Xiara Mercado walked into a Starbucks in Hawaii dressed in her Air Force uniform, ordered her drink, and was casually talking on the phone to someone in Spanish. As she left, a woman tapped her on the shoulder — not to thank her for her service, but to scold her for speaking a language other than English.
“You shouldn’t be speaking Spanish, that’s not what that uniform represents,” the woman said, telling Mercado that her choice to speak Spanish in public was “distasteful.”
In a post to her Facebook page this Wednesday, Mercado, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, recounted the exchange and it got quite a bit of attention. As of this writing, the post has been shared almost 30,000 times.
According to Mercado, she asked the woman what exactly was distasteful. The woman replied that speaking Spanish “does not represent America and that uniform you are wearing.”
“I’m sorry ma’am,” Mercado said. “The only distasteful thing here is that you are clueless to your discrimination. Please educate yourself. Have a nice day.”
“I don’t know how you are allowed to wear that uniform,” the woman said loudly.
“I wear it proudly,” Mercado shot back before walking away.
You can read her full post below:
Speaking to DeadState, Mercado said that her post wasn’t intended to inflame divisions and she specifically chose to leave out the fact that the woman was white.
“I didn’t want to target ‘the whites,'” she said. “I just wanted to address the discrimination part.”
Even though she left out the fact that the woman was white, Mercado said that it’s sad that by reading her story, people “can automatically picture this individual.”
“All I want from this post is for people to be aware of the ignorance out there and that we should take the time to address it, not let it go, but to do it in a tactful way and not stoop down and be bullies like they are,” she said.
“This is not a post about language,” she continued. “This is about America and respect for others with different religions, backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual preferences … America is about freedom and respect.”
“That’s what I fight for. For everyone.”
Update: The Starbucks media relations department contacted DeadState and asked us to clarify that the confrontation took place outside the store in the parking lot, not inside. The headline of this article has been updated to reflect that.
Featured image via Facebook