steffanie rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*Thirty-five years ago when I grew up in east Tennessee the only people I saw with tattoos were members of a motorcycle gang.

I had to go to school on the other side of town to see white people, because only black people went to my church and lived in my neighborhood.

When my teacher, Ms. Alfaro, told me I should take Spanish class seriously I didn’t believe it. I thought she was loco! Since that time I’ve learned there’s more to life than black and white, tattoos are a form of expression and in some states, such as Texas where I reside now, I’m more likely to hear Spanish than English.

A lot has changed since I grew up. I’ve adapted, but some people are having a problem with it. Why else would a sports writer say a NFL quarterback can’t be an effective leader because he has too many tattoos? In the NFL athletes are judged by their stats, not one writer’s perception of how a leader should or should not look. And if he had taken the time to read the tattoos or ask San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick about his body art he would have known they are Bible verses. Even Jesus might approve.

And what causes a 45-year old man to get into a shouting match with a bunch of teenagers over their loud music at a Jacksonville gas station and become so enraged that he shoots into their SUV and drives off? It happened on Black Friday. When police caught up with Michael David Dunn at his home 160 miles away he said he felt threatened by the teens, but he didn’t bother to tell police about the incident before they showed up on his doorstep the next day to charge him with the murder of 17-year old Jordan Davis who was unarmed and seated in the back of that SUV.

Obviously Dunn didn’t like their music and maybe he didn’t like that the teens stood up for themselves instead of backing down. Thirty-five years ago when Dunn grew up teenagers probably wouldn’t dare play their rap music so loud, let alone talk back when told to turn it down.

I’ve often wondered how people who once were in control of everything – politics, business, finance and yes, the NFL quarterback position – deal with having to share that power with others who don’t look like them, don’t talk like them, express themselves in a different way and don’t care what others think it.

Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” is not-so invisible anymore. Times have changed and some people should too. But it’s probably going to get worse for them before it gets better for everybody.

I admit I get annoyed when my Latino co-workers carry on extended conversations in Spanish at audio level 8 across the room at work. Maybe I’m old school, but I think it’s rude for people to talk in another language when others around them don’t know what they’re saying. U.S. Census calculations show Latinos will be the majority in Texas by 2020. Still I hope they are considerate of us who don’t speak fluent Spanish. And they probably think I should have paid more attention in Spanish class.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, TX metro area. For questions, comments and to schedule speaking appearances email her at [email protected].