So, I live in this tiny subdivision out in Roswell. Property values have taken a hit in the last 4 -5 years and we have had one demographic move out and another demographic move in. I’m talking about homeowners versus renters.
In my little enclave, we have people of many races and ethnicities: African Americans, straight up Africans, a few Caribbea Islanders, a mixed race couple, some Caucasians, two Hispanic families and a gay couple, just for spice. Oh. And the neighborhood weed man. Can’t forget him. We all get along because we largely ignore each other except to wave on the way in and/or out of the enclave, or when my girls are selling Girl Scout cookies. Despite our brief interactions, we’ve gotten to know a bit about each other.
“I like your slippers. Where did you get them?”
“Oh! I got them when I went home to Trinidad.”
“Hey! What are YOU guys grilling today? It smells great!”
“Chorizo. It’s from Argentina. Do you know it?”
“No. Never had it.”
“Well try a piece. And here, give some to Stone. He’s so cute.”
That last interaction was with my neighbor Valentina*. She is, as you may have guessed, from Argentina. I guess you could say she is a “white Hispanic”, as I have recently come to understand that Hispanics have a sort of caste system amongst them. I don’t know what the proper term is. I still have to contend with colorism in the Black community, so I’ll leave this for them to deal with.
I like Valentina a lot. She always has a ready smile, a goofy joke, and she keeps her carport clean. She looks out for my kids and I am kind to her dog. I’ve never seen an ugly side of Valentina… until today. Okay. “Ugly” is a strong word. Let’s just say I was “surprised”.
There is a bush/tree/mutated vegetation that grows outside of my house. There is some sort of symbiotic relationship between the pompous grass and some thick weedy thing that grows in this area. The plant is not just an eyesore, but it is a safety hazard as well. I don’t know if you can make out the red and white “no parking” sign in the picture, but it is about an inch taller than I am. I am 5’4”. The mega-bush dwarfs it, and probably is about ten feet tall – conservatively. It is as wide as it is tall, and is dangerous because the kids play around the area. Cars cannot see them, they cannot see cars as they approach. Marshall once almost hit Liya because he could not see her while she was riding her trike one afternoon.
I have complained about this bush for almost a year. Nothing has been done. I finally took a different approach and contacted someone else on my HOA committee. If you live in a community with an HOA, you know it takes a decree from God Almighty and an act of congress to make anything happen. I sprinkled my email with big words. I called and left voicemails with my most Talented Tenth, grating, condescending tone. I took pictures and made YouTube videos. I was being a total jerk. And it was not until I was a jerk that something got done.
A Mexican man named Jorge showed up at my door today to say he was there to cut down the bush. I told him it was out back and that he would need to drive around. As I was coming out of my door, I saw Valentina get into her car. I walked over to say hi. She had been out of the country on summer vacation and I hadn’t had a chance to greet her in weeks.
“Hey, Valentina, what do you think of this bush? Does it bother you?”
Her eyes flashed and she furrowed her brow.
“Oh yes!” she said in her thick accent. “I don’t like this bush at all. It’s so big… you can’t see anything around it. It’s very dangerous. Especially with the kids.”
I nodded, feeling vindicated. I wasn’t crazy. I told her that I had contacted the HOA to have them cut it down.
“They aren’t going to do anything about,” she snarled.
“No, actually, they are on their way now.” I pointed to the black and green landscaper’s truck pulling up. Valentina nearly spat.
Yo. I can’t explain to you how she uttered the word ‘Mexican’. It was as if the word left a dirty taste in her mouth, full of bile and contempt.
She spun around and hopped into her car seconds later. I literally didn’t see her leave. The landscaping manager approached me and began to talk quickly. I didn’t even get a chance to address him or the bush.
“I don’t know what that woman said to you, but we have our own issues with her.”
Then he launched into a missive about how she wanted her carport blown out, how unreasonable she was, yadda yadda yadda.
“I don’t know what issues you have with her, and I don’t care,” I said, jumping to her defense. “The fact is that our HOA dues pay for these services, and she has a right to request them.”
(I stopped myself from saying “and they pay for your hourly wage too”. See? I’m learning tact!)
Eventually I got Jorge to focus on why he was here. Actually, Marshall got him to focus, because I apparently he saw me do a neck roll/hand on hip/squat-kick combo and came rushing out of the bedroom to diffuse the situation. Upon seeing my husband’s herculean frame, Jorge immediately became five times more docile and compliant… and stopped talking to me altogether. This was the second incidence of misogyny in as many days, and I was not having it. I was the one making the incessant requests for this shrubbery to be cut down. He darn well was going to respond to ME!
Marshall had to take a call, and Jorge had no choice but to talk to me. I told him what I wanted, and he said he would do his best.
“That’s all you can do,” I replied, reaching out for a handshake.
I turned to leave and he stopped me.
“This is my card. Call me tomorrow after I’ve talked to the HOA manager. I’ll see if we can do anything else.”
“Thank you, Jorge.”
It ended pleasantly. I wondered if Valentina and Jorge might resolve their differences as well one day? While I am ignorant of the exact forms in which ‘racism’ exists within the Hispanic or Latin community, I do recognize the symptoms as they manifest: the same sneers, side glances, and inflection in one’s tone when talking about the ethnicity of the next person, they are almost universal.
I have heard more white people complain about the Black community’s apathy towards black on black crime in the last year than I’ve ever cared to. Who told these people that we are not concerned about Black on black crime? If my loved one was killed today, I wouldn’t care what color the person was that pulled the trigger. Is the fact that the assailant’s race/color matches mine supposed to be some sort of comfort? And for the record, our community has had plenty to say about intra-race violence. No one bothers to report it.
What does that have to do with my Hispanic neighbor and Hispanic landscaper? Perhaps not much to you, but it was certainly revelatory to me – and it left me puzzled on few issues. So… Hispanics are capable of hating each other? How is that even possible? How long has this been flying under the radar? And when White people kill and rob each other, is that ‘White on White’ crime? Does such a thing exist? Does that mean White people have an intra-racial psychosis that mirrors that of Blacks? You know, like when the guy in the trailer beats up on his wife or rapes his kids. Why does Black crime get the distinct honor of being exclusively racialized, while all other crime gets the benefit of merely being known as “crime”?
No really. Why.