Hi Meltingpot Readers,
I have to come clean. I am completely guilty of racial profiling. But it’s probably not what you think. The other day my body was crying out for a massage. Babygirl had been sick and sleeping in our bed for more than a week. In an effort not to crush her adorable little body, I think I slept in one rigid position every night, resulting in an overall bodyache and actual muscle spasms. This has never happened to me before – I know, I’m getting old – and I really thought a massage would help.
Dear readers, I have never paid anyone for a professional massage in my life. I have enjoyed two full body massages at elegant spas in the Caribbean, but both of those were arranged by my hosts at the time. Suffice it to say, when it came to finding a reputable massage parlor I had no idea where to begin, especially since I’ve come to find out that often times when you ask someone to recommend a massage parlor they think you’re speaking code for a whorehouse. Didn’t want that, so what did I do? I waited until the pain in my back was so bothersome, common sense was no longer an issue. And when I stumbled upon a massage parlor in a strip mall close to my sons’ karate studio, I thought, “What a lucky coincidence!”
And here’s where the racial profiling comes in. The massage parlor was advertised as a Chinese massage parlor. Dear readers, do you know Ms. Meltingpot didn’t ask any questions, except “how much?” and “do you take walk-ins?” The woman who happily took my money didn’t even speak English, but I decided that she must know what she was doing because she was Chinese! Heck, I don’t even know if she was Chinese. I just know she was Asian. I put my tired and twisted body in this woman’s hands and allowed her to manipulate my body in ways that I still don’t know if they were beneficial because I had it in my mind that somehow this woman’s cultural heritage somehow qualified her to be an expert at body manipulation. Call it the Magical/Medical Chinese stereotype. You know, something like all Chinese people know about alternative medicine.
So, this realization hits me mid massage, but I don’t jump up and apologize nor did I demand to see a certification of massage school completion. I just let her continue to pound and chop and pull the muscles in my back and neck. It didn’t exactly hurt, but it didn’t actually feel good either. And because she didn’t speak English, I couldn’t ask her what she was doing and why. At the end of the day, I figured I was the idiot who allowed racial profiling to get me into this mess, so I should be the one to suffer.
My back didn’t get any worse after my massage. But it didn’t feel any better either. But I definitely learned a lesson about my own assumptions and how I am just as guilty as the next person in profiling others because of their perceived cultural heritage. That was an embarrassing pill to swallow. But at the same time, it also makes me more aware of the nuanced conversations we should all be having about racial AND cultural profiling that we all do all the time. Remember when journalist, Juan Williams was fired from his job at NPR for admitting he felt “nervous” on an airplane when he saw Muslims in “Muslim garb.” We could unpack all of the wrongs in that statement – what the heck is Muslim garb? – but giving Williams the benefit of the doubt, he probably was expressing a sentiment many people feel or felt post 9/11.
So, where do we go from here? I’d say short of a national conversation and convention on racial profiling, we could all start by policing ourselves a little better and at the same admit that racial profiling is really easy to do. We have to start somewhere. What do you think? What do you think we should do?