"There are black people in Boston?" -Anonymous friend from Maryland
While studying at UNC, I had the pleasure of meeting John Edgar Wideman while he was the Creative Writing Department's Morgan Writer-In-Residence. I enjoyed reading his New York Times op-ed on "riding while black" a couple of months ago which reminded me of a discussion my husband and I had about "traveling while interracial."
As a fellow public servant, I truly empathize with employees of the Transportation Security Administration. Unlike people with a 9 to 5 desk job, these women and men work in high-stress, potentially high-risk, settings with little opportunity to just shoot the breeze by the water cooler or surf the web (heck, they get dirty looks for just looking at their cell phone while working). I appreciate their service and their efforts to keep us safe while flying, but I need to call out some folks at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
While traveling back to Boston from Raleigh-Durham earlier this fall, my husband and I approached the TSA agent with our driver's licenses and boarding passes before putting our carry-on luggage through x-ray. As most of the United States traveling public knows, generally, if you have more than one person in your party, you approach the agent as one group. So you can imagine my surprise when I stepped up to the agent, my husband following right behind me, and the agent (I believe a black male) said to my husband: "Sir, please step back behind the line until you're called!" At the time I thought it was kind of strange but I know travel rules change at whim, so I just assumed it was a heightened safety measure and thought nothing of it. Well, it's my husband's turn and the TSA agent, after seeing my husband's information and realizing we have the same last name, says "Oh, I'm sorry. I wouldn't have told you to step back if I realized you were married."
I'm sorry, but that's just ignorant.
You work for the Executive Branch of the United States Government. The head of that branch is a BIRACIAL MAN. He has an African daddy and a White momma. And you didn't think that two members of the general public of different races could possibly be married?!
And lest you think I'm picking on the state of North Carolina, let me put Washington, DC out on front street. As I was wrapping up a trip to the city for work, my husband came into town towards the end of the week to meet up before heading to Maryland to spend the weekend with my family. After a week-long stay, the housekeeping staff recognized me pretty well, but apparently they didn't think I would married to a white man. I called down to the front desk for an item (probably extra towels) and my husband answered the door while I briefly stepped away from the room. The conversation went something like this:
Housekeeper: "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize the lady who was staying here checked out already."
My Husband: "Um, no she didn't."
(they stare at each other in awkward silence)
My Husband: "I'm her husband. We're together."
Housekeeper: "Oh really?"
You know, for all of the unfounded allegations that Southerners make against Boston and New England as being racially hostile, I expect more from you DC and NC! Come on people!