. I startled, and backed away. I have no phobia of dogs, but a rather a healthy respect for big animals to whom I’m a stranger.
The man laughed and yelled to the dogs, “Leave the dark meat alone!”
I stopped walking, confused. It took me a second to realize that the dark meat wasn’t a KFC special on the ground, but me.
The man breezed past me, and shared a cheeky grin with his friend about his comment, obviously delighted at his sparkling wit. The phrase ‘dark meat’ echoed in the hollows of my mind. It was a one-two punch of racism and sexism that left me feeling dirty and worthless.
It ignored who I am as a person, and reduced me to my two my obvious visible characteristics—my skin colour and gender.
I love navigating foreign subway systems, have a ridiculous sweet tooth, follow business news religiously, can quote large parts of ‘The West Wing’, and scored really well on my SATs but in that moment, none of that mattered. I wasn’t Sarah Rappaport, journalist and human being, but a commodity that could be bought and sold at a chicken shack.
Meat, as in part of a dead animal, and not a person. Just typing this makes me cringe.
I wish I could say that this is the one and only time that I had a comment like this directed at me. I don’t normally get comments quite so blatantly disrespectful, but as someone who isn’t lily-white, I get “othered” on quite a regular basis.
When I’ve been out at bars, I’ve had men come up to me and say that they love ethnic girls as an opening line, as if we’re all the same. Clearly, all non-Anglo people have the same personality, hopes, and dreams! It comes with the added melanin and resistance to sunburn!
Men have drunkenly uttered things to vulgar to print to me about how spicy I might be in bed because of the way I look.
I’ve had people not believe me when I tell them that I’m from the States. Where are you really from, I mean, where are your parents from? are the inevitable follow up questions.
The answer to this is Chicago. Shockingly, ‘ethnic’ people populate the United States as well.
I’ve had remarks about how great my English is, as if it isn’t my first language.
Dealing with these kind of remarks has become a sad kind of normal for me, but every time I hear a dehumanizing comment, it is still just as painful as the first time.
I wish I lived in a world where I wouldn’t hear racist or sexist comments from strangers. It’d leave more space in my brain for the latest article on The FT, being a better friend, catching up wth @NotRollerGirl’s hilarious jokes on twitter, or at the very least, my Netflix Queue.
Sarah is an American journalist living in London. She’s also one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. Sarah loves international news, travel, and frozen yoghurt. One of these days, she is going to take me to Pinkberry (in an effort to convert me from Snog). You can check out her personal website here, or follow her on Twitter here.