I came across an article in another blog, and thought I would write some of my own experiences with people of different colors and different nationalities.

Before I say anything at all, I want you to understand that I am very comfortable with the color of my skin. I don’t look at whites or blacks or browns or any other color with a sense of awe or denigration. I have friends of all colors and I am perfectly happy to call them my friends or acquaintances.

I have noticed that racism plays a huge part in some circles. Educated circles and uneducated circles! It is not just whites versus blacks. It is also about ethnicities. It is the difference between the first class citizens and the second-class migrants who have attained the naturalization and citizenship through years of proving that you can become a citizen here.

When we moved to this town, my daughter was about five years old. We didn’t want to buy a home right away, and wanted to look around to see if the town suited us, and if we would be happy at work. So we started looking at apartments. One place had a sign on the front that there was rental apartment available. We went and knocked at the door of the manager, and when we asked to see the apartment for rent, he told us, “No there is no apartment available at this time.” We pointed to the sign outside, and he just flicked his hand and closed the door. M and I looked at each other, and just smirked at his attitude. Next we saw an ad in the newspaper that talked of a two-bed room apartment, ready to move in. So we went there, and he looked at us and told us, “I don’t rent to mulattos”! We didn’t know what that word meant. So I asked him about it. And very clearly he said, “Mulattos are people like you”! I prayed then that my daughter should never remember that conversation.

After this reception, we built the home. Why did we continue to live in a place where we were not welcome? Because, the hospital and the administration was wonderful, and my work was extremely gratifying! Many years later, that same guy who had called us mulattos, came in to the office as a patient with bronchitis. I recognized him immediately and even though I shouldn’t have, I asked him if he remembered me. Then I told him about our conversation that morning several years ago. I saw the light of recognition come on his face. Anyway, I treated him for the pneumonia that he had, and we never again discussed the word. He continued to be my patient, and always brought some cookies or fruits for the office staff.

These are a couple of the incidents that stand out for me in this country. But I saw racism at its worst in the most sacred of places. It is a national curse I think, where people of one country feel that they are far superior to any other person from another country. The first time I went to Mecca for the pilgrimage, the feeling of being ostracized was intensely obvious. The local Arabs considered us as just a pack of animals and would never speak with a kind tone or have the decency to stop and answer a question. They would just flick their hands and tell us to move on, sometimes with a rude voice. It was a startling awakening to the anticipation of a peaceful journey. Arabic speaking women, though fluent in English, did not have the time or patience to explain or attend to the needs of Indians and Pakistanis. It was really disappointing to see this level of indifference towards people of different ethnicities, especially in a place, which is supposed to bring harmony and peace.

In much smaller circles of people from India, I sometimes hear women putting down other ladies with darker color of the skin. So, this attitude of racism is not limited to America, or the white people of America or the black people of America. I think it will remain ingrained in people’s minds for many decades, and perhaps centuries to come. Racism is like a crab that burrows deep within the sand and comes out at another point, to burrow some more.

These are some of the more painful memories that I am not able to forget.

Zakiah Sayeed


About Zakiah

I write poetry and some fiction, have a book that was published in 2012. . . Stray Thoughts/Winged Words. I have four grandchildren, ages 16 and half to almost 16 months. I love the ocean, and grew up along the Indian Ocean in South India. I am a retired physician. Don't know much else to say. Thanks for reading. That has been my profile for so many years. My daughter Saadia a great poet and story teller, has two sons; the oldest grandson is now 21 years old, doing architectural engineering at Missouri S&T in Rolla MO. His younger brother is almost 16 and taking driving lessons seriously and is in High School. The other two grandsons, children of my son Sayeed, are 9 and 5. I have recently published another book titled Gulistan, A home of Flowers. It has stories and memories of my childhood and of a distant land which I still consider as my HOME., even though I have lived here in the US for more than fifty years. Hope to see you on my blog.
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13 Responses to

  1. mrswrangler says:

    Women also has a type of discrimination against them. The service they receive can be horrible and yet there husband will get wonderful service. There are places we boycott for that reason.

  2. kaylar says:

    Thank you for sharing, all of that. I will not forget.
    Have you seen the little vid of the science team that does a DNA test on a room of people? Quite the eye-opening experience for some of those people, as you might imagine.
    We are all related. ALL.

  3. beowulf222 says:

    Racism comes in all forms and shapes. Hard to eradicate.

  4. slmret says:

    Before it was an “ism,” racism was simply called discrimination. It encompassed race, along with culture, gender, accent (in speech), and many other characteristics of groups of people. It was borne from fear — fear of differences not understood, many of which were deserved, many learned, but many others not. I believe it is innate in human nature, but the root fears can be analyzed, and the discrimination overcome — I further believe that it is incumbent on all of us living in this day and age to work hard to understand these fears and learn to accept rather than discriminate.

    Living in Hawaii, I too experienced an incident in which I was told I couldn’t rent an apartment “because you can’t earn enough money,” a euphemism for you’re not a ‘local.’. It’s not a pleasant feeling, but I Was able to rent a much better place and made the most of it. I never bought land there, but I now have a lovely townhouse here in an equally expensive place.

  5. I’m so sorry you’ve had these experiences, Zakiah. These are shocking and really show how ugly racism is – the total disregard for everything purely based on someone’s ethnic background or appearance. You’ve clearly handled all these incidents with class – it is infinitely more important how we conduct ourselves, than to rely on a fantasy notion of who we based on things we have no control over.

  6. Thank you for sharing this, Zakiah! Your story/journey is SO important and shares truth that people need to hear. I have tears in my eyes…I’m sorry you had to go through all of that. 😦
    I felt discrimination as a child and teenager because we were so very poor.
    I have family members who were born in Africa, Mexico, Korea, and China…I have other family members who are African American and mixed race…I have friends from many ethnic backgrounds including Native Americans, etc…and they have shared their stories of racism with me. 😦
    One older friend from Belgium married a Canadian soldier after WW2 and she said the ladies in Canada treated her terribly. 😦

    I refer again to one of my fav quotes: Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you. – Jean-Paul Sartre
    We must be good examples, share our words, share our stories and try to educate, inform, and help make positive changes in our world.

  7. My parents experienced a lot of it but never told me until I was a lot older. Most of it was subtle. J got a lot more of it than I did. I think we always need to be reminded we have more in common than we realize or believe.

  8. Thank you for sharing this. I live in the south where I grew up in an era that said”this is the way it is’. I was taught that was not true and for that I am grateful. Stephen and I ended up multiple times ministering to a mostly black culture. We learned much from each other–and each time it was a great experience and brought growth.
    I am sorry that you were treated so rudely but hope the gifts from the man showed that he realized how wrong he was.
    Hugs and love.

  9. Zakiah:
    I just got an e-mail from WordPress that you commented on my Turducken post, but when I got on my site to respond to your comment, the comment wasn’t there. 😦
    Would you mind pre-posting your comment?
    Thank you! 🙂

  10. Oh, never mind.
    Ha…your just now showed up in my comment section.

  11. r_hsw says:

    yes, i remember reading that story of you trying to find a house from a while back. racism, seems to me, is getting worse nowadays. though i know it has always been there and probably never goes away, it seems a lot more vocalized now. sad to say.

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