(Un)welcome to Lake Havasu City

The disappointing aspect of my family vacation trip last summer still casts a shadow over the best times I had in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

It was supposed to be the best summer in recent memory, but one look at our skin color from the locals made our trip worse.

What started out as a promising getaway from Los Angeles served its purpose as day one saw us soaking in the pool at the Airbnb we rented. It felt like a house full of entertainment for people of all ages and was just what our family needed.

The next day, after getting ready for the lake, we headed to a nearby gas station to refuel the boat. I walked in to pay for fuel and was second in line. There were no other customers in the store except me and the man in the front line.

The man in front of me thanked the cashier and was about to walk out until he saw me. He then took a few steps back to the cashier and threw a bag of chips on the counter to buy. As they scanned his item, he called his kids out of his truck and told them to get whatever they wanted from the store.

“Take your time,” he said as they looked around the market. He then started giving me a dirty look and talked for a few minutes with the cashier, not bothering to step aside for me to pay for gas. It was then that I realized that this man had something against me.

I walked over to the cashier while they were both talking and slammed the money on the counter, telling him which fuel pump it was, then walked back to the truck without saying a word.

We had already received dirty looks from a few people when we first arrived in this predominantly white town, but we didn’t think about it since we had been visiting for quite a while. After the situation at the gas station, however, I concluded that we were going to experience racist treatment from the locals.

My theory was put to the test, and it was confirmed when we found a beautiful two-sided beach on the lake to settle in. While my dad went to launch the boat in the lake, we set up a canopy for shade in the sand, then jumped into the water a few feet away.

Moments later, however, the white family who had moved in next to us rudely asked us to move away from them. We weren’t close enough to them to be troublesome, however, we decided to get out of their reach as we didn’t need to be around problematic people like them.

About half an hour later we started to hear the word “boo” in unison from the crowd and wondered what was going on. None of the boats that passed received a negative reception from the crowd, but I knew immediately that the mocking boat was driven by my father.

He finally joined us, and as he helped us into the boat while wearing his straw hat, he smiled. “They don’t like us,” he said. I looked around and we were surrounded by white faces of people who didn’t appreciate our visit, the only colored family around.

We had never been racially targeted to this extent, so it came as a shock to all of us. There was no way our skin color could attract so much negative attention. It must have been the culmination of hatred for a city seemingly devoid of diversity.

As we moved forward in the boat, my fists were clenched in anger and never in my life have I wanted to give someone a piece of my mind more than at this moment. I rested and thought for a second. I knew giving in to anger would be exactly how they wanted us to react.

We went back the way my father came, and on both sides there were people raising their middle fingers with both hands. None of the other boats received this treatment, so we were all angry and even annoyed. My dad, however, kept his cool and did the proudest thing I’ve ever seen in a situation like this.

He handed the steering wheel to my brother, turned up the hip-hop music and started dancing in the face of hatred. The number of fingers we received increased, but that didn’t stop it.

As we moved on, I couldn’t grasp the reason for racism or discrimination in the world. This lowered my spirits for the rest of the trip and I realized how small my world was back home.

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