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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » How did you learn about race? (post 4000) (Page 1)

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Author Topic: How did you learn about race? (post 4000)
pooka
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When I was very little, I used to think I had blonde hair and blue eyes. My mom did, after all, and I was named for her so I must look like her. My Dad was Chinese, but at that point I pretty much though boys looked like their dads and girls looked like their moms.

It's not that I had never looked in a mirror and known it was me. But for how much of human history have good mirrors been widespread? The human mind is designed to get input on how we look from others.

And so one day in second grade when I'm at the schoolyard I go up to these girls and ask if I can play jump rope with them. They tell me "no, you're too tan".

The next day I didn't want to go to school. My mom let me stay home and at some point extracted from me the tale of why my stomach was hurting. She felt bad about it, but I don't really remember much more than that.

I must have seen race before that, because there was a Korean girl in my kindergarten class. I was afraid of her, and I can't guarantee that I didn't treat her the same way. What is sure is that for some dumb reason I internalized that I wasn't good enough for a long time.

But it's probably okay because the friends I did have were really special to me.

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ClaudiaTherese
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pooka, I remember driving through the poor area of some city and having my mother tell me to roll up the window and take care not to meet anyone's eyes, because "they might misunderstand." Everyone on the street had dark skin, but I didn't piece that together until afterward.

My mother also had taken me back several times to play with a brother and sister at a local park. They had darker skin, too. Later I heard my mother talking (to my father) about their father, who had met my mother as a stranger at the park, and who -- after talking awhile with my mother and making friends -- had decided with Mom that it would be good for us kids to play together routinely. We would otherwise have had little chance to meet people who looked different from us. (Southern Indiana is about as segregationist as you get.)

So I asked my mother why I should be scared of people who looked different, if she was making sure I made friends with kids who looked different, too. She explained something about groups of people acting irrationally (had this been a time of riots? [Confused] ) but that it was important to know individual people as individuals. I didn't really understand, but that summer she enrolled me in a vacation bible school at the predominantly African-American local Lutheran Church, which happened to be ministered to by her good friend (Walt Wangerin, of Scandanavian descent).

My mom was pretty cool.

That's how I learned about race. Note that even in this small piece of my life, the veil of white privilege was present. (My mother was in the seat of choosing, as was I, through her.) I'm sorry your experience was more personal and painful. (((pooka)))

How does "race" still impact your life?

[ June 13, 2004, 09:20 AM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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AvidReader
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CT, I agree with your mom to a point. My personal theory is that a mob is only as intelligent as its leader thinks its dumbest member is.

I think stereotyping is useful to a degree. We can guess how a group of people will probably act based on the way they dress, talk, and carry themselves. Less personally, we can make some assumptions based on race and gender.

Racism, I think, is when you decide one group is better or worse becuase of its stereotypes. Black people are better at sports. White people are smarter. (I actually have a theory that from the traits encouraged by slavery's survival of the fittest, either blacks should have a slightly higher average IQ or a higher instance of above average intelligence, but I'll save that for another thread.)

I can see where our tribal tendancies would encourage stereotyping. I can see where our fear of the unknown would encourage racism. From the two, I can see your mom's point. Unknown groups are scary, individuals should be judged on their own merits. So if we want our kids to not be racist, we better help them know people who look different. Then people are just people.

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Jalapenoman
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I am an anglo. I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic area (El Paso, Texas has about an 80% Mexican population).

I was always treated as a second class citizen/minority in the town. This despite the fact that we lived in an upper middle class neighborhood and that my father was more educated and had a better job than 98% of the people.

It was nearly impossible for a non-hispanic teenager to get a job anywhere because you lacked the ability to speak spanish. Even though this is part of the United States, the locals seem to think that it is not necessary to learn, use, or speak in English.

I did get a job in a local theatre and eventually used this as my ticket out of town (bad pun, but I had to use it!). I always though it funny that people coming to watch a film in English (no subtitles) pretended "no habla ingles" at the concession stand or the ticket counter.

I later had the misfortune of spending three years in Laredo, Texas (my employer transferred me there as I had grown up on the border). Laredo is 97$ hispanic, the largest minority population of any city larger than 100,000 in the country. Once, my wife and I went into a Sears store to buy her some maternity clothes. The lady in that section did not speak English. No one else in the clothing areas for women, men, or children spoke English. They finally had to go as far away as the hardware section to find an employee who could communicate with us and translate back and forth to answer my wife's questions.

I had, in my youth, learned how to speak spanish (you had to for survival). I never, however, told this to any of my employees in Laredo and never let it slip in any of my other doings. I would hear many times one employee telling another new employee how to steal from the company and get away with it. They all just assumed that the white boy didn't understand their language. Because of this, I was able to "catch" several workers ripping off the company and fire them. The staff thought that I had eyes in the back of my head and was very observant; they never learned that they were giving themselves away.

There were two black college students (both on the juco baseball team) and only one black family (transferred there by his job) in the whole town. They were treated worse than the whites by the locals and all left as soon as they were able. I had hired one of the black college students to work for me part time and saw the trial he went through to just get a small bit of respect by his coworkers. I had several quit when I promoted him to management because they were not going to work under a black man.

A friend of mine in high school got a job at a local department store. In the interview, he was asked if he was bilingual. He said that he was. After being on the job for a week, a woman came up and asked him something in spanish. He told her "no hable espanol" and got another employee to help her. A member of management saw this.

He brought Greg back to the office, verified on his paperwork that he was bilingual, and begin to chew him out for not helping the customer. He demanded to know why he had lied in his interview. Greg told him that he did not lie, but was bilingual. THe manager said "But you don't speak Spanish!"

Greg told him "No, I speak German. My mother is German and my family spent many years there with the military." He was told that this didn't count and that bilingual meant the ability to speak spanish and another language,

Greg was fired.

The last laugh, however, came when his family successfully sued to store for wrongful termination. Greg got his car and college education paid for due to the racist practices and stupidity of his former employers.

For the past few years, I lived in a resort town that bordered an indian reservation. I saw the racism go both ways, depending on whose store or whose town you were in.

You do not have to be black, oriental, hispanic, American Indian, or or any other race to be a victim of racism in this country. It happens to whites in the minority all along the Mexican border all of the time.

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Alucard...
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Where I grew up in Western PA, we had nearly no ethnic groups to represent themselves, and the ones that did were obscure in some ways. For example, we had one Jewish family in town, we had maybe one or two black kids in each high school class, but there were only caucasians in my entire grade school. We had one hispanic family, but the two girls were labeled as the town prostitutes, and the family was rumored to eat dogs and cats. I'm sure neither rumor had much merit. The first asian family moved in and opened a Chinese restaurant, but I believe they are Korean, and very very nice people.

So learning race for me was a bit out of the ordinary. But when I was in 7th grade, we got a black high school teacher who was a former Olympian and college basketball star. He helped me train with weights and coached me in Track, and became friends with my mom, who was a teacher on staff with him. She felt so horrible for him the way other teachers belittled him behind his back, because he was 6'2'' about 240 and benchpressed about 350 pounds. He was huge. He also became a very important role model and father figure for me. Sure I had heard the "N" word and other racial slanders, but I was raised by both parents to not be racist.

When Ike moved away, I lost a friend and a father figure. At that point, I had moved beyond skin color, labels, groups, and stereotypes. It was irrelevant.

This sums up the relationship Ike and I had. He was a 5th degree blackbelt in Karate and I watched him spar numerous times. He was very very good and very scary if you did not know him. He did not smile much. He would only train girls in Karate because he was once offended by a male student who abused the use of Karate. So he simply stopped taking male students. He told me that I was the only male student he would have taken on, because he knew in his heart I would not have misused my knowledge that he had bestowed upon me.

With something said of that magnitude, racism seems pretty shallow, doesn't it?

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Ophelia
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I was about four, and the little neighbor boy I was going to marry had been all excited because his best friend from his old neighborhood was coming to visit. So I go over there wanting to meet this Ryan kid, and he has dark skin. I think this is the coolest thing EVER! At some point I run across the yard back to my place and excitedly tell my mother "Mom, mom! Ryan's brown!" and then run back to Eric's house to play with the boys.

That evening my mom talked to me about how some people have different skin colors and that it's just like having different hair or eye colors and I shouldn't make a big deal out of it.

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porcelain girl
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race literally did not exist for me when i was little. i grew up in the DC area and in the south, so there was always a fair mix of peoples. i remember what kids looked like, but their skin color held no significance for me beyond visual recognition.

i can't remember race having any specific impact on me until i was in fourth grade and socialized mostly with the black kids in the class. then the black girls made a deal out of my having a crush on joshua lundy (who was black) because i was a white girl. that crush lasted three years.
i also remember one of my friends becoming very indignant about playing a slave in a little role playing game i was playing with a couple othre girls. the black/slavery connection hadn't even touched my mind, especially since we had been rotating the roles and we were taking turns being the Queen, the Fortune-Teller, and the Slave. i apologized profusely and was so upset for days that she misunderstood me and that i had offended a best friend and that she had seen me as racist.

i went to high school in virginia beach and my high school was very diverse and very equal as far as the number of different ethnicities represented. our principal was black, assistant principals were white, and the student population did in fact seem to be one third white one third black and one third filipino. i know we had a lot of hispanic students and a few other major ethnic groups as well, but not enough to be a quarter of the school. plus i still have that sense of humor about virginia beach being "little manilla."
there never were many race issues as we had all grown up together and it was a military town so there were all kinds of people moving in and out.

some of the (smarter) kids used to tease eachother about race, but in an ironic way, making fun of stereotypes and racists themselves.

the only race issue i remember in high school was my eleventh grade english teacher who always thought people were being racist when they weren't. in fact her accusations and warning always perpetuated racism instead of promoting peace. gah. i still strongly dislike that woman.

[ June 13, 2004, 01:43 PM: Message edited by: porcelain girl ]

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beverly
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I remember my little brother saying to my Mom after playing with his Chinese friend, "Mom, I know why people are Chinese." "Why?" "Because they looked at the sun too long."

We all chuckled at that one. Kids are always trying to come up with theories, ways to discribe and categorize the things around them. As adults, we do it to. That is why we gain so much from getting to know individual people. We may draw conclusions about a group of people, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and it is easy to maintain those things as true until we have to deal with actual people from those groups. It is quite often then that we learn that our conclusions were about as solid as the one my little brother made above.

Happens to me all the time. I am someone who still tries to circumscribe things into sweeping definitions, often without realizing it. But I am often forced to reconsider those definitions as I live and learn more about the world around me.

Before we bought a house, we lived in our landlords' basement. They had raised 5 of their own kids, and then in their retirment years adopted 6 more. They are from Ethiopia and India. I thought it was really cool that our kids got to play with them so that they could see that there is more to this world than the many white ones we happen to be surrounded by. Unfortunately, so much time has passed now that they can hardly remember that time.

We get such a skewed view of the world when we live in homogenous neighborhoods and only see other countries, people, and cultures on TV. But I guess years ago there wasn't even that. People of other races were nothing more than "legends" to some. The world is so much "smaller" now.

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gnixing
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beverly, your post reminds me of the biggest problem in the neighborhoods where i live and where i grew up. we never got to know our "mexican" or polynesian neighbors. i wish that the churches around here would abolish the separation thing and work harder to provide means of communication between different cultures rather than providing a method for them to escape into their own culture. it would bring neighbors closer together.
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Mabus
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I think I've said before that I grew up in America's biggest gated community--not exactly true, but close. Since the Depression era, my home county has been almost entirely white, and (though I didn't know it growing up) a Klan stronghold. My parents and grandparents, though not consciously racist, would sometimes use slurs or exhibit biased attitudes without thinking because they had been exposed to it all their lives. (Curiously, Asians seem to experience very little prejudice, unless they are from India and can be mistaken for blacks.)

I was lucky. Besides being the sort of person who intellectualized everything--I was one of a sizable group of students who partly "thought their way" out of racism--my childhood illnesses sent me far away to Louisville to the Children's Hospital there, where I was exposed to a variety of different races. I apparently told one of my favorite nurses that I would "like to kiss her pretty black face". Not perfect, I suppose (since I noticed), but not too bad a showing either.

I remember slipping from time to time, especially during my rebellious pre-teen years (in Cub Scouts I once used racist terms to shock the pack; this was the same period when I wanted Dukakis to win the election). But by and large I'd say I've done fairly well being colorblind--for someone who grew up where I did.

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jebus202
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Well, I live in Dulin in Ireland, and the monorities must not like the wet weather, cause we don't get too many of them. There are a couple of spanish people in my school, that's about it. SO I'm still racist.

[ June 13, 2004, 06:39 PM: Message edited by: jebus202 ]

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katharina
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I grew up in West Texas, in Midland. Whites are a minority - I think - but just barely. I think the first time I even heard about/noticed race was when I was 9 and went to a friend's birthday party. When my mom and dad came to pick me up, someone observed on the way home that I was the only person with blond hair out of the thirty or people there.

I didn't get it then (I was a fairly disengaged from the world). I mean, I didn't that it was different. I was the only blonde in my family as well, so the fact that there were differences passed right over my head.

Since I continued to not pay attention to the world, it didn't come up again until I was in college. One of my professors was from India, and I was floored when I found out. I figured she was from the East Coast or maybe France. It takes being engaged in the world ro learn things like that.

[ June 13, 2004, 06:50 PM: Message edited by: katharina ]

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TomDavidson
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"I live in Dulin in Ireland, and the monorities must not like the wet weather, cause we don't get too many of them."

That could be part of it. Of course, Ireland's relatively high rate of racial violence might play a part, too.

Me, I grew up in Gary and Detroit, and didn't even realize that race was an issue for people until I was about eight years old.

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fallow
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*hears TD, puts finger to lips and asks*

"what then?"

*elbows TD*

whispers "after you made that realization? then, what?"

fallow

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TomDavidson
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It was around then that I began to realize that people were, as a general rule, pretty stupid.
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Lupus
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I actually figured out that there were different races in kindergarten. A friend of my mom's had a son at my school and they thought he was in the same class as me. Since it was the beginning of the year I didn't know people's names...so when my mom asked me if the kid was in the class I didn't know. She then asked if there were any black students in my class (since her friend was black) and I told her no. A few weeks later my mom was talking to her friend again and school came up. It turned out I did have the same teacher as her friend's son. My mom came back to me and said that Amod was in my class. I then replied of course he is, he is a friend of mine. My mom was really confused then and said "but you said there were not any black students in your class." I then looked at her strangely and said "But Amod is not black, he is dark brown." Until then I had no clue that people classified others by race. I had been around people of other races...but I just figured that some people were darker than others, and since my parents had never mentioned race it never crossed my mind that it mattered. Though even after then I did not see it as a big deal...I just figured it was another name like having blonde hair vs. dark hair.

[ June 13, 2004, 07:27 PM: Message edited by: Lupus ]

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Space Opera
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I honestly don't remember when I learned about race. My kids, thankfully, have been pretty exposed to people of other races. I've just always been matter-of-fact with them. While obviously they've noticed that some people are "brown" etc., I've always pointed out to them that even our skin tones vary - i.e. mine is olive-toned, Mr. Opera is fair, etc. Hopefully we're raising them so that they think of skin color no more than they think of eye or hair color.

space opera

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Dagonee
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pooka, I didn't want you to think I haven't read your landmark, but I can't formulate any coherent thoughts about it.

It's perculating, which means it was thought-provoking.

I just don't know what it provoked.

Dagonee

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fallow
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*elbows TD again*

*grins*

"So you decided people were stoopid. What then?"

fallow

edit: proffers TD a lolly to suck on.

[ June 13, 2004, 07:43 PM: Message edited by: fallow ]

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Danzig
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When I was around five years old, I was telling my mother something or other about the black kids down the street. I called them the "dark-skinned boys" or something along those lines. My mom told me not to call them that, and I asked why. She said how would I like it if they called me the light-skinned boy. I remember thinking I really would not care, mainly because my skin was light. So she switched to because I said so. [Smile]
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porcelain girl
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i empathize with tom. i came to the same conclusion.

quote:
Hopefully we're raising them so that they think of skin color no more than they think of eye or hair color.

which it really only should be. this reminds me of an interesting experiment that caused a teacher to lose her job.
she was trying to prove that racism as we know it is something our children learn. throughout these children's first year in school she separated children according to their eye color and acted as if different eye colors insinuated different characteristics and status. the children adopted this idea.

i don't think what she did was right, but she did prove a very important point.

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rivka
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porce, she didn't lose her job -- she won awards, and still conducts seminars on it.
Jane Elliot

And as far as pooka's question goes, I've been thinking about it all day, and I can't remember. [Dont Know]

[ June 13, 2004, 08:08 PM: Message edited by: rivka ]

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fallow
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*tom fiddles with his braids and succors his lolly*
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gnixing
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i just finished the Jane Elliott article from the preceding link. i think for the most part she is doing a good thing. i just wish that those opposing racism wouldn't be so racist as to think that it is only a "white" person problem. racism is in a sense... color-blind.

[ June 13, 2004, 08:26 PM: Message edited by: gnixing ]

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fallow
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*reorients coloroscopovision*

"all colors are equally distorted. some more equally than others."

*withdraws eyes from X-vision goggles and rubs furiously*

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Ryuko
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I think it took me a long time. One of my best friends when I was a kid was, I believe, adopted, and he was black while his mother was white. I don't remember ever asking about it, though I observed the differences. Hmm... More research must be done. I'll speak to my mother.
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TomDavidson
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Since then, fallow, it's the rare person who's inspired me to reconsider.

If you've got a question, ask it. Otherwise, keep your hard candy to yourself.

[ June 13, 2004, 08:47 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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AvidReader
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racism learned

Here's a really neat article I saw in the AARP magazine. It says that while we're programed to notice differences and catagorize based on them, race is no more important than any other visual clue. It's even less important than age and gender.

They had quotes under pictures of people on two basketball teams. Then volunteers got the quote and had to match it to the picture. The first time, people could usually remember what color the person was who said it. The second time they did it again, but the athletes were in grey or yellow jerseys. This time if they couldn't remember who said it, they picked someone in the right jersey. Color was important, but not necessarily skin color.

Edited for verb tense

[ June 13, 2004, 08:59 PM: Message edited by: AvidReader ]

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fallow
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edits: furiously to reconvolve a serious digest into a timely expose of heart-felt goodies on the platter of cynicism and discontent.

*weenie!*

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Black Fox
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I learnt about race when I was five years old. I came home one day and said these words to my mom. "Mom Mom, Did you know Kenny's black" ( Kenny was my best friend from 4-6 until we moved to Germany)
"Yes he is, why do you bring it up Paul"
"Oh he just told me.. what does it mean to be black Mamma?"
Yeah I never quite understoon MLK day until I was 4th grade or so. I didn't understand why African Americans had to fight for equality etc. I figured we were all the same.

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fallow
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*weened on nofat 0% MiLK-fat... yer classic unmilk-fed weenie*
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Sugar+Spice
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I can’t remember the exact time when I discovered race. My parents always encouraged me to ask questions about why things were how they were, for example, how people got pregnant (my mother says she got some sympathetic looks when I asked her that loudly in the middle of a shop), so I probably just asked why people were different colours. My parents had black friends so I was always around people of different races. I do remember the day I found out about intermarriage between races. TV had given me the impression that single race families were all there was, but one day my parents told me about one of their friends who, although he had white skin like his mother, had a father who was black and a non-identical twin brother who was black too. But I didn’t find out that people were prejudiced against other people because of colour until I started school and a boy whose parents were of Indian origin picked on me because I wasn‘t Indian. But even that was more of cultural/religious deal, I ate cow and had blonde hair and didn‘t know anything about Hinduism. I told him how stupid he was to think that these were good reasons to hate someone and eventually we became friends.
My school was probably one of the most racially mixed in the area but I never knew the derogatory terms for races until I was a teenager and read books where these terms were used. It was like an unspoken rule that no-one picked on someone because of colour. You could have your life made miserable for any and every other reason, though. I was known as stupid because I was dyslexic, and the teachers enjoyed making fun of that. Derogatory terms for mental disabilities were rife and used as insults for 'stupid' people. So, it was not an especially politically correct school.

I think I had a very sheltered upbringing when it comes to race, and I’m still horribly shocked when friends tell me that they have suffered serious racial abuse, sometimes from people I have met and who I did not know to be racist. I just can’t imagine how anyone could be that stupid and hateful. My friend who is an anthropologist tells me that whether or not I am aware of it, everyone is racist. But then, she also tells me that everyone is bi-sexual, so I’m not sure I believe her.
I think people will always find reasons to pick on others, whether it’s because they are fat or have a disfigurement or are a different race. Some people just have very small souls.

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fallow
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and "Bubba Ho-tep" will find 'em.

*slurp*

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AvidReader
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[Laugh] Bubba Hotep

I didn't like it that much when I first watched it. The pace is excruciating. But I've quoted a bunch of super funny lines from it. I think it might be the kind of movie I'd like better after watching it a couple times.

Best of all, it even deals with some racism so it's on topic. (Sort of.)

"They dyed me this color. What better way to hide me?"

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littlemissattitude
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Interesting question.

I don't really recall actually "learning" that people come in different shades of skin. I grew up in southern California, and it was just a natural fact of life that different people had different skin colors. Nothing was made of that fact that I was aware of until I was in elementary school.

One of the first times I remember hearing derogatory things said about people based on their skin color was during the Watts Riots, which began ten days before my 9th birthday. Watts was a good hour's drive from where I lived, but some of the neighbors were suddenly saying horrible things about people of color and talking about buying more guns because "they" would be in our neighborhood next. These neighbors weren't the brightest people I knew, though, so I didn't pay much attention to them.

But then, right about that same time, we were at my aunt and uncle's house in the San Fernando Valley. We were visiting with my aunt when my uncle came home and announced that there had been three black guys (he used the N-word, though) in the grocery store and he'd called the cops on them. My dad asked why he had called, what the guys had done, and my uncle said, "Nothing. They were just there." My dad just looked sad and shook his head and didn't have much to say to my uncle for the rest of the visit, and I knew that what my uncle had done was a bad thing to do. And that's the first real, personal knowledge I had that some people hated other people just because of their skin color.

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fallow
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*hears a scuttlin' sound*

"Uh, Miss... can I ask you to step back. Back here behind me. Thank you."

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NdRa
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Being born and raised in Asia then later moving to the states completely confused me being that I'm a halfer. My mother is Korean and my dad is a blue-eyed, blond-haired whitey. In Korea, my sister and I were considered white by virtually all the non-family Koreans we came across. We didn't mind because at that time barbie came out with their "California Girl" version. We proudly showed our dolls to all of our Korean friends after our parents gave us the news that we were relocating to Los Angeles. We were truly going to be barbie-esqu Californians. Our friends were very impressed. Things didn't turn out the way we had thought. The first day of school proved to be quite tramatic for us. We defenitly were not the Californian girls we envisioned to be. We became the Korean girls the other Korean girls in school quickly adopted.

And this is how I learned about race.

[ June 14, 2004, 04:31 AM: Message edited by: NdRa ]

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pooka
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Thanks for all your stories! I forgot the prologe to this, which is when I was lost in the mall at age 4, and I was being helped by someone who kept trying to give me to evey asian person they saw. I have always been afraid of asians myself, so I realize how racism is "natural" but I also believe being civilized is to overcome our natural tendencies.

As a teen and young woman, I became aware that other minorities saw me not as a sister in affliction, but as worse than white. Being asian is like being white in southwest Texas. We get good jobs, are assumed to be smart, but there is still social stigmatizing. Depends on what you consider a good job, as well. The other day I found this skills inventory from High school and while I was in the 90 %ile for most skills, I rated less than mediocre for clerical speed and accuracy. And yet I've been placed in such jobs by staffing services for all my working career.

As an adult my greatest concern is that my son looks asian, and I've become aware that asian males suffer a different kind of bias. Of my three brothers, only one is married and he married an asian girl. And yet all my sisters (5 of us) have married whites. The reason is that asian males are seen as more likely to be domineering. That and most of us met our husbands in Utah. I only became aware of this in the last couple of years.

I suppose there is an equivalent assumption that asian females will be more servile and pliant. I don't know if I tend to be that way because I'm asian or because I'm female.

In my defense, whenever I'm mad at my husband I never think "well, at least he's white". I'm not even sure where that thought just came from. OK, I never have consciously thought that. Whereas one of my sisters thought that by avoiding asians she could avoid abusiveness (revealing more than I mean to about our father here) I realize that you can't really tell that about a person. But that's mainly from her choice of a white guy who was abusive, and who she divorced.

I guess another thing about my race is that it has led to be being somewhat "in your face" with how people judge me. I was kind of a punk when I was younger. I still don't wear makeup or comb my hair, and my attitude about my weight may stem from this as well. A few years ago I realized weight is also a health issue, but prior to that I thought that if folks didn't like fat people, it was their problem and not mine.

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littlemissattitude
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quote:
I still don't wear makeup or comb my hair, and my attitude about my weight may stem from this as well. A few years ago I realized weight is also a health issue, but prior to that I thought that if folks didn't like fat people, it was their problem and not mine.
Well, yeah, weight is a health issue. However, as a fat chick, (who is trying to lose weight because it is a health issue, and not because I care what people think about how I look) I still believe that if someone doesn't like me because of my size, it's their problem not mine. This stems from the fact that I know this about that: They are prejudiced, not concerned about my health.

How do I know this? When they drive by and shout rude things, they don't shout, "You should lose weight because you'd be healthier". Instead, they shout things like, "Hey, look at the fat ugly b*&^%." Many of them are actually much more rude and crude than that, and I have actually been told more than once that I should stay at home so people don't have to look at me. Which makes me wonder how they treat folks who are bigger than I am (yes, I'm fat, but there are a whole lot of people fatter than I am - I can easily touch my toes without bending my knees, for goodness sake).

I still fail to see why it is still considered acceptable to be rude to someone (and to discriminate against them) just because one doesn't like what they look like.

Okay, end of rant. I just have had about three too many run-ins with people over this issue in the past couple of weeks.

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Annie
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You're servile and pliant, Pooka? Ok, whatever you say. [Wink]

I grew up near Denver, where we moved from my Dad's native southeast Texas. I think that my experiences living in Aurora (a largely black suburb) with my grandparents were very good for me. I had a close friend when I was 4, a black girl named Shaomi. I remember at one point getting my mom to buy me those hair accessories with plastic balls on them so my hair would look like Shaomi's and then being frustrated to tears when my stringy brown hair didn't look like her cool fluffy pigtails. Not once did the fact that she was another race occur to me. Later, I went to school in Littleton and my very best friend was an Indian girl named Netra. I loved going to her house where her mom would always cook us something crazy and exotic like black pepper cookies. At 13, I moved to Montana and was shocked at how racist my peers were. The only sizeable minority in our area were Native Americans, and the discrimination leveled at them was cultural and economic in addition to racist. I quickly developed the theory that the reason the people here were so racist was because they were ignorant. They had never met anyone of another ethnicity. Mexican jokes abounded but I don't think there was one hispanic student in my high school of 500. My friend Netra came to visit and when friends asked what nationality she was and she replied "Indian," they automatically asked, "What tribe?" despite her obvious asian appearance.

But ignorance can't be the only answer. Visits with my dad's relatives in Texas have shown me that the most blatantly racist people I've met are those who've grown up in a town that's 40% black. His 10 year high school reunion in 1985 didn't bother to invite the black students- they reasoned that they'd prefer to "have their own reunion."

So I'm puzzled. I grew up with other races and learned to think nothing of it, but the racism that's the most deeply entrenched seems to come from Southern societies where they've been living together for centuries.

So what is it?

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pooka
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I'm passive aggressive, Annie [Evil Laugh] [Cry] I guess it gets back to "the natural man is an enemy to God". Even societies we consider pretty enlightened, like the Japanese, have some pretty strong racial prejudices. I think when you were looking for your "cite" translation it came up that even the French have ghettos.
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Narnia
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I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and there were a lot of hispanic and black kids in my school. I think that whites were actually the minority in my high school.

The first time I remember race being an issue was when I was in kindergarten. We were learning how to dance at school and there was one black boy in my class named Carlos (I think.) Anyway, I remember mentioning to my mother who I had danced with and I think I said something like "Well, I haven't danced with Carlos yet and I don't know if I will because he's black." (Where did I get that? Was it cause he looked different? Was I sheltered? Had I misunderstood something on TV or something my parents had said? Who knows.) My mother instantaneously let me know that I was ridiculous and that his being black had nothing to do with anything. I remember thinking "Oh. Ok." I believed her.

From then on my friends and I were always a mixture of races, colors and belief systems. My very best friend from the 7th grade to the present day is Filipina. I remember her getting upset sometimes about things that people would say to her. When she would repeat the things they would say, I remember just being baffled that they would make fun of her for being Asian. It seemed different than that teasing I got for being overweight...but I guess it really wasn't.

[ June 14, 2004, 06:36 PM: Message edited by: Narnia ]

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jebus202
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quote:
"I live in Dulin in Ireland, and the monorities must not like the wet weather, cause we don't get too many of them."

That could be part of it. Of course, Ireland's relatively high rate of racial violence might play a part, too.

Actually, I'd see it the other way around, but that's just me.
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saxon75
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quote:
Even societies we consider pretty enlightened, like the Japanese, have some pretty strong racial prejudices.
Japan is considered enlightened? It's been my experience that Japan has one of the most racist societies out there. This may be changing, but all the first-generation Japanese that I know from my grandma's generation are highly suspicious of all Koreans.

My mom likes to tell a story about how when I was in kindergarten I used to point to the other kids in my class pictures and say "I look like that and like that and that," indiscriminate of race (I was one of two asian kids in kindergarten at that time). But I also remember that back then kids also used to make slanty eyes at me and say "ching chong ching." I sometimes wonder where they got that, since I can't believe that even racist parents go around modeling that kind of behavior.

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Hobbes
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It's probably because they got so disillusioned when you turned out not to be a middle-aged white guy.

Hobbes [Smile]

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screechowl
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I attended school in Virginia when the schools were separate but equal. Until 1962-63, I never attended a public school with any blacks students, and I cannot recall any other minorities in my school either.

Virginia, even just across the Potomac river, passively resisted Brown vs Topeka for many years. To its credit, the violence that marked the deep South's integration of schools never was officially sanctioned in Virginia (to my knowledge), but Virginia, even Fairfax County, was a very segregated society.

I did not know where blacks went to school; I did not think much about it, I regret to say. Until my sophomore year in high school when two black students were brought in to attend our high school I never did think about it. I wonder at the courage of those two students even now.

I am not bragging. I find my past littered with the ghosts of prejudice, perhaps so much so that I cannot judge how profoundly it influences me to this day.

The Washington area may be cosmopolitan today, but this is a more recent event on at least the Virginia side.

Are students today more accepting of race than my generation?

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Mabus
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One of the stranger things going on in Marshall County is that some kids seemed to grow up lacking prejudice precisely because they were ignorant of other races. Essentially no one black has lived there since the Depression Era, and at least some people simply never saw any racist behavior because there was no one to be racist to. It goes against the typical concept of how prejudice works, but it does make a kind of sense.

On the other hand, some people who had more opportunities to travel had seen Paducah, to the north of here. Compared to Benton, Paducah is large, ugly, polluted, and fairly crime-ridden. "Well," people would tell me sometimes, "it's because they've got blacks there."

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porcelain girl
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actually, screechowl i think national geographic had a little spotlight on fairfax county schools a couple years ago, and the main focus was on how utterly diverse they were.

i can only think of a couple race issues that ever came up while i was in school, and most of the time it was kids complaining that if our parents would just shut up about racism we'd all get along just fine.

i'd like to think that a couple generations down the road kids will have a hard time believing that people didn't get along over so silly a thing as skin color or hair texture.

i know i've said this before, but due mostly to increased intermixing of "races," i see a much stronger leaning towards social segregation based on which culture you align yourself as opposed to what color everyone else sees you as.

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screechowl
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quote:
actually, screechowl i think national geographic had a little spotlight on fairfax county schools a couple years ago, and the main focus was on how utterly diverse they were.
Porcelain girl

I am sure that is true now. I still visit family there and the change has been tremendous. I am speaking of an age that, thankfully, may be gone forever. After World War 2 the influx of people into the county eventually led to the Fairfax you know today. When I grew up, Oakton (if you are familiar with the county) was a general store town with a car going by on Chainbridge Road once an half hour at night.

Most baby boomers from Fairfax County did not go to school with anyone except whites until the 1960's. That I know for sure.

But that was how I got my first learning about race: separate but equal. The American form of apartheid.

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porcelain girl
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oh, i am by no means questioning you, i just think the vast difference in what is relatively a short amount of time is startling.
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