“Those white people,” Renee said to Carmen, “they are so racist, but they don’t even know it. Look at them, looking at us down their nose!”
Carmen hands were filled because she had refused to get a cart. She had insisted she was only buying one or two things, but she had kept getting stuff, and now her arms were beginning to hurt.
A tall white man knocked something off her hand. Renee bent and picked it up because the man did not even realize that he had pushed Carmen, who was very short.
“Yes, those rich people, Carmen responded, “they are snobs. They think they are better than anyone and take the entire space for themselves, knocking everyone else out of the way.”
Renee and Carmen had met at a business training for low income women that they have taken together. They both did beautiful accessories, and that craft brought them together. Today they were celebrating the end of the grueling training.
They were in the 86th Street Fairway buying stuff to enjoy a lunch picnic in Central Park, but they had gotten carried away and each bought stuff to take home after the picnic.
“Yes, like an interview I had this week in which a white man kept asking me the same questions, the same ones that he could have read in my résumé,” Renee speculated. “He could not believe that an African-American woman was so competent or had that much education, I guess.”
“No, they just do it as a power game,” Carmen added. “Those people get a kick out of feeling that they are in control, that they have the power to hire or fire you. Damn rich people!”
“Yes, so racists!” Renee concluded.
“Yes, such snobs!” Carmen concluded.
After work, Renee went back home and as she got off the train at Harlem, she bumped into a neighbor.
“Excuse me!” she said. “Oh my god, it’s you!”
“Yes, sista, in the flesh! Yo’ better look where yo’s going ‘cause yo’ starting to bump into everyone like those white people who practice the art of “I “kick’em’an’they ‘scuse me.”
But as Renee opened the door to her apartment, she remembered what her teacher had said in the last session of her business training.
“You are not going to break even if you don’t charge more for your crochet accessories. They are unique. They are worth it.”
“But my clients can’t pay that much!” Renee had protested.
“Who are your clients?” the teacher had asked.
“Mostly my neighbors,” Renee had explained.
“Where do you live?” the teacher asked.
“ Harlem,” Renee replied.
“Then you have to expand your clientele,” her teacher instructed. “Why don’t you approach those elegant boutiques down at the upper west side?”
“Those boutiques?!” Renee had squealed. “Those people see me coming and hide their merchandise, as if I was going to steal it.”
“I guess I’m going to have to find another job,” Renee sadly concluded, “because my little side business will never cover my expenses.”
Meanwhile, Carmen got off at El Barrio and began to walk home, thinking about the man who knocked her stuff off her hands.
“That’s rich people for you. That’s what mami used to say,” she remembered.
“Rich people? You can’t trust those people. How do you think they got their money? Stealing from us, that’s how! Better poor and honest than rich and crooked.”
Carmen smiled remembering her mami.
But the smile died in her lips. She was tired of working two jobs just to make ends meet. And working in that Bronx nonprofit was great, but they paid so little!
“But those people,” she said, remembering Renee’s interview. “They’d never hire me. They pay good money. But all they are interested is in one’s pedigree and contacts, not in helping the community.”
“I’ll stick to my own,” Carmen sadly concluded.
“You can’t make more if you settle for less,” the business teacher was saying to a new group of low income women. “You can’t increase your income if you stay imprisoned in your limitations. The world is big; very big. You got to think big. You got to let go of your Comfort Zone and expand your perception to expand your sphere of influence. Will you meet attitudes? Sure. There are always people with bad attitudes. But belief me when I tell you that your problem is not those people’s attitudes. The problem is your own.”
New York, New York
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