As the years pass I think what I find more frustrating than direct racism is its residue. For example, the other day I deposited a check at the bank – a national bank. It wasn’t a really large check, though I suppose that point is relative, but let’s just say it was large enough that I would not be in the best mood had I lost it. I roll up to the bank in what would be considered an “economically challenged” area and deposit the check at the ATM … in part because I didn’t have a deposit slip but (and here comes evidence of the residue) also because I didn’t feel like leaving a thumbprint or a DNA sample or whatever other ridiculousness customers are subjected to inside banks nowadays.
The beauty of this bank’s ATM is that you can just deposit the check without a deposit slip. So, “beep, boop, boop, beep, bop” code in … annnnd… enter … “We cannot accept this check at this time” … spits the check – from another FDIC regulated bank, mind you – out. What gives?! Reinsert … “BEEP! BOOP! BOOP! BEEP! BOP!” CODE IN! ENTER! Took the check but only made available about a third of the total. That news wasn’t foreign to me and I expected as much. Usually later in the day human eyes will review the transaction or actually see the check and realizing it’s not bogus, make the remaining balance available. But not this time. The receipt goes on to explain that the remainder will not be available until almost a week from now. WTH?! This wasn’t a personal check.
So what does this have to do with racism and its residue? My friends of color may need no explanation but some (not all) of my white friends, those who are not as experienced in traversing those areas deemed, by many, to be “economically challenged” may need a bridge. In many major cities this challenged area is preceded by the word “East” and followed by the city’s name. Pardon the digression, but why is that? Anyway, here’s the connection: I immediately thought, “I bet if I had deposited the same check in another part of town I wouldn’t have to wait that long!” In an instant, the great start to my morning was altered by the residue of institutionalized racism. No other person had called me “nigger”, no other person had denied me one thing, and no other person was even around … yet I felt denied and somehow violated. Now, the exact same scenario could have occurred at the same bank chain on the “other” side of town, It could have been universal company policy but it just didn’t feel like it to me at the moment.
The problem is not whether there is or is not a difference but the perception that a difference exists. Albeit my personal problem it is still a problem that causes me to step back and recalculate my thoughts and attitudes more often than a GPS device with Stevie Wonder at the wheel. It is mentally exhaustive and even though many of us have learned to make these adjustments subconsciously on the fly, the residue still lingers.