This is Howard C. Park's blog. Interests: live music, simulations and modeling, languages, iPod, social and business networking, systems thinking, history of science, management, BBQ, trivia, good coffee, organizational learning, traveling, personal histories.
Monday, May 22, 2006
the race card
I haven't told this story to many people. It's about a time I had the race card pulled on my behalf. Ten years have passed, so I feel I can tell the story.
I'm in graduate school, business school, to be specific. I receive a call from a friend who was having trouble with her floppy disk. Yes, the old, "I can't retrieve my files". I go over to her place, park out front. An hour later, the file is restored, but I have a parking ticket. This is a time when I had placed myself on a tight budget. The $40 fine, plus the desire to try out my negotiation skills newly acquired from this book, makes me want to contest the ticket. I was clearly parked illegally; I knew it when I parked there. My tack: to admit that I was in the wrong, ask for leniency based on my circumstances (I was in grad school, I generally obey parking laws, and my friend was in need), and negotiate a smaller fine, maybe $15. I walk into the building where I was to make my case. The man behind the counter tells me to fill out a form with an explanation of my defense. I wait, then he calls me to enter a small office of the judge. It's quite messy, and she's already reading my form. She starts recording our conversation. "So, can you explain why you want the ticket dismissed?". Five seconds into my prepared speech, she reaches over, stopps the recording, starts writing on the form, and says something like this: "I'm going to dismiss your ticket. You're in college; education is the only way we minorities are going to make it in this society." I'm in shock. I was already in deference mode when I walked in (she's a judge, and I was in the wrong). Now I am searching for how to respond. She is black, I am Asian. I'm in grad school, she's a judge. I feel worlds apart from her, never having used the "foul" call in situations like this. I wonder if I should balk. "You mean you're letting me go because we're both non-white?". But I take the form with her signature back to the clerk. I can't think of anything to say. The clerk files the paperwork, and I save $40.
I'm relieved that it's over, but somewhat ashamed. Not ashamed of who I am, but ashamed that I had someone else take out my race card without my consent. I didn't even know I had the card. I feel powerless, confused, and try not to get more parking tickets.