Share Your Story About Race

As part of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore’s yearlong “Talking About Race” series, WYPR’s Maryland Morning and The Stoop Storytelling Series are collecting personal stories about race. These stories will be shared below and some will be told on Across the Divide: Stories About Race in Baltimore, a radio series on Maryland Morning culminating in a live evening of storytelling  produced by The Stoop Storytelling Series.

Tell us about events in your life that taught you something about race, events that laid the foundation of how you think about race, or ones that made you rethink it. Or experiences that shifted your understanding of race in more subtle ways. Some of the stories will be funny. The point: lets break a hugely complicated subject into life-size pieces by sharing our stories about race in our community.

Submit Your Story Below

Read stories submitted by others or submit your own story below. We’ll gather your stories here, and may also contact you to see if you’d be interested in turning your stories into a piece for The Stoop or Maryland Morning.

To listen to stories that have already aired on Maryland Morning, visit Across the Divide: Stories About Race in Baltimore.

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I had an expereince that gave me a new understanding of what racism is today. I believe the context of the word goes deeper than black and white however the color barrier still exsist. I was walking my dog at patterson park and a old man walked by and just being polite, I spoke and as he turned away he mumbled something I thought was offensive. So I saw him again and spoke again to see if it was just me, the same thing happened. My interpretation was that some white people are intimidated by the strength of blacks and what they can do . Some white people feel that they don't want to forget what we`ve been through. I think some people still want history to repeat itself, including but not limited to segregation. I say this to say ,only by way of peoples ignorance does racism still exist. Neither black or white don`t know how or dont want to forgive or forget. This doesn`t apply to everybody but for the most part mix crowds don`t really mix they just stand as shades of black, white, and, gray.

Shortly after beginning my teaching job at UMBC in 1968, I moved to Bolton Hill. My apartment was the second floor of one of the row houses that had seen better days. Mary, the owner who lived on the first floor, had also seen better days. An alcoholic in her 70s, she had been a southern belle in Georgia where her grandfather had owned slaves.

When she learned that I taught about race relations, she became determined to educate me about the true nature of the south. Having grown up in Los Angeles, I had always assumed that Baltimore was a southern city although I soon learned that Marylanders see things differently.

“Everyone was pretty happy during the time of slavery,” she said. “The whites took care of the coloreds.”

“Lots of slaves were treated pretty harshly,” I replied.

“That’s one of the big misconceptions of slavery,” she said. “People say the slaves were mistreated.
Slaves were property and people took care of their property. Would you mistreat your car?”

I was speechless. She also explained her relationship with her black maid, who had been in her family for 50 years. Julie was in her late 60s and came to Mary’s several times a week to cook and do light cleaning.
“I love Julie and I take care of her,” Mary explained. “If I have old clothes or left-over food, I give it to her to take home to her family. I give her presents at Christmas and I’ve given her extra money when she needs it.”

“Do you ever sit down and eat with her?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” she replied. “I’d never sit at the same table with her and she wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting at the same table with me. That’s not the way we do things.”

I had read about this type of paternalistic racism but had never been exposed to it in Los Angeles. Mary’s friend, Al, added to my education. He would generally back Mary up in our discussions. Al was in his 60s and still looked very strong, like he had been doing construction work all of his life. One day he knocked on my door.

“I hear you are having a party tonight,” he said.

“Yes, I’m having some friends over.”

“Are you inviting any coloreds?”

“What business is that of yours,” I bristled.

“I want to know if you are inviting any coloreds?”

“What if I am?”

Al stared at me and simply said, “Don’t.”

“You can’t tell me who to invite to my apartment.”

“Don’t invite any coloreds. I look after Mary.” With that, he turned and walked down the stairs.

I was stunned and frightened. While I certainly had no intention of dis-inviting anyone, I had no idea of what Al was capable of doing. I figured he wouldn’t stand guard at the door and create a scene. But I didn’t know if he would break into my apartment after the party and do something. Actually, he wouldn’t even have to break in since Mary had a copy of my key. I knew there were Ku Klux Klan organizations in Maryland, but in Baltimore?

As things turned out, I had a few black friends at the party and never heard anything from Al about it. I guess he was just trying to scare me. This was part of my introduction to race relations in Baltimore.

Fred L. Pincus is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. This is part of a chapter of a memoir that he is writing.

I grew up with an African American housekeeper who was closer to me than my mother at times. But it wasn't until I was seven years old, when I was on a train trip to Washington D.C., that I saw black children my age. I actually stood up on the train, transfixed, and said, "I didn't know they made children in that color." Even today, more than 40 years later, that story astounds me and says so much about growing up in a segregated society. How long will we have to wait for this to end?

My father tells me the story that when he was a boy, he thought white people were only real on television. It wasn’t until he was 11 years old, when he went to middle school and had a white teacher, that he realized they existed outside the television set. He was stunned. His story amazes me, because I didn’t know there was any place in America that was so African-American. I’ve always grown up in mixed communities.

My father brought me a big radio, better known as a ghetto blaster, during my sophomore year at a private, all-male, catholic school. I used to haul that thing (along with the 80 D-batteries it took to run it) to school in a big duffel bag every day. Well when the Dean of Students saw me with it he told me not to bring it back to school. You know what that meant? Bring it back the next day. When I did the Dean of Students took it away from me, but I managed to retrieve it out of his office at the end of the school day. On my way home from school, I decided to play the tape that was in the cassette player. When I pressed play, I didn't hear music, but two voices engaged in conversation:

Voice #1: I told this SON OF A BITCH not to bring this thing back to school and this NIGGER did it anyway!

Voice #2: What do they call these things.....ghetto-blasters?

The dialogue ended and the music resumed. The voices on the tape were the Dean of Students and the Principal of the school. They had hit the record button by mistake and recorded their conversation.

WOW!!!!!!!! I couldn't believe it. The two head administrators from the school, ON TAPE, calling me a NIGGER and my mother a BITCH!!! Somebody is going to lose their job over this one!!!!

So I went home and quickly played the tape for my mother. My Mom listened and then said, "Well, what do you want me to do? You were wrong for bringing it to school."

I grew up in a town in the midwest that had a policy that made it a Sundown town. If a black fperson was within the town borders when the sun went down they would have to leave or be run out. My father had always said that if that happened to a family that couldn't leave, we would take them into our own home. His message to me was that we would not sit back and let something bad or hurtful happen to a black family. I didn't realize that this was a policy for much of the country until I read a book about research that was done to bring to light this horrible way of treating people in much of our country. Even a University town near where I was born in the north would not allow blacks to eat in the restaurants or stay in the hotels.

In my senior year of journalism studies at the University of Florida, I applied for a job at the Tampa Tribune as a sports writer. It was 1979, and there were very few women or blacks in the press box. I got all dressed up, and with resume and clips in hand, walked into the sports department for an interview. I felt a bit like Mary Richards, the fictional TV newswoman, optimistic, yet nervous. As I sat down with an assistant sports editor, he asked about my experience at the student paper, The Independent Florida Alligator, and then leaned toward me and said, "Why do you want to be a sports writer? I don't think that women and niggers have any place in the sports department." He then told me he was a member of the Klan and that they used to see to it that "women and niggers" were kept in their place. I was stunned and speechless. I picked up my purse and walked out the first door that I saw, which happened to be in the back corner of the Tribune newsroom. My anger fueled my exit down many flights of stairs, and out into the back of the parking lot. The next day, the executive sports editor called and asked what happened. When I told him, he reprimanded the assistant editor and asked me to come back for another interview. But I never did.

My name is chris, I am the author of two books... one of which was endorsed by the late senator ted kennedy. As I describe in my biography on my book's page, I was a homeless street person for five months on the streets of baltimore. I lived out of soup kitchens near the library and a shelter on East Eager street. During my stay in 1985, an amazing event changed my very life. I was walking on eager street for about an hour... alone... as a 18 year old white teenager. I saw things that later inspired me to design the homes I do and write the books that I write. By far the most important thing that happened to me on that day was not what I saw, but how people treated me. As I have told the story countless times since... I passed by two 30-40 year-old gentlement sitting on their front porch only five feet away. As I walked by I heared "Hey you"... I continued, only to hear it again in an even stronger tone. I stopped. what happened next changed my otherwise middleclass attituded and became a focal point of my life to this day as I must have conveyed this story four times in the last month alone.

Instead of stopping me to beat me up, make fun of me, or worse... the two gentlemen insisted that if I was going to walk alone in their neighborhood, that I stop to shake their hand when they called to me. I was greeted warmly not just with sympathy for my own situation, but also with a sense of understanding, propriety, and a man-to-man acknowledgement that made me feel not only respected but admired, commended, and welcome. I was told I had been the only white person ever to walk through their neighborhood in 20 years and before I walked on, they indeed wished me well! Not only do I tell this story to my friends, I was even the lead unitedway speaker at Allfirst's main convention downtown and had 1000 dollars donated to the Unitedway by the company's two CEOs who called me the very next day.

To say the least, I totally respect and appreciate ALL cultures and religions in this entire diverse world. It is an honor to share this world with so many people and I love them all. I have dedicated my life to peace and have peace sections as the very last thing I say in both of my books. it is a true conviction and to this day, I hold doors open for people of color and go out of my way to say hi with a smile on my face... not to be sympathetic, but to deliberately go above and beyond, knowing that there are such steriotypes in this world to this day to overcome!

I welcome any oportunity to share this story at any point and to any audiance if you feel it would help. this is my simple story of a simple moment that I think says a lot more than just being open or even just respectful. In my native american beliefs, we believe that every single person comes to this world with their own medicine and gifts that we all need in turn. It is a shame and a crime on us all for even a single person to go without a pair of perscription glasses or a hearing aid, or worse. It is up to each one of us to work for the betterment of everyone and it is my hope that such efforts will indeed unite us as a growing civilization. As I quote in my book from Dr. Martin Luther King, "we will either live together as brothers, or die together as fools!"

Best wishes, and thank you for the oportunity to give my own unique story! God bless!

Christopher "Blackwater"

I was born in Baltimore/Johns Hopkins Hospital-"Eastside" in 1951. At the age of 8 my parents moved to Roxboro, NC (population 20k) as a result of Bethlem Steel was on strike the summer of '59;and, what originally was suppose to be a summer vacation turned into my family relocating; thus, all my siblings were enrolled in the NC public school system. My world changed suddenly and drastically. I was accustomed to being a part of an "urban" community of no less than 1 million (perdominately black) to a township of 20k (predominately white). Baltimore had given me ,as a child, a sense of diversity. Our corner grocer was Jewish; the butcher could have been German, our mailman was black and a few Police Officers were also black, and I recalled a mixture of accents that defined uniquness. People with different hues, dress and accents. From my perspective my new town was different on all levels. There was no diversity. My entire community was black. Our town had one black Doctor/MD, one black Dentist, scores of teachers, blue collar and farmers all living on the same street. I recalled Baltimore and other large cities having annual parades, i.e., St. Patricks', Easter and others. Roxboro had its annual "KKK" Parade. Hoods, crosses and its Grand "PuPa." (as I would refer to them). It was only after I had help to desegregate our all white high school (1967), when I would notice, in the parade, some of my teachers, merchants that my parents would do business with, and faces that I had come to know just by living in Roxboro. What that experience taught me was how to intelligently deal with people having opposing views from your own. That experience help me to use my personality and sensibilities, and help bring the same type of diversity I had come to know as a child in Baltimore, Md. At 16 years of age my classmates and I campaign to help elect the first African American politician to Roxboro's City Council. He was the only black Dentist in our town (Dr. Owens). My junior year in high school (up until that time, I attended an all black high school), I volunteered to transfer to our town's all white high school. My black classmates were not supportive and my new white classmates were not supportive. This was my way of dealing with racism and making a change for the better (one person/one voice/one commitment at a time). Today, I am a Grandmother and I share my life experiences to my decendants. I like to think that the world my grandkids share was made for the better by all of us that had the courage to deal respectfully to themselves in making the changes that too was for the better. I say to my Grandkids ...don't just let freedom ring...make it ring!

I've worked in the federal courts for many years but this life event still comes to mind from time to time. I was a recording clerk and my supervisor who was white decided to host an event off site for all the recording clerks at her parents place. Descretly, or so she thought, she invited everyone but me. The other recording clerks were told that I was not invited because her parents would not know to treat me since the only colored people that they had seen were those who worked their farm! This took place in the early 80's!!

20 years ago I purchased my first house. A small and lovely rancher on a large lot. I had two neighbors I'll call Fredrick and John (Not their real names). Fredrick was interesting and enjoyable to talk with. He was a young lad in Germany in Hitler's time and managed to escape out of the county. But, because he could speak perfect German he was recruited to go back and work as a spy in a lab that was developing radar. He would memorize the schematics, go home copy them down again and pass them on. Fascinating to talk with. John had lived a more local life, growing up in the area and working hard. The two had been good friend for more then 15 years.

Until one day. John came over to Fredrick's house one morning and asked, "How come you had them over for dinner?"

Fredrick, "Hu? What do you mean?"

"You know them niggers? How come you let them in your house?"

That was the end of the 15 year friendship as Fredrick could not tolerate a bigot, and John had no interest in a nigger lover. They existed quietly without any further communication. Fredrick retired and move to Arizona. John retired and set up his living room so that he had a wonderful view of both Fredrick's house and mine. My boy friend proposed and we decided to live in his house and rent out my own.

As I was preparing to move, John came over and explained that a house is a significant investment, and you just can't let anyone move in. You must take care and pick the right person. He kept saying, "You know what I mean?" I knew what he meant. Make sure they're white. But, I answered in the literal sense. Yes I plan to be careful, check out their income and run a credit check. Yes, must be careful with my house.

The first family to submit a valid rental application was black. There was never any question about whether I would rent to them or not. It would be illegal, ill-moral and against everything I believed in. But I also asked my self. Is it ethical to let them move in without first disclosing the information I had? Should I let them move in across the street from someone who would hate them for their skin color without any type of warning? After a sleepless night I decided that if I were to tell them, I would plant the seeds of hatred. I would be telling them to lift up your arms and be ready to fight. No their relation ship had to be developed without any influence from me. I decided if they ever asked, I would let them out of the lease, but they should be allowed to move in without any discussion from me.

The years when by and John's health began to fade. I visited a few times. Seems his new neighbors were Christian by faith, and believed that you help your neighbors. When he started becoming ill, they would help; mow the lawn, bring a home cooked meal over or help pick up his medication. John expressed to me how much he loved this new family, how much joy they brought into his life. How they were now part of his family. I don't believe John ever stopped being predigest, but there was one black family that he learned to love before he died.

I do not believe the family did not know of John's hatred and bias. They could not have missed it. It was so much a part of him. They chose to over look it and reach out and help regardless. As a result one bigot loved one black family. Something I never would have believed. This act of love and kindness has had a profound impact on my life. I now look at people (regardless of race) who I struggle with. If I can look through it and love them regardless of our differences, would they learn to love me as well? Is it worth a try and all the efforts needed to forgive? They thought so.

The first day of Kindergarten. Several of my son’s friends ended up in his class (there are two kindergarten classes) and he is excited. We live in a neighborhood I love. The school (public) is almost on the corner of our street. I know many children there and their parents. I chose this neighborhood more than ten years ago because it reminded me of Europe where I grew up, because people here come from different countries and different backgrounds, because it is ethnically diverse and liberal. When I prepared to adopt my son, who is black, I had no problem answering the social worker’s questions about raising a black child in a white family. I grew up in Holland, where the principal of my elementary school was black, as were some of the teachers, and I do not remember this ever being discussed by any adults or children as an issue. I did not grow up in this country with its terrible history and its ongoing problems between the races, I feel happily unburdened as a result. I live in a neighborhood with similar-minded people, and my son will go to the local school with its majority of black children. So all will be well.

So I thought. Except after that first day of Kindergarten one of the white mothers whose daughter is in the Kindergarten class sends an email to the listserv for the parents and says she is concerned that there are so many boys in her daughter’s kindergarten class. Followed by a private email to my friend in which she says she did not want to say this to the whole group but it seems that her daughter’s class also got most of the black boys. When my friend responds that she does not see how that is a problem the woman responds that it’s just when she saw her little girl surrounded by five black boys she freaked out a bit.

I know these boys. They are 5 years old. They are cute. They are, like most boys that age, like little puppies, always playing, and tumbling over each other. This was their first day of Kindergarten. They felt very big and very little. Some of them were scared. They were unaware that the mother of the white girl next to them was scared of them. That she thought that because their skin is dark they were a threat to her daughter, also 5. My son is one of them, these cute little black boys. And if the liberal white woman in our neighborhood who sends her daughter to the local public school thinks he and his friends are scary at age 5 we all know what she will think when they are 15. My love and my intense wish for a happy life for my son, free of the ugliness that is racism, make me want to move away from this neighborhood where I thought we were fine. The thought that we aree surrounded by people like this woman freaks me out. Except I don’t know where to move.

I run into the mother at a party a couple of months later. She is wearing an Obama t-shirt.

I grew up in Southern California in a middle class home with parents who were both from the south (Mississippi and Texas). Although we lived in a mostly African American community, the schools my siblings and I attended were racially mixed (Blacks, Whites, Samoan, Japanese, etc). Even though both parents grew up during segregation and Jim Crow, neither taught or discussed racism. As far as we were concerned, everyone was equal. Case in point, my father was an equal part owner of a business and his business partners were white. I went away to college in liberal Seattle, Washington returning to finish at UCLA. While the opportunity to date across race lines existed, I have a love for my own and have primarily dated within. In my 30’s I converted to Islam. While the teachings were “love your own” and “know your enemy” (whites) I sometimes struggled with how I was brought up and this “new” knowledge. Yes, I knew about slavery and what had been done to our people, but this was a different time, wasn’t it? And, I wasn’t cognizant of any racism directed towards me. However when my youngest brother went to college in Utah and then decided to marry a white young lady, I was against it. It was ok to “sow his wild oats” with “them” but come “home” and marry your own!! They have been married now for about 14 years and have 4 beautiful children. My sister-in-law is wonderful and I love her dearly. She loves my brother, their children and our family. She doesn’t pretend to be anything but who she is and often times we forget that she’s “white”. I’ve often said that although I wished that my brother had married a Black woman, I would rather that he married a White woman who treated him right and made him happy than a Black woman who didn’t.

We were never raised to look at people because their their race. We were never taught to discriminate against people due to race. I grew up in a neighborhood of mostly now African American (Negro then Black). Never knew racial prejudice until I started to play and compete in sport of tennis. I thought it curious that courts you could clearly see next to where you played you would not dare try to play on them. Eventually I came to know the colored tennis courts from the white courts in Druid Hill Park. Clifton was open if you knew someone and never go to Patterson Park or possibly death. The Druid Hill Park Clay courts were for whites, then Jews and whites and next for Black when they finihed playing for the day and all the lines were rubbed off and the courts were as dry as a bone/dustbowl. Then came permits for the chosen few and if you knew somebody who knew somebody. Tournaments all Blacks were in one quater or half. Jewish folks sprinkled in. Of course Jewish folks could only play certain places too and maybe not in a Jewsish club if they did not have enough money. never saw Asians playing in the public parks until very much later in life. Next schools. I was comfortable throughout elementary going to first an all-African American school except for a few, what we were told were HillBillies. Next to a predominantly African American and Black school. Only 2-3 classes left combined on Jewsih holidays including the teachers. Then high school. The prestigious Western who did not want you really. Advising the African American girls to be secretaries, janitors, housekeeprs, and such No one was really looked at as college material by the counselors (pre-1968). Thank God for Black Colleges because Towson and the U of MD really did not want African Americans. U of MD said go to MD State (now U of MD Eastern Shore Campus to get a U of MD degree). The beat goes on. How much same and unalike things are in different parts of the country. Much better opportunities today but institution racism is alive and well. During the Republican years a resurgence of it is alright to be a little racist, discrimatory, and prejudice. I guess we are backing up to surge forward again in the Obama years. It is time to discover and celebrate African American history in Baltimore and Maryland, lost and supressed for too many years. Celebrating each race's history is a good thing. Too many people trying to mesh Jewish, African American, Asians, and other foreign cultures together. They have history that parallels and intertwines but the beauty and pride of your own is always to be cheished.

My first conscious recollection of racism on a personal level was as a kindergartener on Halloween in 1959. I grew up in southwest Baltimore, near the Irvington neighborhood. Though the student population of Irvington Elementary was mostly black, parts of the surrounding community were still predominately white.

We decided to go trick-or-treating on our way home from school, and decided to go down Louden Avenue, a block that was still all white. At one house we rang the doorbell, and an older white woman answered.

When we enthuiastically shouted, "Trick-or-treat!!!", she peered down at us and asked, "Are youse white or colored?" When we replied, "Colored", she promptly slammed the door in our faces!!

Less than 5 years ago, I worked an event at the Anne Arundel County Fair. During my break I walked through one of the buildings to look at some of the exhibits. There was an area that was displaying diffrent fruits and vegetables that were competing. An older white man that was guarding or judging the area says to me, "You should be participating in this since your people come from Africa and you know how to work the fields". He said some other things but I was still in shock so I asaid to him calmly, (because I had on a T-shirt and name tag that would identify me and the agency I was representing), "What did you say?". He REPEATED, "Since you people come from Africa and worked in the fields, you should have something on display". Others heard him but kept walking. I guess they were the "locals"

When pursuing my graduate work in Adult Education with an emphasis in Family Counseling, I was required to reflect on my thinking about race, values, parenting, etc..The purpose of this reflective on-going exercise was for me to acknowledge my bias and to determine how they were developed.

Well, while participating in this concious process, I reflected on the stories my parents shared with us growing up in Jim Crow Misissippi. These stories were stories of endurance and disrespect and as a result, I remeber my parents telling us that you cannot trust "white people". They further stated that "white people" think they know everything, that they are not kind, and that you must be very careful.

As I conintued with this process, I begin to think about my personal expereinces growing up in Baltimore City and similar types of situations that my parents expereinced. For example, being chased by a mob of "white" people who wanted to harm my freinds and me in South Baltimore, standing in line to check-out from a restaurant and the cashier ignored me and motioned the white lady behind me to step forward, working at a private school (and the only black teacher) and the "white" teachers would get up when I would sit down to eat at the table (there are many mores expereinces).

However, as I conintued to grow, learn, and interactive, my realization is now perhaps, that thier are some definitive differences around how language is used, how processses are determined and implemented, how ideas are conceptualized. Right now, I believe that many of those "starchy" types of behaviors maynot be related to race but more personality and the inability for those to accept and look beyond their own beliefs.

I have learned at age 51 that racism is implemented through policies and procedures of implementation, policies that delay, minimize, obstruct on every level when people of color move. Any movement by people of color in America, are subject to that process. Racism started out with physical obstruction, today 2009 racism works in policies.....institutional racisim.....a very toxic and life altering epidemic, I began my career believing racism meant incompetent, so I applied myself harder to all I endeavored, today I see the way racism is institutional to benefit the few at the expense of many, and is merging with classicism.

People are more complicated than they sometimes seem at first. In the early 1990s, I moved from the Boston area to a small town in Northeast Louisiana, where I became editor of the little local newspaper. Somehow the civil rights era had passed this place by. Everything in the town was divided by race, right down to separate proms for blacks and whites at the local high school.

One of the people on my tiny staff was a white woman in her 50s. It was easy to tag P.J. as a classic, small town Southern racist. Exhibit A: The race for mayor of the town was between two black men, one a distinguished former educator with a long history of community activism, the other a former criminal who seemed barely literate. Her comment on the election: "I'm glad I don't live in the city, so I don't have to choose between them."

Easy to dismiss such a person, right? Now here's the surprise: Her son, who was in the military, had met and married a dark-skinned woman from Panama of white, African and Native American ancestry. And this prejudiced, elderly white woman to whom two vastly different black candidates seemed "the same" absolutely adored her mixed-race, 5-year-old granddaughter -- in fact her daughter-in-law and granddaughter lived with her while her son was deployed overseas.

So I guess what knowing P.J. taught me about race and racial attitudes is that even when you think things are simple and straightforward, often they're not.

I remember entering into an oratory contest in the 7th grade. I'd worked diligently on the speech entitled What Is Excellence. I composed the speech memorized the speech and practiced with the school sponsor. I consulted family members on how to present my speech, and practiced speaking in front of them as well. I remember making it to the final two. So Young Om and myself had to present our speech together in front of the sponsor. She listened closely and told us to come back with our final draft. My speech spoke of the hardships of my ancestors in slavery, my great grand parents being sharecroppers, and my grandparents struggle of working in factories to make ends meet. My speech displayed the excellence of the past and how this has encouraged me to strive toward even better conditions for my life and my community. My competitor did not have these references in her speech, however when we presented the final draft, she incorporated her story of her immigrant parents. She was chosen to represent our school.

At that moment I felt negated, cheated, and defeated. Not only had my ancestors been enslaved, denied education, voters rights, etc., now I was still apart of a school busing program in the 1980's because me zone school was not up to standard. I made honor roll every report card and I ,(we) , were still not good enough to represent our educational institutions.

Many of the children who attended the school initially were white, the busing program brought 'minorities' to the school which were mainly children of color. The school was located in a neighborhood that was being infiltrated with Korean-Americans, Cambodian, and Vietnamese people. It was very clear to me that the administrators were more empathetic to the needs of these children and not the African-American students. Many of the teachers would bring clothes to these students, they were patient when assisting these children with school matters and willing to fight for programing that would enhance their educational experience.. Oriental art work was displayed constantly, their culture was celebrated on all levels, whereas African-American culture was rarely discussed. Allowing So Young Om to represent our school after she took my idea and chose to speak of her parents immigration story was the last straw for me. This was a turning point in my life. I began to study even more, and seek all the knowledge about my heritage that I could possibly find. By the time I entered high school I was nick named Michael Evans and Angela Davis.

I am Native American from Baltimore. I happen to have long black hair, olive skin and brown eyes. One day, I was standing with some Latino friends in Patterson Park, which is part of the community in which I grew up. Some young African American girls came walking through the park, toward us, and deliberately knocked into me, saying "GO HOME! This is our park! Yeah, we're BALTIMORE girls! Go back to where you came from!"

They apparently assumed that I was Latina and from another country. When the girls left, some of the friends of the Latino friends I had been standing with (also Latino) asked about my nationality. They were curious because of the way I look. My FRIENDS then explained to them that I am in fact American, "but not really American." (Ella es Americana, pero no mera Americana.)

I've been digesting that one for about 6 or 7 years now.

I remember as a child hearing stories about my grandfather who was Bi-racial (mother was Caucasian and father African-American). He had the darkest complexion of all seven of his siblings. He suffered severe abuse and ridicule because of his complexion. There was an instance where he had broken his arm, and as part of his punishment he did not receive medical treatment to repair his broken arm. His right arm was pretty much paralyzed and useless to him because the break was not repaired.

As a result, there were always comments from different family members about Pop-Pop being "color struck" or favoring the lighter skinned granchildren. My cousin and I were the darker of the 15 grandchildren. I remember as a kid trying my hardest to get the attention and affection that he bestowed on the other grandchildren. I would try to hug him or give him a kiss on the cheek, and was always turned away. This always made me recognize that I was different from the other grandchildren. Oftentimes I would think to myself why couldn't he just love me anyway.

I am an HR practitioner and we would have new hires in states that did not have an HR field office. New hires were required to submit documents to HR via the mail, i.e. UPS. My supervisor would often times review the documents in my presence and make comments like "He or She does not look like a Director". If this comment was coming from someone of the same race, Black, I may not have taken offense.

I am still working through my challenges with individuals with a mindset like her. I am trying to see pass the surface level ignorance.

When I was in the 2nd Grade I had a friend named Samantha D. She was a white girl with long, straight, carrot-colored hair. She was a very funny girl, always talking, always laughing. One day, we were having lunch and discussing our topic of the day which was things we hate. There was a full table of us there but for some reason I can't remember the other children. Anyway, everyone was sharing what they hate, like, "I hate it when my mother doesn't give me money for ice cream." and, "I hate it when people think they're all that!" when Samantha turns to me, saying "Do you know what I hate?"

"What?" I inquired and she said, "I hate how black people talk! Like saying 'dis' and 'dat'. It's so stupid!" She laughed like this was the funniest thing she ever heard.

"Yeah, that's stupid." I said, through a clenched smile and a burning face. I officially did not want to be having that conversation anymore.

Samantha and I went to the same school until the 6th grade but I didn't talk to her much after that because I felt uncomfortable about what happened at that lunch table that day. I had to mature before I figured out what bothered me was not so much what Samantha had said but my reply. I knew in my heart that I was supposed to stand up for myself and entire black race at that lunch table and tell that white girl not to say things like that to me because I'M A BLACK PERSON, and when I'm not at school, I talk like that, the people I love talk like that, and there is nothing wrong with it. I know I was supposed to because my mother had taught me not to, "let no white folks talk to me anykindaway!" But I did let her talk to me anykindaway and that made me so ashamed that I rarely talked to her after that day. I hated to even think of that particular day until I was able to release my shame by realizing that Samantha D. had no idea I was A BLACK PERSON. To her, I was Zhana, her friend from school, who talked and laughed with her. She was not trying to make me ashamed of myself, she was just a mirror of her environment as was I.
I've learned to be confident enough to speak up when race is discussed. I've also learned that people will make prejudice statments but most people are open to judging people by the nature of their character instead of the color of their skin.

Being from a multiracial family, I don't think I fully comprehended race and the bias and judgment that can be elicited from a person's skin color until around the 4th or 5th grade. I was sitting in class at my elementary school in Irvington (which was predominately African American) and my teacher began a discussion with us about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Doctor, veterinarian, and astronaut were popular choices, but so were rapper and basketball player. The class clown said he wanted to work at 7/11. The class burst into laughter. The teacher kindly asked the only white girl in our class to take something over to the teacher next door. When she left, our teacher closed the door and launched into a vigorous lecture about how we as African American children needed to set our goals higher and reach for the stars. We should never joke about our futures, because it's much more difficult for people of our skin color to obtain their dreams.

I was left dumbfounded as a quiet sense of isolation and shame fell over the room. There was an obvious sense of urgency in the teacher's voice, and it was something she felt very passionate about, but I was left wandering why the only white girl had to leave the room for the lecture to take place, what made me so different from her, and why things were supposed to be much harder for me. When the girl returned to the room, conversation about our envisioned careers continued awkwardly, but I felt different interacting with her, like one of us didn't belong.

I later realized the truth behind the teacher's words as I grew older and family and friends experienced limited opportunities and numerous setbacks, but it was a very interesting time and place to begin the race discussion without the time for dialogue and reflection necessary to engage in the subject.

Down at the Barn

“Aight, step on the clutch while steppin on the brake and then shift into neutral”. I listen to my coworker, Cindy, with her Carroll Count accent, during my first stick shift-driving lesson. I am fifteen without a permit and I am dripping with sweat from both the blazing sun and the pressure of not messing up my first driving lesson. It is very much an impromptu lesson as I am working at the barn, where I ride horses, and my coworker Cindy is helping me learn how to drive the old, rusty Toro around the farm to make my life much easier for completing the many laborious tasks I have been instructed to do.

It is when I try to put the car into neutral that the four-wheeler stalls out. I panic. I am waiting to get yelled at by Cindy for destroying this antique machine. Instead, all I hear her say is, “God dammit! This piece of junk—those stupid Mexicans!”. At first I think to myself, was this Toro made in Mexico? I am not sure whom she is referring to as those “stupid Mexicans.” I then understand. Every morning at the barn, two Hispanic men come to clean all the horse stalls in the barn. They come around six in the morning when everyone is asleep and it is still dark outside. They muck all the manure out of each stall and toss it into the bed of the Toro. They then take all the manure to the manure pit and then fill the back of the Toro with fresh saw dust to then place back into the horses’ stalls.

When I hear her exclamation I think first of all, how the hell does she know these men are from Mexico? And second, why the hell is she blaming them for the truck stalling? I was the one who didn’t use the clutch properly. I can’t help but judge Cindy for what just came out of her mouth. I know for a fact that these Hispanic, not “Mexican”, men are hard workers who use the vehicle correctly and do not take joy rides with it, as I assumed Cindy was alluding towards.

Every morning when I come to work at the barn, I get up at six fifteen to be at the barn at seven. Every time I am extremely frustrated for agreeing to help out at the barn and losing those precious sleeping hours. However, like clockwork, every time I arrive at the barn, there are those men working as hard as ever. It was not until recently that I took note to these men and realize how much I should be appreciating them. These men make sure every day that my horse is not constantly standing in her own filth.

I am embarrassed to say that I don’t know either of their names. I have always been too afraid to ask. I have been too timid to say hello. Neither, am I ever comfortable to say ‘Hola’. I know these men are Latino and I know they speak Spanish, but I always feel uncomfortable going up to them and speaking Spanish. I think it is more than the fact that I am only taking Spanish 2, but I feel a sense of arrogance of approaching them and speaking Spanish to them. I feel that by doing this I am automatically assuming from the way they look and from what they are doing that they speak Spanish. For all I know these men are born in America and cannot speak a stitch of Spanish.

Luckily, Cindy is long gone from the barn so I don’t have to hear any more of her comments. I still have not spoken to either of these men, but who knows? Maybe soon I will say hi to these men, or maybe even ‘hola’.

Opportunities to Interact with Different Races can Prevent Generalizing

Around 8:10 last night a black Honda Civic was stopped in front of me at a stoplight. The car was rocking from left to right. I tried to see what was happening in the car, and I saw a black man with a big coat, knit hat, and a mustache in the driver’s seat. He was looking to his right and his lips were moving fast. It looked as if he was yelling. As he spoke, he was taking swings with his right hand, and looked as if he was trying to hit someone. I scanned the passenger seat, trying to see if a person was sitting there. I realized that there was someone slouched in the passenger seat. The car kept rocking with each swing of the man. The light turned green, the car took off in front of me, and I could no longer see what was happening.

I began to wonder. Should I remember the license plate, so maybe I could help the passenger? What if the passenger is a victim of abuse? But what if the driver is just upset, but not harming the passenger? I didn’t have enough answers to these questions, so I decided not to remember the license plate.

I thought about a recent conversation I had with my mom. She told me that when I was four years old we were in a store, and I witnessed a black mother being physically and verbally harsh with her child. At the time I asked, “Mommy, why do black mothers always yell at their children?” Apparently, I had seen a black mother being harsh with her children before, and it made an impression on me. I had seen a few examples of black mothers yelling at their children, and it led me to believe that all black mothers were rough with their children.

I’ve learned in Race at Park that when white people outnumber black people, the black people sometimes feel uncomfortable and worry that their actions will be viewed as representative of their entire race. As a white person, I’ve never been able to understand this concept until last night. I thought about when I was four and the impression I had come to believe of all black mothers; and thought about the car with the scary looking black man in front of me.

I realized that if I hadn’t had many positive experiences with both black men and women since I was four, I might still be generalizing that all black people are violent or scary. This made me think that it is important for schools to have diverse populations of both students and faculty, so that all races can have the opportunity for positive interactions with each other. I think that giving different races opportunities to interact on a daily basis minimizes the chances of stereotyping based on a few negative encounters.

Inside Unknown

I NEVER went inside his house and he NEVER came inside my house. That’s just how it happened.
Growing up in my old house in Mt. Washington, there was an African American family that lived two doors down from us. Now, this wasn’t the only family of color who lived in my neighborhood because it was pretty racially diverse. Over time, I developed a friendship with a boy who lived in that house who was one or two years younger than myself. We never actually set up any “official” play dates or anything, but if I was outside and he was outside we would play together. The numerous different things that we did on those sunny days ranged from playing catch and tag, to swinging on the swing set in the backyard.

–Door Bell Rings (DING DONG)–

–“No, Seth can’t come out to play now; he’s sleeping. Maybe later though.”–

I distinctly remember multiple occasions when I would be taking a nap (my mom was a strong believer in afternoon naps), and the doorbell would ring, and it would be my friend asking if I could come out and play. Of course, most days that was often the response he would receive, but nevertheless he continued to ring the door bell during naptime. Whenever that happened though, the doorbell would wake me up so I would pretend to be asleep until my mom, my babysitter, or whoever it was closed the front door and told my friend to come back later. I would then pretend like I was just waking up and go out and play. It’s hard to remember specific moments that I shared with my friend, but the fact that we were friends is undeniable and I will never forget him. Despite all this, we knew nothing about each others houses except the color, which we could see from the outside.

My parents never said he couldn’t come into our house, but it just never happened. I never went inside his house, not because he wasn’t allowed to bring me into his house but because it just never happened that there was a need for me to go there. We always played together outside. As a result I never really got to know his mom and dad at all and still to this day have no idea whether or not he had any siblings. He got acquainted more with my parents (than I did with his) and even with some of my babysitters. It’s hard to believe this because without him ever spending anytime inside our house you’d think it would be difficult for him to get to know the people around me, but through opening the door to him during naptime and playing with him and I outside, which my dad did a lot, it happened.

At that age (and I only lived in that house until I was 6 and then moved to another part of Mt. Washington) I never really thought about that I was White and he was Black. It just never occurred to me that we were any different from each other. I know that sounds cliché and untrue, but that is the truth. I never thought about how maybe one of the reasons I never was able to see the inside of his house was because of the fact that his parents possibly didn’t allow me in because I was White. And maybe my parents, even though they were well acquainted with my friend, didn’t invite him into the house because he was Black.

Now this seems highly unlikely to me because I know my parents, and even though they are White, they were and still are definitely not the type of people who would do something like that. Our neighbors, for instance, who lived directly across the street from our house, were people of color: the husband was African American and the wife was Asian, and we were great friends with them and spent time at their house, and they came to ours, so I’m pretty sure that there wasn’t an issue there. But just looking back, I find it interesting that we (my friend and I) never really saw the inside of each other’s houses despite the fact we played together almost every day and that my parents most likely would have allowed him to, had the opportunity ever presented itself. Not having the knowledge and information back then that I do now, I was never able to question my parents about any of these things. But looking back now, I would have really wanted to.

Something I Should’ve Done Ages Ago

Earlier in my junior year of school, I wrote a racial conflict retrospective for my English class. This piece covered an ongoing situation I had with a friend regarding racist jokes/comments. Here is an excerpt of that piece.

“Since around 7th or 8th grade there has been an ongoing racial conflict in my life. There have been specific people over the years that continue to make racist jokes and comments casually. Quite honestly I don’t feel comfortable enough to give examples of these situations, but even if I was, there are just too many to write and talk about. I believe that when one of my friends makes one of these crude comments, they aren’t saying it to directly cause pain or emotional harm to a specific person. They are saying the comment in a private environment, and nobody but the people within it are supposed to hear. But remember, that is just how I interpret the comment. It’s possible that they are saying it to be cruel. I choose not to believe that because then when jokes like that are made, I would feel even more uncomfortable. The largest problem with situations like this is the fact that to this day, they are still going on. The same people are still living their lives making these horrible jokes. And to make it even worse, I have stood by and let it happen. I have always felt strongly about the things my friends have said, but if I were to respond to one of their jokes in a defensive way instead of laughing with them, quite frankly I don’t think they would understand what I’m trying to say. If I simply said something along the lines of, “dude, that’s not cool”, or “that’s not funny” I think that my friend would just ignore it. It’s not because the person is ignorant and trying to fight around the fact that he’s wrong, it’s that he simply doesn’t fully understand the meaning of the type of joke he’s making. He believes they’re funny and amusing, but in reality it’s just horrible.”

It is clear that when I wrote about that racial comment, I never had actually gotten defensive or tried to rebut any of my friend’s comments. Until this year I hesitate to say that I never even considered standing up for the defense. Of course the thoughts went through my mind; of course I wanted to actually act on them, but the reality was that I felt I could never bring myself to speak up. Fortunately, due to frequent racial topic/conflict discussions, I have brought myself to the point where I can stand up to almost any racist comment that is not appropriate. (Sadly this is still limited to within my social group because I don’t want to take the risk of telling a random person who I am unacquainted that he’s wrong for something he had just said.) In a very broad view, I feel that due to the fact that I try to stop (but usually just limit) my friends from saying racist things, that it is adding a small piece to the giant puzzle of eliminating racism. Clearly I am not saying if everybody does things like this, the world will be perfect tomorrow. But the truth of the matter is that if more and more people started to speak up, it sure wouldn't hurt.

Earlier I mentioned that I have been exposed to many race related conversations, but I failed to say that it has brought forth even more negative (racist) things people say/do in everyday life. However, there was one instance that is noteworthy. Standard scenario - my friend and I are talking, and of course, they make a racist comment.

“So the other day, we were driving downtown and these two big black guys walked by the car while we were at a red light.” Said a friend.

When he made this comment, I couldn’t help but think about how he was describing these men - big and black, and he was laughing as he said it. A comment like that didn’t surprise me coming from that individual, so I sat there and let him finish his story.

“What’s your point?” I asked suggestively.

“Well, I made eye contact with one of them, I got a nasty look, and my first thought was to lock the doors.
Just in case.” He said, smirking.

“That’s not funny man nobody was going to steal your car...especially when you’re inside of it already….” I said in response.

“Whatever man. I guess I just do stuff like that all the time when I get scared.” He said sarcastically.
At this point it was clear that he didn’t care about his remarks, and situations like these were bound to happen again. In a serious tone I proceeded to tell him how ignorant his actions were and how I didn’t appreciate comments like those when I was around.

“What does it mean to you dude? Your not black.”

My initiate response (in the past) would have been to giggle and continue on with this conversation in order to avoid an awkward situation, but nowadays, things have clearly changed. In my first piece about a situation like this I hypothesized that if I were to say something along the lines of “that’s not funny”, then my friend would just ignore it. And believe it or not, I was right. My comment was 100% disregarded and my friend just moved on with the conversation as if I wasn’t even there. It was this precise moment when it really dawned on me that without pushing myself even further and responding to a racist comment in a strong (somewhat heated) way, that my point would not be taken into consideration. From the excerpt above you can tell that I was given another opportunity to speak up against a racist comment. This time I responded in a way that could not be ignored and would have to be taken into consideration. Little did I expect that not only would that person think about his own actions, but also it came back to me. They did in fact ask, “What does it mean to you?” When my friend responded like that, at least in my view I found my strategy of responding to their racist comment successful. It allowed them to quickly evaluate their actions, and it even allowed them to go into greater depth of a conversation about the concept of race with me.

On a final note, I would like to say when you take the conversation of race related issues lightly and you just brush on the surface, you normally won’t see change or positive results. But if you take a stronger approach and get into a specific conversation on a topic regarding race, you can almost instantly see results. The only effective way to discuss race is to dive into the conversation with a specific and strong view. There’s no other way.

The Mask

“It was so nice to hear someone say that because most white people don’t realize that.”

Last year I went on a trip sponsored by my school and two other organizations during which we visited places and talked to people that were instrumental during the Civil Rights Movement. A major part of the trip was also reflection and conversation. One of the activities on the trip we met with students from a school in Jackson, Mississippi and talked about issues of race.

Prior to that point I had never really discussed race. I had only really been talking about race related issues for a couple of months. A good friend asked me to take part in weekly discussions at our school on race the fall of that year so I agreed to go with her. I have attended a predominantly white private school all my life and race was never a topic brought up in my house other than my parents saying that everyone should be treated equally.

Most of the information from the discussions before I left was new to me. We watched a video about a woman who wrote down all the ways in which she had benefited from being white and also read the list that she had created. I did not fully agree with the system of advantage set up to benefit whites. I could not see it and did not really see the advantages that she expressed play out in my life.

We broke into groups of students and teachers and scattered across the stage of the auditorium where we were given a prompt for a race discussion. I cannot remember the question that triggered my response, but I remember saying that I am advantaged in this society for the mere fact that I am white. I did not truly believe what I was saying, I just thought it would be the right things to say in this situation; it would show how advanced I am in dealing with and talking about race. A black student in my group from the school we were visiting, who was a little quiet, responded, smiling, and said “It’s so nice to hear someone say that because most white people don’t realize that.” He continued to smile and glorify what I had. This happened toward the end of discussion so we wrapped up, said our final good byes and went on our way.

At the time I was not bothered that I had lied. Under further scrutiny of those words, there was something deeper. When I began a course at the start of this year where we studied and talked about race, a light bulb went off; I began to finally understand what the woman was talking about and the meaning of what the boy said and I began to regret what I did. It was possible that that boy had seen me as a white ally. He was someone I did not know very well and I wanted to say the right thing. He may remember the discussion and remember the person who he thinks of as an ally. But to know that I wore the mask of an ally, of someone who acted like they understood, is difficult to wrestle with.

Upon returning back from The Civil Rights Trip, Park kids and City kids decided to shadow each other’s schools. The idea came about when we had several conversations about the differences between our schools. I knew City was different from Park and to be honest, I wasn't expecting much. For that day I shadowed my friend Emily. “Christina, watch those two black boys get stopped by the hall monitor,” said Emily. This was the same monitor my friend Emily and I just walked by about a second ago. Emily is white, with long brown ringlet type curls and bright blue eyes and I’m biracial, and the hall monitor was black. I have always known that black people stereotype against other black people; a lot of races do this, and I’m ashamed to say that I do it myself. But knowing that and then actually seeing it happen in person are different.

I saw this interaction by chance. Emily's physics teacher was out, so she had a free period. We were just roaming the hall, which is against the rules, laughing and having a great time. The hallways were made up of cinder block painted an old ivory color, laminated wood doors with one tiny sliver of a window, just enough to see one persons head. Mix the ivory colored walls with the dim cream lighting and I felt like I was in some sort of asylum. We entered a new hallway, being obnoxiously loud, we walked right pass the hall monitor with no problem. The hall monitor was rough looking, he had jeans and sweatshirt on that said “CITY” in bright orange letters. He was sitting peacefully behind his desk reading a book. The hall monitor paid us no attention, he didn't even look at us, and it was like we were invisible. Emily had her backpack and jacket with her and my visitor pass was not where someone could see it as they had instructed me earlier in the day. When we got to the end of the hall, Emily explained to me how the hall monitors, all black, were more “protective” towards the black students. Meanwhile, Emily just walked past him with her back pack? She could easily cut school or skip a class, which she mentioned happens a lot among the white kids there because the monitors pay them no attention. While the black guys who were walking probably 15 feet right behind us got stopped and questioned immediately. The two black guys were, I hate saying this, but they were stereotypical black city males. They were wearing baggy jeans, an oversized t-shirt and backpacks that looked flat and decompressed. The hall monitor immediately dropped his book and stood up and with a firm raspy voice asked, “Where are you going? What class do you have? Where’s your hall pass?” The two boys just mumbled answers that were obviously not what the hall monitor was looking for.

I was taken off guard by how relaxed and calm Emily was about this. She pointed it out to me like it was an everyday thing, and it is. I’ve seen and heard stories about blacks being raciest against other blacks, but seeing this intense moment between the hall monitor and black students just made me think. I thought about how even at a predominantly black city school, the white kids are still favored. The white kids aren’t questioned; the white kids still have their white privilege to get them by these types of situations. Emily explained that the hall monitors just assume that since she is white, she’s not going to skip school or cut class or be up to any bad trouble. It hurts me to say that I was oblivious to these types of situations that happen every day.

I was taught in my white upper middle class community that the definition of the word "racist" was a person from a dominant race that had hateful feelings and behaved in a hateful way toward members of a minority race. Frankly, I think this needs to be the starting point for the discussion on race.

Last summer I attended a session on race hosted by the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. In the presentation, they defined the word "racism" to mean "prejudice + power" and a racist as one who participates [as a member of the dominant "race"] in a social system in which race prejudice is backed up with power. Well, I'll be...

If a white person participates in an interaction with a person from a minority race and the interaction is called "racist" it's no wonder there is such an emotional backlash from the white person. They believe they were just described as hateful. They are not hateful; they just participate in an blind way in a social system in which race prejudice is backed up with power. Any time you interact with a new person, you will pre-judge them in some kind of way. If there is a white:minority interaction and therefore, since our society is set up to benefit whites, one in which power is present, then of course it will be a racist interaction.

The word racist is so charged in the white community, no one is able to hear what is really being said. We need some new language to explain the history and the current dynamic and to begin to effect connection and change.

(Edited by a moderator)

When I was working for HUD in Washington, DC (HUD: the national housing agency and supposed investigator of unlawful housing discrimination!) in the late 1980s, a fellow employee, a black African-American female, asked me to accompany her to a subdivision under construction in northern Virginia. She wanted to buy a new town-house advertised in the Washington Post, a paper no more tolerant of unlawful advertising than the Baltimore Sun. She had the intent and the money; I was just the observer. At the sales offfice, the thirty-something white female real estate agent directed most of her spiel to me, a white male. My friend got quietly incensed, but being from Memphis kept her Southern calm and manners long enough for us to get away without a confrontation. Sisterhood may be powerful, went the lesson, but racism can top it. (HUD never investigated, since we weren't "testers".)

People need to understand that people are going to be different, and that you should not shun them just because of it. I haven’t experienced the extreme hatred that other people have, but there have been times where people have just been plain ignorant. It started out in 7th grade, when I was first exposed to a pre-dominantly white city. People would come up to me all the time and sing the opening song of The Lion King and ask me to translate it. Other times people would make clicking noises, ask me if I have pet cheetahs, if I ride elephants to school, do I kill my dinner every night, etc.

At first, I just laughed it off, but after a while, it began to get annoying. I would confront my friends about it, telling them to knock it off, but they would just shrug me off and tell me that I’m being too dramatic, that they are just messing around. After a while I just gave up. It was obvious that these people were not going to stop, so I went on and found some friends who actually understood where I was coming from; people who understood who I was.

Back in the day, I was really naïve, and as it turns out, I still kind of am. I thought adults could not be racist to kids, but I was wrong. My history teacher thought I cheated on a test because I got the highest marks. No offense, but no one around me was that smart. Who could I have cheated off of? It made me upset that he thought that way, though he probably did not know what he said was hurtful. It’s really shocking how hateful some people can be towards people that are different from them. I don’t feel like people have to be the same on the outside to become good friends. In fact, one of my best friends is from India and I love her to pieces, despite our different cultural backgrounds.

What is helpful is that I know that I am not alone. Even though I don’t have a secret to hide, I feel like I don’t fit in even with my own race, because I spent time in a predominantly white neighborhood. Even when I was in Detroit, Michigan, I still felt out of place because I didn't talk nor did I act like the rest of my peers. They would say that I acted white and proper, and that I felt like I was better than them. My mother used to be an English teacher before she became a Registered Nurse. She made sure that my brother and I didn't come into the house with all that improper grammar. Naturally, I learned to talk as if I actually went to school for most of my life. What I don’t understand is why people feel the need to just make assumptions about you because of your race or your cultural background. They just believe that you know everything about anything, but you don’t. Once you put it out there that you don’t know what they’re talking about, they sit there and ridicule you and call you names.

Believe it or not, people have actually asked me if I was mixed, which one was African, etc. I even got asked if I was adopted, seeming as though I look nothing like my parents. Someone asked me one time if I was mixed with “something Asian” because they think my eyes are small and “chinky”. I was very passive in the past. I didn't tell people how I felt, and I let all of my emotions bubble up inside me, until one day, I blew. I had to let people know that what they were saying to me was hurtful and unnecessary. Unexpectedly, people actually heard what I had to say, and apologized for their actions and words. I finally started to build a bridge, a bridge of forgiveness and acceptance, which I doubted I could build in the past. With this bridge, I started to meet people who actually got what I was all about. Some people still asked questions, but it was not just to be funny or ignorant. They actually wanted to know more about my cultural background, my parent’s life back in Nigeria, our traditions, our language, etc.

Over the years, my life experiences with racism helped me be aware that what I say to other people might offend them. If I really have a genuine question to ask them, I should ask them off to the side, and word it in a way that they know that I am actually interested in what the answer may be. My experiences also showed me that I should not be too quick to judge others, and to wait until I meet the person in question before I go around making assumptions. I hope that in the future more and more people will become mindful what comes out of their mouths.

I am currently a student at Baltimore City Community College. I took an addictions counseling class this past semester. My instructor was black and all the other students were also black. I was the only white person in the class. I felt no discrimination at all, if anything we all worked together and got along just fine. I enjoy going to BCCC because of the diversity and acceptance that permeates the halls. No one is judged by their color, race or ethnicity. This is how it should be, and I would hope that someday, the whole world will be as one.
Miriam Rosen
Baltimore, Maryland

Well, I've always been labeled an "oreo" by the other small demographic of blacks at my school growing up. I didn't understand why most blacks were so physically aggressive and clustered against the wall all loud and talking about people as they walk by and every day they see me they'd get all loud and yell "fag" and jeer at me and talk and shit. I never did anything to anyone AT ALL and older people tell me I was such a sweet kid so I never anything bad to anyone else it's just not in my nature. However I was going through so pretty rough emotional shit so that didn't help either. I didn't deserve this ridicule, physical or verbal. It's true blacks have a monolithic way of thinking, if you're different somehow, be it in mannerism, getting good grades or not trying to be "hard" or "down" then you will get singled out and become a "target". This has left a profound effect on me into my adult years, seriously. This is something nobody wants to talk about yet people like me fall through the cracks. It's like genetically blacks are more physically aggressive and spontaneous and want to jump on you and bully you for being "weak". I still can't believe it. I know that race is a sensitive subject but damn let's be honest. If whites make any casual observation they will be labeld "racist" or blacks will be labeled "uncle tom". Then people will deny it or make excuses or just say I should get "over it", (I'm treally trying). I know I shouldn't be bitter towards other black people and I'm earnestly working towards understanding and forgiveness and I know that every racial demographic has it's strength and weaknesses we're all the same spiritually. I ask you pray for me to get my life in order, "I'm seriously fucked up in different ways" and help me do what I can't on my own.


I am a white male, all grown up now, but as a youth I had many anti-white experiences. In Michigan My mother and I were drug down the street by a black purse snatcher (around age 3 or 4). In Las Vegas there were a number of Hispanics, on my birthday I got a black eye, I got locked in a laundry room and they tried to force me to kiss their sister (I was around 5 or 6). In California at age 8 we lived where there were many Vietnamese and guess what, we fought at least 3x per week at school, they hated the whites. Then we moved to an are that was predominately white and no real issues, we moved again to where there were many Hispanics, in a much larger city, lots of gangs (Still California) I watched them beat up little white kids, try to sell them drugs, witnessed little children being abused by them along with daily confrontations since they owned everything including the sidewalks (says they) plus the whole state of California and are planning to take it back from the Americans. Just because its not in the news and you dont hear about it, believe me it happens and happens way more often than you can imagine.

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