Race Perspectives

Race Cover

Race Perspectives is a publication of the Utah Race Card Project—a SLCC Community Writing Center program which offers the opportunity for writers to develop a candid dialogue about race, ethnicity and cultural identity. This publication represents community writers’ multiple perspectives and experiences. These are samples from the anthology.

These are my six words describing race. I chose these words because they've transcended the way people have interacted with me throughout my lifetime. From my childhood, growing up in Layton, Utah, I remember my parents telling us how family members were treated when they moved to Utah in 1954. You see. My father was born in New Mexico and so were his parents and their parents. His family traces back to the time when Santa Fe was founded, whereas my mother is German. She was a war bride. My father met her while he was stationed in Germany. After the war ended, he stayed a few years in Germany, met my mom, got married and moved back to New Mexico. My father had worked at Los Alamos, but when they found out he married a German, they wouldn't let him work there anymore. He was offered a job at Hill Air Force Base, and they moved to Utah. During the early days in Utah, it was either our family not belonging because we were Mexicans or because, mom was a Nazi. As my mom would tell you, "not all Germans were Nazis." Her story growing up during that time is fascinating in itself. So my older brothers were beat up for either being a wet‐back or for being a Nazi, "some of us have lighter skin." By the time I was born, the Nazi hysteria was over, but we were still wet‐backs. By the time I got to grade‐school and seeing how my older sisters were treated in school and how they weren't encouraged to do well in school; and when I was told, by a principal that he'd have work for my family in his fields. I wasn't going to let someone tell me my fate. I decided to study, and become good at math and science. I was good at math growing up, but I worked at it. Some of my schoolmates would ask me why and then would follow‐up with it’s because your mom is German. Even to this day when people find out that my mother is German, and the first thing from their mouth is usually "Oh! That explains why you like math." As if, that is the reason. At college, in one of the first senior level math classes, the room was full, except for the front row. I was a little late and had to walk from back of class to the front and the professor asked me "are you sure you belong here?" I said this is math correct? Then yes, I belong here. I did well and ended up getting both my B.S. and M.S. in Mathematics, went on to ASU in the Ph.D. program, completed one year before getting a job teaching in San Antonio. My wife and I had a baby, and that changed my education plans. I started teaching at San Antonio College, and you know what? There were several faculty members that looked like me and with degrees in mathematics as well. I liked my time in San Antonio, but my wife wanted to move back to Utah. When the opportunity presented itself, I applied and got hired at SLCC. I had taught a course for Continuing Education back in the early 1990’s for SLCC, but other than that class, I hadn’t taught for SLCC. That first semester, in the very first day of my first class, I walk in; get to the front of the board with my book and syllabi in hand, when a young white man asked his friend “is he our teacher?” They both got up and left the room before I even said “good morning” to my class. I shrugged this off and have been teaching here ever since; however, I do miss teaching at San Antonio College. That first summer back in Salt Lake City was difficult. One Sunday, I went for a bike ride, my mistake, was deciding to go to Liberty Park. I wanted to ride around the park several times before getting ready for a cookout with my in‐laws. I figured it would have been safe to ride around the park without a helmet. To this day, I remember it like it was yesterday. I went along 300 E. to 900 S., I remember seeing several police cars and their flashing lights further up 300 East. I turned up 900 S. and got to 400 E. passing the Asian Market, when a car, pulled out of the lot, almost hitting me as it went out. I got to the park and as I was making my way to the track, the group of people in front of me, stopped and turned to look behind them, this caused me to stop and look as well. A car was on the grass speeding towards us, just then, I felt someone grab my arm from the other side. I was yanked off my and thrown to the ground. Once on the ground, I look up to see a gun pointed at me, inches from my head. I get kicked to turn over and handcuffed. I get pulled up and my wallet gets taken, at this time, I’m asking “what is going on?”, and “what did I do?” One officer yells “you just robbed someone with a knife.” I said, no I didn’t and wouldn’t do that because I was a professor at SLCC. He told me, “You don't look like a professor.” Just then, on the radio, a voice says that they are looking for a white man with blonde hair riding a bicycle. I tell them, “but I don't fit that description.” Keep in mind, I am not wearing a helmet, the only thing in common, was riding a bike. He says, it doesn’t matter, because she pointed me out. I said, who? He said that they were driving the victim around in the car and she pointed me out. So I stand in front of a police car, with the alleged victim inside, I couldn’t see anyone in the car, but I guess she indicated it wasn’t me after all and I was let go. The following day, I call Internal Affairs to make a complaint; I spoke directly with the person in charge and set up an appointment with him myself. So to my surprise, when I got to the appointment, there was an interpreter there waiting for me to talk. In short, I tell my story, and at the end, the officer says he will look into the matter. At the time, my officemate was in the city council, and I repeat the story to her. I guess she told someone, and the Chief of Police calls the officer. The officer calls me up, and tells me, “How dare I go over his head?” For that, I have to come back in for another interview, because they “lost” the tape of my interview. So I get back, and in an envelope in front of me, I see the outline of the cassette they had made before. I tell them again, and a week later, I get the word that they exonerated themselves and they did nothing wrong. So those six words “are you sure you belong here?” I ask myself that same question often and wonder why I moved back to Utah.

Doctor Derp, (aka Hitler) chases people to spread his evil hate around, in a deadly game. When he catches someone he wraps him in his evil hate and turns him into an evil Derp minion. When a minion catches someone, he holds him down, so Hitler can come and wrap him in his evil hate, too. There's a lot of wrapping people in hate, until there are only a few good people left. Those people left have to overthrow the evil hate by thinking of the people they love. When Hitler comes around and tries to wrap them in his evil hate, the love overthrows evil, and Hitler can't wrap people in hate any more. The evil minions become good again. Some races hate other races, like Doctor Derp (aka Hitler). He wanted to overthrow the world because he hated other races. Only love for each other can overthrow hate. If Hitler ever comes around to your door, remember all the people you love and try to spread it around the world. Nick Obradovich, age 10

Everywhere you look, Hate, anger, war. Judgment on everyone and everything. Where is the love? Where is the peace? The weeds are overtaking the beauty. The flowers are in bloom, Each unique and beautiful. The gardener only wants the “perfect” ones, The right ones. There is no perfect in the world. There is no right or wrong flower. Let the world grow more peace. Let the gardener see that each flower is equal. Each flower is beautiful in its own way, Grow more, and let the peace be.

My father was raised in the Deep South, in North Carolina and Florida, he was ten years old when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I had a Dream” speech, though he admitted he could barely remember the speech and he had no idea it would be of such historical significance at the time, I could not think of a better person to discuss race with. Through this encounter I discovered that racism is a habit that doesn’t die overnight. It is dissolving from generation to generation. I feel that racism, no matter how slowly, is fading away and with more time it will be nothing but just the sticky past. My father remembers very distinctly how his grandpa felt about colored people. My father summed up his grandpa’s opinion by quoting directly from him, “Just soon as shot ‘em as look at ‘em.” My jaw dropped when I had heard this information. “What?! Is this for real?” I thought to myself. I was completely shocked to hear that this kind of comment would come from someone in my family. It is one thing to read about these kinds of comments in a history book and an entirely other thing to hear a first-hand account from my own family. As we move to the next generation improvement can be seen. My father continued to explain how his family growing up had a black maid and that his father didn’t really have a problem with colored people “as long as they stay in their place everything is ok.” An improvement from the previous statement, yes, but still contains a sense of inequality. Which brings me to my father in and of himself, today my father claims to have nothing against black people, and until this point in my life, when I actually sat down and had a formal conversation with him about race, I did not believe him because of one comment he would make from time to time. While watching a movie or television show with him, occasionally he would say a comment similar to this one, “Why are there so many black people in this movie?” Growing up, I couldn’t understand how I could go through my daily life watching TV and movies, and never stop to think about someone’s color of skin. How could my father be looking for something like that? Why is the color of skin so important to him? They taught me in my school very clearly, color didn’t matter, so why did it matter so much to my father? What I had not realized before talking to him; is my father simply grew up in a different world. My father mentioned about how he remembers the time when there were segregated drinking fountains and bathrooms for white and blacks. The color of someone’s skin was something that was extremely prominent in society in his early years, so naturally it is something he still notices without even thinking about it. He acknowledged there are still racial issues in the United Stated today, but he sees it going both ways now instead of how it was in history with whites dominating over blacks. He explained that for some reason it is socially acceptable for a colored actors or actresses in Hollywood to make an offensive “racist” comment, but if a white person were to say the exact same comment or equivalently degrading comment the white person would get harassed and labeled as a racist. He doesn’t understand the double standard of speech. He thinks because of black history, of slavery and being suppressed, that sometimes they may use this as a justification for some of their actions. From what I have discovered in my family history I believe that racism is fading away. There is obviously still a problem, but we are moving in the right direction. You can see how something that started out as complete hatred has morphed into where I stand today. What started in my family as a very straight forward hate has been passed on to the current generation where through education and having a different culture to grow up in; I barely even think about someone’s color of skin unless it is brought up by someone else. I believe old habits die hard and over time and continued openness of all; racism will be dissolved.

Just because race is one story today doesn't mean it is the same story tomorrow or the next. And just because our grandmothers or fathers had one story doesn't mean we can’t have a different one all together. And our children? They can define an entirely different world; we don’t have to pass on the same racial baggage and untruths that have seeped into our vernacular. I am an ethnographer, which means, I collect stories. I believe that stories, copious amounts of stories from all the individual perspectives and corners of the world, are what will save us from ourselves. Stories are what connect us to the bigger picture of humanity and remind us that there is so much more beyond what we can see, or what we experience. And that truth is elusive, not ours alone. For many years we have segregated our narratives from each other. We talk about race (or don’t talk about race) amongst the people that look like us and feel like us. The people that we can relate to. We seek out people of color to comment on race but that is only part of the story, and therefore, only part of the solution. For change to happen, white people need to be able to share their story, work through their guilt, shame, anger and even indifference to be a part of the conversation. There is power in context, the reason behind our actions or feelings. Every frame of reference is equally valid. Stories encourage us to ask more questions, or seek a different perspective, which in turn, cultivates our humaneness. Stories start with the individual, but they grow big enough to redefine the society we aspire to be. So, when we decide to change the story, we need a more inclusive approach. We need everyone at the table

As a young child, I didn’t know about racism. I lived in Kearns. My family was the only Hispanic family in an area with Anglos, Chinese, Puerto Ricans, and Greeks. We boys got along well. It never occurred to me that there was a difference in people. I first watched Martin Luther King, Jr., give a speech on TV in 1964. I remember him talking about equality. I didn’t understand what he meant by equality until I went to junior high. My initial experience with racism came from what I saw on TV. I saw a lot of beatings of different people of color in Georgia and other southern states. This started me to realize that the color of my skin mattered. My first encounter with racism was in junior high. At age twelve, I quickly learned about the color of my skin and that it makes a big difference. I began to notice discrimination in my own school towards people with darker skin and disabilities. This made me angry. To be treated equal, I had to fight for my rights in more ways than one. The difficulties I had to endure were sometimes in words and sometimes in physical encounters. In school, this meant fighting for my rights for a good education. My peers would make fun of me and embarrass me. Fortunately for me, I was good in high school sports and the coaches and teachers passed me along. Unfortunately, I didn’t better my education.

By age sixteen, I had lived in three countries: U.S., Okinawa, and England. My time in the U.S. was spent in small western or midwestern communities attached to military bases. With few exceptions, we lived on the bases, but I was routinely bused to schools in the towns just outside the front gates. Perhaps I was always surrounded by racism, but my observations while living in foreign countries left impressions that were more permanent. These observations do not excuse racism but put racism in perspective for me. My early school years were spent in Okinawa. At the time, Okinawa was a part of the U.S. WWII had only been over for about sixteen years. The population and landscape were still undergoing major changes. My observation at this young age was that the Japanese treated the Okinawa people as “dirt beneath their feet.” These people, who worked so hard to bring continuity and longevity to their lives on their island after the decimation brought on from the war, were considered inferior to the Japanese people for reasons that eluded me. We were stationed in England during my teen years – about 1 hour outside of London by express train. Here, I witnessed the rising of skinheads who created havoc in English society. Using their boots to kick the life out of people scared many of us. Many people from Pakistan were taking refuge in England then, too. The influx of the Pakistani people was forcing many Englishmen to rethink life and adjust their ways. The result was that people from Pakistan were often persecuted. Since my youth and (as I’ve watched politically, war-torn countries) throughout my life, I have observed that all countries, including the U.S., ostracize and marginalize at least one group of people within their borders. The U.S. rescues some of these conflicted groups in other countries and ignores others, such as the issues in our own country. So, how do we change this?

I was raised in the LDS faith. When I was growing up, the origin of different skin colors was an important topic. We were taught about it the same way sidebars are used in newspapers and magazines. The subject was important, but it couldn’t be a full‐length article, lesson, or sermon. Also, the audience had to be friendly. One reason is we were told dark skin is a curse brought on because of disobedience to God by earlier generations. Another reason is the church refused to ordain blacks to the priesthood. For many years, the LDS church has tamped down its teachings about race. The change started in 1978 when President Spencer Kimball, the prophet of the church, said he received a revelation where God said he’d removed the curse and black men could have the priesthood. I was happy with the change, but I can say my religious upbringing didn’t make me a racist. For most of my life, I thought this was true for everyone I knew from church. But in the last decade, I’ve changed my mind. My current belief is just talking about why God created different skin colors released a monster. Once the monster was released, the church had no control over it. As in my case, the monster bypassed a large swath of people. Others became fearful. Some learned to hate. I first saw what the monster did about seven years ago. This was when I was shown a flagrant racist letter written by an apostle of the church to the governor of Michigan. The apostle was Elder Delbert L. Stapley, and the governor was George Romney. In the summer of 2010, I saw the monster one more time. This was when I heard an elderly woman talk of her fear at the least and her hate at the most of President Barack Obama. These two instances reminded me I had a glimpse of what it was like to be black and Mormon before 1978. Also, they made me wonder what monsters are being created today. Releasing Monsters Woodall 2 I got to know Stapley slightly better than most members of the church when I was 19. The place was the Salt Lake City Mission Home on North Temple Street in Salt Lake, and I was there for one week of training prior to going to New Zealand to serve a proselyting mission. While at the Mission Home, a small number of apostles and seventies crossed the street from church headquarters to come speak to us. Most were dour men who used lofty language and spoke of exalted ideals. Not Stapley. He was the one exception who seemed to know who we, mostly 19‐year‐old males, really were and how we thought. Stapley told us he served in the Southern States Mission. He went out in 1914 when he was 18. The one story I still remember is Stapley had a companion he disliked. The man was slightly crippled. I believe he had one leg that was shorter than the other. Also, they often went from one place to the next by walking on the railroad tracks. When his companion was in the lead, Stapley followed by imitating the way he walked. At this point in his speech, Stapley stepped away from the lectern to show us in an exaggerated and mocking way what he did. We all laughed. Stapley told us more of his antics, and the sum of his stories made us love him. Starting the day Stapley visited the Mission Home, I treasured him. Then I was introduced to the letter he wrote to Governor Romney. His letter is typed, probably by his secretary, on church stationary. The date is January 23, 1964. At the time, Congress was debating legislation that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Romney was for the legislation; Stapley was opposed. Stapley writes respectfully. He says he cannot speak for President David McKay, the prophet of the church. All he can do is speak for himself. He says he’s concerned about Romney’s position on civil rights. The main reason is it doesn’t square with Joseph Smith’s teachings. At this juncture, Stapley gives the titles and page numbers of two books where Romney can read the first prophet’s own words about blacks. The first book is Teachings of Releasing Monsters Woodall 3 the Prophet Joseph Smith by Joseph Fielding Smith, pages 269 and 270; and the second is History of the Church where Joseph Smith is the author and B.H. Roberts is the editor, pages 436 to 440. Stapley’s next thought is about the last three U.S. presidents who worked for “the Negro cause.” He says, “I am sobered by their demise.” He continues by telling the story of a friend who wasn’t LDS but believed McKay was a prophet of God. Stapley says he “was a great champion of the colored race,” and “he had a very tragic end by drowning.” The message of what happened to the presidents and the friend is clear: God will destroy those who work against his will. For me, the worst statement in the letter is the following: “It is not right to force any class or race of people upon those of a different social order or race classification. People are happier when placed in the environment and association of like interests, racial instinct, habits, and natural groupings.” The woman who spoke disparagingly about Obama was 84 years old and I met her in August 2010. She was in a class I taught on writing personal essays. All my students were senior citizens who wanted to write for Salt Lake County Aging Services Silver Pen Contest. The theme was “Then & Now.” Contestants were asked to write about how the world was at a time in their past and how it is today. “On the last election night,” the woman said about the presidential election of 2008 to me in class, “I cried most of the night.” Because I couldn’t decide what caused her to cry, I asked her to tell me more. “To think,” she said, “one of those people is sitting in the Oval Office.” She took a few seconds to ponder and then added, “That’s not something I can write about, is it?” “No, you cannot,” I said sternly. “I know,” she said, “but I remember a time when a black man couldn’t walk across the campus at BYU.” Releasing Monsters Woodall 4 “Thank goodness times have changed,” I said and went back to teaching. I have a dim memory of what it was like before 1978. One reason is in June it’ll be 36 years since Kimball said God spoke to him and another reason is all my lessons about race were academic. My world was filled with white‐ and brown‐skinned people. Except for two brief times, no blacks went to my schools or lived near my house. Then New Zealand didn’t have many blacks. That’s where I was living in 1978. I recall one of the big stories on the news and in the newspapers in June that year was about Raymond Clinton Phillips, 16 years old, of Wellington. He was born in Montreal, Canada, to a white mother and black father, and he was the first black person in New Zealand to be ordained to the priesthood. Because he was a student at the LDS church’s boarding school in Hamilton, I can only wonder what it was like for him. All the male students at his school were ordained deacons at age 12, teachers at age 14, and priests at age 16. For four years and through no fault or transgression of his own, Raymond was left out. I am grateful the race monster my church released didn’t catch me. When I first read Stapley’s letter, I lost a person I was fond of and to some degree admired. Then I still have a difficult time believing a prim and proper elderly woman could ever say, “To think, one of those people is sitting in the Oval Office.” Before that day, I had no clue there was a time when a black man couldn’t walk across the campus of Brigham Young University. Then I wonder what Phillips must have felt when he saw young men no better than himself be given offices and privileges he couldn’t have. When he was born, the church said one drop of African blood was enough to exclude a man from the priesthood. The sum of Stapley, the 84‐year‐old woman in my class, and Phillips makes me wonder what monsters are being released today. One instantly comes to my mind. As in the case of blacks, the LDS faith says it knows the origin of LGBTQ people and they are not entitled to equal rights. Their attacks are relentless. They even have the gall to say the First Releasing Monsters Woodall 5 Amendment gives religion more rights than the individual. Never mind the first words of the Constitution, which were there before any amendment, are, “We the People.” This new monster has caught a large number of people. Their fear and hate might last their entire life. They might pass it on to the next generation. All I can say is heaven save us from all monsters that spread fear and hate.

Prejudice ‐ To cause damage or detriment to ones right or claims. Oppression – Unjust or cruel exercise of power or authority. Isolates – To place or keep by itself! Separate from Others. Serious – Dangerous/ harmful. Offensive – To attack. Negativity ‐ To refuse to accept or approve. Poison – to effect destruct fully corrupt his/her mind.

“Alien” is the one word I grew up hating because when I was old enough to carry an Identification Card (a job requirement), I thought it was the coolest thing ever because it made me feel like I’ve grown up and I get to own one just like the adults did. Unbeknownst to me, I was unaware of the impact it would have on me for years to come. Every year for as long as I can remember, my parents and I would visit the Immigration office which meant I had to miss a full day of school. Missing a day of school was like punishment to me because it was my happy place as a child. Inside the Immigration office were a vast amount of strangers sitting for the entire day, waiting for their turn to see the Immigration officer. I had no idea why we were there to start with until I became a teenager. Nonetheless, it was an annual routine because I had done it before time and time again over the course of my younger years. At one point, I sat and watched a number of people stand in front of a colored (fabric) backwall while their pictures were taken to obtain their ID cards. I watched the next person get called up, took his/her picture, but not before an officer walked up towards him and changed the color of the back-wall (for point’s sake…from blue to red) behind him and I became confused. I asked myself, “Why did he change the color of the back-wall?” I quickly realized what that back-wall meant…One color was for “citizens” and the other for Aliens and suddenly, my world crashed and for the first time, I felt like an Alien, an “outsider,” in a place I called, “Home.” Sheer disappointment washed over me and suddenly, the feelings of being ashamed hit me, followed by the agony of the reality of my life’s status: “So I am an Alien, apparently.” From that point on, I really took notice of the minute details on my ID card. Next to my name, I was referred to as Alien, and in those moments, it hurt so much to come to the saddest realization and understanding of “why.” After all my growing up years that my parents and I visited the Immigration Office, never did it occur to me that it was to renew our Alien status in a place I have lived in for almost my young life, a place I loved because it was my home. I started to question the purpose of such a harsh and derogatory term of identification because the primary association of Alien I knew was: A tall, skinny, bald looking creature with big grey eyes that by definition are creatures from outer space, I used to see on TV as a child. As a teenager at the time, I asked myself, “Who in their right mind would refer to another human being as Alien when there are better and more humane adjectives in the dictionary to choose from?” What of “foreigner” or “non-citizen” or “newcomer?” Surely there is a better way to define the “other” other than Alien. Alien is short for “alienated” or “alienation” which by definition is: “To make indifferent or hostile, to turn away, transfer or divert.” This is how I always felt or at least it made me feel whenever I looked at my ID card. What used to be something to be proud of became something to be ashamed of, thus leaving me to feel ostracized, isolated, excluded, looked-down at and ultimately feel segregated, just to name a few. The reality of this unforgettable nightmare occurred in class one day. My elementary teacher was marking something on her roll and she called out to me, referring to American Samoa, “Peka, were you born here?” I instantly did a quick justification in my young mind and said, “Yes, I was born here.” The feelings of “belonging” rather than being segregated came over me and for the time being, it felt so nice to be able to say, “Yes, I was born here, (therefore, I am NOT an Alien, and this is where I belong).” But then having been taught right from wrong haunted me for the rest of that year until the following year when the next teacher asked me the same question again, “Peka, were you born here?” to which I shamefully and regretfully answered, “No.” Last year I found some old Immigration forms and when I saw how I was referred to again as: Alien, the ugly and degrading memories came back to haunt me as an adult. Clearly, the sad reality remains unchanged, particularly after living in Australia for the last two decades. It is a scarring reminder that, “Oh that’s right, you’re still an Alien, because your ID card says so.” Who would have thought that one significant word like Alien could cause an explosion of negative and alienated emotions to a young person like mine? It is a subtle way to discriminate others from different countries and shun away the spirit of unity in humanity, but not subtle enough for a young person “not” to notice. “So, I am an Alien apparently.”

Crowded, the room teemed with the cacophony of translators, nervous laughter, and upbeat tunes... a mysterious calling, a reaching, a venturing onward toward something more. Strangely, it felt like family, a rendezvous with fate, a remembering, the odd comfort of home, no tangible recollection of meeting before. Cheerful faces, kind embraces, causing no alarm, citizens of one human race, crossing all ages and form, a mini-world melting pot on American soil. The room hushed, a slim, willowy, soft-spoken power-angel read the names of 51 countries present, chuckles, applause...borders matter not. Their common ground, a longing for a caring world where peace prevails, humanity matures, wisdom masters the blacker ways of war. Shedding outdated borders, battle-torn relics of all sorts... Leaning forward, burdens of hate, of fear fall away. Past grudges, gone, a simple process and trusted guide. A kaleidoscope of tears cascading, bygones fading, nine days washed in grace... With baby-eyes, gentle smiles, soothing sighs... they gather, while those, wrapped tight in plastic pleasures, me-isms, cynicism, despair, landfills of singular colliding minds, barely know. Stories of bigness, of smallness, of best-ness, of less-ness, worn-out words, righteous reasons, primitive remnants... all folly, jesters of fallen mental courts, toot loudly their rusted horns. Meeting, on the edge of innocence, fresh winds smiling at the quiet evolution, gentle clearing of air... They fly on the back of a blue-green speck in a sea of a trillion stars sprouting hope, finding it a kinder world for the children of tomorrows, yet to be...

When you first read my name you might wonder.what race is she? I thought I was puertorican until about 2 yrs ago when my mother clarified that I am indeed, mexican. I looked at my birth certificate & sure enough, my dad is on there as “mexican”. Its kind of funny though because his name is James Pineda. At first glance, you might not expect that he is a man of color. I only had one picture of him, which I no longer have today, & in this picture, he is standing on top of a building, dressed as a construction worker. And he had some blue jeans on & a bright white tshirt & tan boats, with a tool belt hanging loosley. He had very very very long jet black hair & a dark orange tan complexion. I honestly don’t remember any more than that & I’m sure I might of remembered some things incorrectly, however these are the images in my memory. I still have not seen him or had contact with him since I was 5. I grew up with my mother only, dad left when I was 2. My mother is white, really white, with red hair & freckles (irish) but she was born in Mexico City because my Grandpa was in the military & stationed there. My mother’s first language was Spanish. I grew up in Dallas Texas where I was the only white girl out of my friends. The rest were black or mexican. This is where I learned about music & how to hip hop dance, etc. I¹ve always felt more comfortable being around people of color or different nationalities. It’s strange because when I’m around white people, I feel less than & belittled. But sometimes being around people of color I feel better than, or empowered. Honestly I crave for both approvals. I want people of color to accept me & not treat me as just another white girl. And when I’m around white people I want them to view me as an equal member, not white trash. I do believe that race is a huge issue still in our country & world wide for that matter. It’s horrible that we are stepping all over each other & still continuing to judge someone just based on their outside appearance. It is also sad that certain people use their race against people & as you say “give their race a bad name”. They feed into the stereotypes & continue to set examples of why that stereotype was created. It’s a vicious & horrible cycle & I’m not sure it will ever stop, unless we start talking about it. I am guilty of racial profiling or not being sensitive enough about race. I’m working hard to change this within myself because I am a very strong believer in Equality. Most people think that is directly related to gay awareness & acceptance when in fact it is not singled to any particular group or individual. My understanding of Equality & what I try to spread is that: WE ARE ALL EQUAL, NO MATTER WHAT. In the mean time I am considering on changing my last name just because 1) it doesn’t really mean anything to me since I don’t know my father or care about carrying on his legacy & 2) I do get judged on paper from it; as in people expect me to be mexican or something & a blonde white girl appears & sometimes that’s worked to my advantage but most of the time it has not. 3) when people see my last name they automatically think that I can speak spanish; which I can not. Only a little bit. This last name has caused more complications & misunderstandings, misjudgments than I believe it’s worth! I just want to not be judged because of my race (or lack there of) & I’d also like to stop judging people because of their race.

I leaned into the heavy door and pushed my way to a sense of freedom only felt at 2:48 in the afternoon. I had officially survived my first day of high school. I laughed out loud, talking excitedly with a friend about our new teachers and that huge assignment we already had in Honors English. Students gathered at the front of the school as parents siphoned, one car at a time through the carpool circle. We were the lucky ones ‐ oblivious to our own luxury for having stay‐at‐home moms who dedicated their afternoons to picking us up from school; the same moms that ensured we were wearing the right clothes for a first day impression that would mark the next four years of our lives. The weather had already cooled slightly, proving that a Carolina Fall was just around the corner. A few dozen students stood among their friends, sorted by various cliques. Most of us were oblivious to just how well we had it; oblivious to the idea that anyone had a life different from us. We lived among the words that made our parents hot under the collar ‐ like “bussing” ‐ without understanding why it even mattered. My mom thought it was best for my sibling and me to stop riding the bus year prior. I was in fourth grade at the time. Back then, my siblings were recent transfers from a private school in Red Springs. They started attending the same high school I now attended, riding the bus home like everyone else until my sister came home in hysterics. I was sitting on a stool at the kitchen counter watching afternoon cartoons as I mindlessly ate the fresh fruit my mom cut up for me as a snack. I paused for a long moment, my hand still in the strawberry bowl as I watched my brother walk directly past us with a pissed off look on his face. Looking down at his feet with nothing to say, he ran up the back set of stairs, disappearing from the kitchen where my mother stood, trying to calm my sister. I ignored them, listening to the sound of my brother’s heavy footsteps walk the length of the house and shut the room to his door with a loud thud. I stared at the ceiling, looking in the direction of his room with concern before returning to my afternoon snack, attempting to go unnoticed in my attempt to translate my sister’s frightened rambling into something that actually made sense. Apparently, students surrounded my siblings on the bus, aggressively accusing them of being slave owners. There were a lot of words I didn’t understand as she lowered her voice periodically in her explanation. All I could hear was, “They called us…. and then the accused of being… haters. I tried to tell them we weren’t like that! We weren’t from here!” Although I couldn’t understand every word my sister was saying, I understood enough to know my brother went into hiding, dejected by his inability to fight back here, in this place we now lived, where he was no longer a big fish in a small sea and the idea of fighting reached beyond a once macho display into the realms of life or death. It was something I heard my dad say once after a day of school where some high school boys had intimidated my sister with some inappropriate behavior. Back home, he stood up for us. Back home, no one came to school with the plan to kill someone. So there I stood with little regard as to whether or not I would have a better first week of high school here than my brother and sister had so many years prior. I had plenty of friends. I had known these same kids since elementary school. We wore the same clothes. We shopped at the same stores. We came from many different backgrounds and all had one thing in common ‐ the constant competition to be top of our class. Our lives were simple; clueless towards the amount of hatred that existed around us. Before I could join in complaining about our seemingly endless homework, I noticed someone running towards the school from the far side of the carpool circle. He was probably a student. I assumed he was running back towards school to avoid being caught behind the small, red church across the street where it was common knowledge that kids from all backgrounds skipped class to smoke a bowl or share a drink. With one hand, he held his pants to his waist, dodging barely moving cars briefly as he jumped to the front curb of the school, cut right, and took off even faster down the front side walk with little regard for anyone who stood in his way. I looked after him, barely in sight now, when a student to the side of me stumbled backwards, into my brand new, bright yellow book bag. I reacted, reaching out just slightly to help him stabilize himself. I thought the mysterious running student must’ve shoved him aside as he jumped to the curb. The student attempted to step away from my book bag, stumbling still as he fell forward with one hand to the side of his head. A car horn blared, cutting through the moment as if to announce a sudden instinct of fear. The student nearly fell into the street as his foot slid off the curb. He reached out towards the car parked just in front of him. With the sudden twist of his ankle, he fell back and hit the ground with an audible crack. A rush of clear and dark liquids streamed from his skull towards the tips of my shoes. Reality caught up to my senses and with little warning, I too fell to the ground. I woke to the faces of three cheerleaders knelt over me in the front lobby. “She’s awake!” they announced. My sister was the cheer coach. She came to my side, slowly helping me to my feet with a slight laugh, joking that they thought they had lost me too. There was no need to explain. I knew what had happened. My mind pieced it together though the sharp pains of a post‐adrenaline headache. I had passed out and now that I was awake, I was a witness to how the seemingly innocent Mexican boy on the curb was pronounced dead after a young, black boy rushed the front platform to punch him in his temple, using a combination lock as a makeshift pair of brass knuckles. Everything had happened in a matter of seconds. It was the first time I had seen a fight and most certainly the first time I had witnessed anyone die right in front of me. Shocked, I sat in the front office of the school holding myself as if in a blizzard. I watched as everyone moved on with their lives as if nothing had happened. To them, it seemed like a sad excuse to shuffle around more paperwork ‐ the only noticeable difference to any other day. There would be no news coverage. To the news, it was just another day, the story wasn’t special and the high school certainly didn’t want the responsibility of bad PR. I didn’t understand. To me, it was a turning point of of the reality I perceived. My innocence was captured by a brief visit to a reality that once moved past me and now, nearly swallowed me whole. When their version of the story was described to me based on the accounts of other witnesses, all I could do was nod in silent agreement. No one wanted to know why. The why was already explained and seemingly allowed by the fact that it happened between a black student and a mexican student. Even the authorities seemed to operate as if it had nothing to do with them and would be best to just stay out of it. None of it seemed real. I hardly believed it for myself until my sister walked me through that same heavy front door with one hand rested reassuringly on my back and then I saw the dark, reddish‐purple stain of an obvious handprint at the hood of a parked car and an already forgotten stain on the now empty platform. There was only the sound of a large, vinyl banner waving back and forth in a light, summer breeze. Distracted by the sound, I burst into tears as I read the sign as if for the first time, “Welcome Back Students! The First Day of your Future...”

What is race, is it the color of my skin? Does it have to do with the way I dress and talk? Is my race based on the geographical location of where I live currently, or is it where my ancestry generates from? Am I classified by the group of people I choose to associate myself with? My religious group, the values and beliefs that I have adopted into my life, do these things help determine what race I belong to? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes race as: a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics. (Emphasis added) Do I agree? Do you agree? I believe that race is an idea we have created as a group of people to divide ourselves. We do this to not to intentionally alienate others but to help ourselves appease the quenching desire found deep within each of us to feel accepted. It is a paradox to divide ourselves in the cause of unity. In reality, if we were to pull back the skin and remove all the things we have allowed to divide us, we would see exactly the same thing. We would see that we all have a powerful brain and a strong heart that undoubtedly has been broken. We would see that every human being that has ever lived, is now living, and ever will live on the earth has had to overcome heartbreak, fears, challenges, struggles, and insecurities. These fears and struggles may be very different for each person but that is what makes each of us interesting, it makes us a unique individual. The day that we can look past all of these divisions and see what is on the inside, to see that the color underneath the skin is the same, and learn to cherish each other and learn from each other’s different experiences, the day we can look past our outward appearance and see Brown 2 what’s on the inside, see the reality that we are more the same than we are different and to celebrate differences instead of alienate and look down upon them. That is what I believe Martin Luther King’s dream was and when we can achieve that it will be the day we see Mr. King’s dream fulfilled. Regardless of our skin color, each of us has within ourselves the power to influence others for good or bad. Each “race” is equally capable of performing criminal acts and demanding entitlement. These stereotypes we have pinned to only one skin color should be pinned to something much bigger the entire “human race.” The solution to racism is to stop dividing ourselves from one another and recognizing how we truly are one in the same.

I have walked in the shoes Of one who is a minority Racially, Linguistically, Religiously I know what it is like to be Alone; to feel ‐ Alone I know what it is like When no one else Shares the same color of skin When no one else speaks my language I know what it is like to be known By a name given by others I know what it is like to lose a job Because of my race and gender And yet, when pressed, Trapped against The Iron Gate When anger ruled the day When I wondered If my then Sick, weakened frame Would be beaten, broken, destroyed When the opposition trembled With unbridled enmity Barely able to speak due to rage Was it because of: The color of my skin? No My ethnicity? No The accent of a foreign tongue? No Then why? “YOUR JESUS IS NOT MY JESUS!” “YOUR GOD IS NOT MY GOD!” “…YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!” When we were children living in California My siblings and I loved Our playmates from England One day they did not Come out to play Why? The color of our skin? No Our ethnicity? No The accent of our foreign tongue? No Then why? Their parents Learned of our religious beliefs Johnson 2 For that we could not friends? Heartbroken, confused, sad But not ashamed Once in love; once engaged My friends, family, and I welcomed you With open hearts and warmth But you and those from your world Hated me, condemned me; despised me You would consign me to Hell Rather than hope to save me According to your beliefs You loved to work with youth Your colleague was an alcoholic Addicted to drugs It was acceptable for him To work with the youth of your Faith But when it was learned That you were dating me You were threatened With losing all that you had worked for The leaders of your faith Threatened to never let you Work with the youth again Your dreams were stolen from you Because of me Your drug‐addict colleague Was empowered ‐ because he was a “project” My ancestors were driven from home to home Beaten to death by a mob Shot through the neck ‐ paralyzed for life Children kidnapped Deliberately poisoned by the neighbors We can’t change the color of our skin But we can change our beliefs ‐ right? If I change my beliefs, then I change The very mountains – even the air – around me I change where I came from I change where I am going I lose my eternal perspective – The reason for my existence I lose my eternal identity I have always been able To laugh about, to shrug off The challenges of race and culture For me, the color of one’s skin Or ethnic background Is important and interesting But it does not tell me Who they are I first identify my fellow beings Johnson 3 As a Child of God If God is the Father of all souls If God is eternally Just Eternally Merciful Then will he not judge us According to the law that we were given Rather than after someone else’s law? Can we not be so merciful – one to another? The hatred directed toward me; Toward my ancestors, toward my people Because of our religious beliefs Is more painful Than I could have ever imagined. When pressed against The Iron Gate It was not because of the color of my skin It was not because of my ethnicity Or, for the accent of a foreign tongue It was because – I am a “Mormon”