Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I've finished two books so far this month, Ruby Red by Linzi Glass and Double Cross by Malorie Blackman. Both dealt with race - Ruby Red was set during 1976 in apartheid South Africa and Double Cross of course being the fourth book in the Noughts and Crosses series where white people are second class citizens to black Crosses. I didn't intentionally pick up two YA books about race, but it got me thinking about how racism has affected my life so far.

When I was growing up, my brother and I were usually the only kids of colour in our school apart from two black kids and one half-Korean girl, all three of which were semi-popular and had more people to stick up for them. I didn't always feel out of place, but I've been called so many names. From the n-word to 'Mexi-fry' to Slant-Eyes. I've been made to feel out of place, unwanted, I've been stared at, bullied. My mother and her black boyfriend were kicked out of their apartment by racist thugs. I will never consider moving back to Eugene, Oregon after the way N was stared at every second he was there. Even here in England, the first day I arrived someone yelled a racist term at me as I stared out the car window on my to my new home. Customers at the shop I worked at called me 'black' in such an unpleasant way. I dread flying to America. I do. After 9/11, EVERY.SINGLE.TIME we go through security, we get stopped and searched. Without fail.

When will it end? I worry about my children. They're half-Indian as well as part-Tlingit. English father, American mother. Will they be OK? Will they be treated differently, has society come so far since I was a child that racism won't be as much of a problem?

What do you think? What are your experiences with racism?


  1. I don't want to say I have become a racist, but in someways I have. I'm not proud of it. You know me and my free hippy dippy personality, I bet you would never see me as a racist.

    Before I moved out of the nothwest, I believed everyone was equal and peace and love and all that crap, and parts of me still believe that. Living in the south has done something to me.
    Now, I don't openly call people names or stare at them or anything like that, I could never do that. But I do have strong feelings for the way a certain race acts. Compared to when I lived in Oregon, to the south, they act differently.

    I know this sounds horrible. Beilive me. I hate the way my mind has changed. Its hard for me to tell anyone this, because they don't understand. They have never been to the northwest to see how different things are there comparied to the south.

    I'm sorry you and N had such bad trips to Oregon, but believe me it would of been much worse in the south.

    I'm sorry for such a long comment. I'm done now..

  2. I had to look up Tlingit in Wikipedia. How very exotic.

    Racism is such a touchy subject. I suspect a lot of people are like me. Won't say anything 'cept "Racism's bad, mmmkay?" for fear of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.

  3. Just like Ms. Mac I just Googled Tlingit. How's that for ignorant? Wow, I can not believe that you have been treated that way. There is NO excuse for name calling. Unbelievable. I have to admit I grew up in a very white neighborhood. When I was 12 we moved to Texas and half the kids on the bus were Hispanic. It was my first experience with a culture other than my own. Then at 16 I moved to Chicago and was exposed to even more cultural differences. Now that I'm back in Utah I'm shocked with just how diverse my neighborhood is. Mostly Asians and Hispanics. My father in law has worked closely with Hispanics for years and things Spanish is the language of the God's.

    I haven't had much experience with Racism but I do know what it was like to be the only Mormon around. But then again that's not something one can easily tell about you when you walk down the street.

    When I first started dating my now husband my mom told me (I don't think she really meant it) that I would never have blue eyed, blonde haired kids. Umm . . I don't really care, I told her. I couldn't wait to see what they looked like. My husband is half Chinese and I couldn't be more proud to have two cultures in our home. We have encountered people not being able to tell Asian people apart from each other. Which I think is ridiculous.

  4. My thoughts would be to teach your children to respect and understand that there are parts of everyone that are unique AND the same, whether or not you can see it on the outside. I don't think any child should have to put up with being bullied, but I think it's more valuable to teach your child how to deal with others who show their curiosity or ignorance in inappropriate ways than shelter them from it altogether.

    Part of our human nature is to categorize, to stereotype. It'll always exist, it's part of what helps keep us safe. You obviously feel the way N was stared at in Eugene was threatening, and you don't want to expose him, yourself or your kids to that again. I'm sure you don't know all of the 300,000+ people that live in that area, but your experience has formed an intense stereotype (you said you wouldn't even consider moving back there because of it), one designed to keep you safe.

    I think what's critical to breaking down racism is exposure. The more people you get to know, the more difficult it is to group them by something as superficial as skin color.

    It must really suck to get stuck in security at the airport all the time. My brother-in-law always gets stopped too. He used to work for a blasting company.

    When I lived in Thailand I was stared at, examined, and picked apart all the time. I was constantly compared to my husband, constantly compared to other women. They asked me all sorts of crazy questions, how much did I weigh? How much money did I make? Why didn't I have any children? Why didn't I speak Thai better? They made generalizations about me and other white women to my face, as if I wasn't even there. You better believe I was ALWAYS being stared at. SOmetimes staring at me was an entire evening's entertainment. I'm not exaggerating. But they didn't do it because they wanted to be mean. There was no point in getting mad at them, although that didn't stop me. They had no idea what a white woman was like. Most people had never met one, of any nationality or ethnicity. They had seen us in the movies, read about us in books, but strangely, I wasn't having sex with all the Thai men, and no one ever saw my cleavage. But it really showed me who I was, and what I wanted to be. I'm such a stronger person because of it. It helped me think about who I represent, and what I can do to educate people about myself, and the people and communities I associate myself with.

  5. I am so sorry for what you had to deal with.

    I agree that it is a touchy subject. Personally, I am unable to recall any racist occurrences. But then I spent my earlier years in Trinidad, moved to Brooklyn, all was well there. Now in CA, particularly in this area it is extremely diverse which is why we probably have no intentions of ever moving. It's the perfect place to raise our kids too. I do get stares w/smiles when I am out with the kids then the person would just comment when I am close enough, how beautiful my kids are. A very few just can't help it and ask what race daddy is when we're by ourselves. I absolutely do not mind as long as no one is disrespectful. So I really cannot complain. I love it here.

    But I have heard such awful stories from others who reside in the South especially. Now there is a place even in this day and age I would never even visit. And it is a shame that I feel that way but I am just not willing to take the chance.

    BTW, I also had to google Tlingit :-)

  6. Thank you all for your comments and sharing your experiences. I promise to write more about my Tlingit backround!

  7. That's really too bad, and I'm sorry that you are now dreading coming back to America. I wonder if the racism climate will change now that Barack Obama has been elected the next president.

    My sister has a Mexican father, but we share the same mother. She grew up mainly with our family. My mother once told me she tried to bleach her skin to be lighter like us. I don't really know what her experience was like, but of course it just seemed natural to me to grow up with someone with a natural tan because she is my sister! It didn't ever seem strange or out of place.

    I'm sorry people have said hurtful things to you.

  8. I run into "unintentional" racism here in Utah a lot. By unintentional, I mean that people are very ignorant of their attitudes and what they say. Some of the things I hear absolutely shock the crud out of me.

    I grew up in Washington, and learned to respect people of every culture and background. I teach my children the same.

  9. I have wondered what background you and your children have, from other comments you've made. Like the others, I had to go google.

    I grew up in the South and really didn't feel like I was overly racist, but to my shame I have changed since moving to SD. There are some stereotypes that I just can't get past and it horrifies me. I try very hard to keep them in my head.

  10. I've had some very similar experiences as Katie V. I spent a lot of my childhood traveling around while my parents did 'medical missions' in third world countries. My white/blonde hair really attracts people and typically their hands are in my hair within minutes. It is odd. Sometimes I get a bit embarrassed but for the most part, I know they are just curious. Living in Cambodia last year, older women were always grabbing my love handles (great for the self esteem with all the tiny Cambodia women! HA!) and touching my nose. People were usually surprised that I dressed as conservatively as I did - they expected me to be a floosy American.

    One summer, my family was living in Tanzania. We spent a weekend in a Masai village. My little brother is Cambodian - so he has dark hair (but completely straight). My sisters and I (especially in African summers) are very, very blonde. The girls completely expected to be 'mauled' in the village - but they were more interested with how my brother got his hair black hair so STRAIGHT than they were with our blonde hair. Ha, it was all pretty humorous.

    But ultimately, I think it's important to expose your kids to all sorts of different environments so that a) they know how to react correctly and appropriately to both positive and negative comments and b) so that they are less likely to make generalizations. In my opinion, the most dangerous thing we can do is generalize a group of people - ever.

    While racial slurs have never been directed at me - I am often generalized as a blonde girl from (very) rural Midwest. People expect me to be innocent, simple, and not very well traveled. And often times - people expect that 'I can't understand racial problems because I'm not exposed to it enough'. Possibly true, I don't know.

    Now, living in New York, I often times find that I am the 'minority' in the subway car. I am the one who looks 'least like the other'. It's all very interesting.

    I am so sorry that people have said hurtful things. I really cannot imagine how that must feel. But I hope that you remember that your reaction speaks volumes and proves the kind of person that you are.

    (Also, thanks for the game suggestions! It will be a fun filled, game filled Christmas!)


HI! Thank you for leaving a comment, you've just become my new best friend :)