MIDVALE — On a day when we celebrate equality and racial acceptance, a woman in Midvale said she recently had an experience that shows a need for more discussion on diversity.
On Saturday, Karen Henriquez and her two children went to Viva Markets in Midvale to pick up some fresh plantains. What should have been a routine trip to the store turned into a harsh lesson about ignorance and racism.
"We were getting ready to check out, and this man walked to my son and told him to go back to his own country," Henriquez said. "It caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting it."
We were getting ready to check out, and this man walked to my son and told him to go back to his own country.
–Karen Henriquez, Midvale resident
She said the man, who looked like he was in his 20s, didn't stop there. He continued on insulting other customers as he quickly walked through the store.
"As he kind of made the loop around the store, I stood in front of him and he asked me what I was looking at — using an expletive — and told me to go back to Africa, and he walked out of the store," Henriquez said.
What the man obviously didn't know was that Henriquez's husband is a first lieutenant with the Army National Guard. He just got back from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan Sunday. She and the kids were shopping for a welcome-home dinner when the incident happened.
"We're celebrating his return from serving our country, defending our rights to be able to have opinions, and his son is being attacked verbally. (It's) just kind of hard to reconcile," Henriquez said.
But instead of getting angry, she turned the situation into a lesson for her 11-year-old daughter and 6-year old son. It was a talk she never thought she'd have to have with them.
"You teach your children stranger danger, pedophile, that type of thing; but this is ‘some people are not going to like you ‘cause of the way you look,' and that's a hard lesson for a 6-year-old," Henriquez said.
But the more important lesson she wanted her kids to take away is timely on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It's a message he wanted to share with everyone else too.
"You have a purpose," she said. "You have worth, and no one can take that away from you. So don't let what anyone says to you take away from that."
Henriquez said she doesn't know what action she could have taken, but she didn't want to put herself in a dangerous situation. Just as well, that restraint was also a good example for her children.