I have thought for many days about what would I have done
differently in an early February conversation during a break
at work. So many times during my life I have stood up for a
situation or cause, only to find out later this alienated me from
I was so excited and passionate about seeing the movie, “Selma.”
I have been taught that by being silent one is quietly accepting
another’s words or choices. This is not a good position to be in
when making friends. I feel that if my friends don’t think along
similar lines, it is not a strong friendship but one of convenience.
Over the past six years, I have built a close-knit group of people
who get along together, joke and lighten each other’s days at work.
My fellow coworkers, Tammy, Melvin, Felda and Mary Jane are
part of this group. We have enjoyed sharing weekend experiences
and expanding our minds in lively conversations. There are many
fringe friends who join in and stop by our table. I enjoy meeting
such a wide variety of people at my warehouse job. This is one of
the best positive aspects of my work.
It is not generally a good idea or tactful while in a work place,
to express controversial opinions. Yet, my table mates and I
have seen eye to eye on the subject of acceptance. Some of us
even voted in elections the same way. We started watching
some of the same t.v. shows to be able to share about these.
Little did I expect, someone I cared about would be making a
rather outrageous statement in response to a movie review.
Here are some quotations to lend support to my response.
“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
A longer version, expanded from the above thought includes
the following words which are also true:
“. . . but the perpetual human predicament is that the answer
soon poses its own problems.”
~Sydney J. Harris
The old Latin rule of the law of acquiescence would apply here,
“Qui tacet consentire videtur” means one who is silent is seen
to have given consent. To acquiesce is to accept or to comply.
I was mentioning how many things about the Civil Rights period
despite being raised in a conscientious and active participant
family, I had missed. I was describing one of the early details of
a particularly disturbing scene where children in a church were
killed in a bombing in the film, “Selma.”
Out of nowhere, my ‘close’ friend, Felda said,
“We, in our country, believe in love and cannot ever understand
people who are raised in a “culture of hate.”
I emphatically agreed with this, thinking she was talking about
bigoted people who are ‘taught’ to hate people from another
group from their own. In other words, I was thinking she
meant to be talking about ‘whites’ being part of the ‘haters’
specifically, in the Civil Rights movement.
As I nodded and said, “I agree,” I noticed a quiet pause in the
conversation. Tammy (Ohio country girl) and Melvin, (son of
immigrants from an island off of Portugal) did not join in.
Felda helped me to realize who she was talking about by adding,
in a most definite direction I would NEVER agree with,
“Why do blacks get taught to hate whites in America? In the
Philippines, everyone loves others. We were ‘slaves’ in our own
history, but we ‘don’t hold it against you.'”
Okay, now I knew where silence would not be appropriate. I
had to dig myself out of a hole, so to speak. I said that she did
not understand the trials, tribulations and how people who were
slaves, or had slave ancestors, were affected by their treatment.
They may have possibly been taught to ‘mistrust’ white people.
Inside my head for a moment, I thought possibly only coming
here to live in the U.S. (and marrying Jason, an American) in
the 1990’s may have given Felda less understanding of the
long history, prevailing ways and practices which continue
going on from when the Civil War ended in the 1860’s, into
the present. The other two of her friends have always been
less outspoken and didn’t try to contribute or interpret what
she meant by her hurtful words.
I added, “This is not how this conversation was meant to go.”
I had hoped that by talking about “Selma,” to help everyone
at this table understand why fear and distrust could become
part of a familial pattern of handling people. The small town
in Mississippi had many people showing their prejudice against
the blacks. I had especially thought the Filipinos (what they
insist on being called at work) would have empathetic feelings
coming from their own personal experiences of prejudice.
I looked at Melvin, who is sophisticated and warm. He had
served in the Army, traveled Europe and was raised in an open
minded, accepting and loving family. He would give the shirt off
his back and has often been found this brittle cold winter, under
the hood of a fellow employee’s car trying to fix or replace a part.
Actually, the speaker of this unfortunate point of view, had been
‘only charged for car parts’ when she had needed four brakes
replaced by Melvin and other repair assistance.
I wondered why Felda had said this about blacks, without any
clarification? Did she intend to hurt Melvin?
The rest of the people at the table were either Filipino or
Melvin shrugged. He knew it was pointless to mention that
this person who arrived in America, married an American,
may not completely understand the racial issues, tensions
and dynamics here in the United States.
Melvin felt my eyes on him, urging him to ‘speak up.’ Finally,
he responded by saying,
“My people are not nor have ever been descendants of slaves,
but I feel a lot of sympathy for the blacks here. I get the same
kind of attitude from whites as they do, I get followed around
in jewelry stores, I have been shoved while at a peaceful protest
rally by a ‘white supremacist’ cop and have been taken aside to
be shouted at. I would ‘never measure up to the white people’
in my Army experiences. This came from more than one officer
in the Army.”
Melvin quietly expressed his thoughts on a tough issue,
“I will share this additional thought: black people raised in the
South are different from black people raised in the North. To
be honest, unfortunately their perspectives are not the same.”
I went on a limb and put my thoughts out there for friends
who had included me in christenings, birthday parties and
delicious meals at parties where we sang karaoke together,
“I need to study your islands’ history better of what you call
‘slavery.’ I am not sure that slavery there was the same as
slavery here. I have the misunderstanding that your culture
may have a history of servitude. Sometimes smiling when you
were crying inside, but this is probably inaccurate. Meanwhile,
I would never agree with your statement about the black culture
being raised to hate whites.”
As far as research, there are considered to be 130,000 to as
many as 160,000 people in the Philippines who are part of
sex trafficking, indentured servitude and this is from an article
on October 9, 2013 from the newspaper called, “The Manila
I wished to re-emphasize my opening remarks to them. I didn’t
realize the total impact on everyday activities of black people from
those who felt ‘superior’ to an entire race until recently. I heard
‘snippets of history’ in school. Like not being allowed to ride in
the middle or front of a bus, Rosa Parks ‘took a stand’ for freedom.
I saw firsthand the water fountains, restaurants and other public
buildings in the 1960’s. They were labeled, “For Colored People.”
I knew this must have been hard or rough on anyone living in
their skin color. We read together my kids and I about the
Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman.
I just finished a great book by Tara Conklin, considered historical
fiction called, “The House Girl.” It has the legal aspects of the
reparation act for families of slaves. Every other chapter is about
a young woman called “Josephine” who worked in a slave owner’s
house. She learned how to paint from her ‘mistress.’ Later, the
‘house girl’s’ art work is given credit to her owner. Learning is
I was truly interested and asked,
“How long ago in Philippines’ history were there slaves?”
“Selma” brought back memories of partial lessons for me.
It depicted Ku Klux Klan members, cruelty and ‘hate crimes.’
Who could ever wish to bomb churches and not allow people
to gather in protest?
It is hard to imagine but not right to brush uncomfortable
subjects under the table. Seeing these violent acts on film,
brought back how recently this had happened. It made me
wish to promote this movie, as I did last year when I saw the
fine film, ’12 Years a Slave.’
Felda, Mary Jane and May have not looked me in the eyes
since this happened. I continue to say, “Good Morning” and
ask how their family members are, ask how their weekends
went, etc. They give me short answers and have been sitting
at their own table, talking in their own language. I don’t regret
my words, but was sincerely meaning to defend Melvin, along
with my own grandchild’s heritage.
My oldest daughter’s son, Micah is 1/4 black. His father’s Dad
plays an integral link to his life and comes to family gatherings.
Micah has overheard their complaints about prejudice. We
talk openly about how his own father has been pulled aside
roughly by teachers, coaches and strangers. When he shows
his ‘independence’ it is sometimes considered ‘an attitude.’
This happened with my coworker and friend, Cheryl (who
recently lost her grandson to illness). She has been told, she
says that she “has a chip on her shoulder.”
Micah was in preschool when a fellow 4 year old asked him,
“Is your Daddy a terrorist?”
This fills my eyes with tears, my heart with sadness and my
mind with fear for Micah, too. It is ‘still out there.’ Even in the
minds of immigrants who feel that black culture is ‘filled with
Here is an update on getting an ‘excuse’ written for my eyesight
and concerns for safety while driving heavy equipment. My phone
call with my ophthalmologist left me without anything promised
in writing and another appointment made in April.
I visited the optometrist who seemed more interested in helping
me. She wrote a well thought out letter, including the reasons I
would not be a safe candidate for ‘heavy bulk’ at the warehouse.
She wrote about my lack of depth perception, my monovision
while wearing a close distance contact to read fine print and a
far distant contact to see far away. She mentioned my not being
able to judge distances, especially in the narrow passages while
driving backwards with the double pallet riding equipment.
Her professionalism and need to be clear, may have included
details which won’t help my cause:
“Robin’s peripheral vision and depth perception would be
greatly improved by wearing single vision distance only
spectacles instead of contact lenses. Obviously, if the patient
is in a warehouse, she should be wearing safety spectacles.”
I have been wearing contact lenses throughout my six years
at Advance Auto Distribution Center. I am most confident
while reading the tiny UPC codes, picking the correct items
to place into bins, hampers or gaylords. (Containers which
are actually huge cardboard boxes for Open Stock and used
in heavy bulk on top of a wooden pallet and plastic pallet.)
I won’t change to regular glasses to carry out my job nor to
bifocals. I am not sure I would be as confident in performing
my job with single vision glasses. The reason I chose contacts
was because I used to have to take off my glasses to read the
fine print, use the RF’s (tablet computers) and now, new piece
of equipment, a Bluetooth computer on my arm.
As my good friend, Jenny, honestly suggested work may try
to force me to use glasses and go to work in heavy bulk.
I am ‘screwed.’
My ophthalmologist who had told me he could not write a letter
until I came in for another appointment. I will hold out for Hope.
An April letter request will hopefully include all the parts that
Dr. Wagner wrote without the details suggesting I switch to
glasses or ‘safety spectacles.’
Thanks for your concern about my work situation with my
vision and cross training into heavy bulk work once again.
When I tried this for eight weeks of a summer, I managed
to run into metal racks, back into a pallet on the shipping
floor knocking the products over and wearing my nerves
into a frazzle.
I need to find a way out of this physically demanding area
without leaving my job. I have a much better salary than
other positions listed in the newspaper and have finally
earned three weeks’ vacation this year. If necessary, as many
have mentioned, my being fired for refusing to go to heavy
bulk may be my ‘release’ to a better solution. There were such
great and positive suggestions from all of you. Thank you.
If you have had a stressful or awkward situation at work
please feel free to comment and add to the conversation.