SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2007 Personal Memory Ethnographies
Road Trip to Texas
In the summer of 2001 my mother and I decided to go for a road trip to visit family in Beaumont, Texas. We began our road trip during Thursday afternoon and we were hoping to arrive by Saturday afternoon. My mother and I were both excited and nervous because I had just received my permit and this would be my first time driving on the highways. We made our first stop in Tucson where we filled up with gas, made a restroom stop, and grabbed some snacks to go. We were enjoying our quality time together. I looked at my mom and said “Thank you for bringing me, this is so fun and boring at the same time.” We both laughed and began to listen to music. The trip was planned so I could drive throughout the day, since I was new to this, and she would drive throughout the night. It didn’t quite work out this way. She was still very nervous about me driving she didn’t get any sleep during the day. We made it through Arizona and New Mexico in about a day. We were extremely excited as we passed the ‘Welcome to Texas’ sign that we decided to stop and take a picture with it. We are almost there, she claimed. Anticipation grew on me because I had only been to Texas once and I was very small. So I couldn’t wait to see my cousins, my dad, and all my other family members my mother always spoke about.
A couple hours into Texas we received a call from Maxis, my second cousin, to pick him up on the way to Beaumont. Maxis live in small town about three hours from Beaumont but in a different direction than we were going. My mother asked him for directions and he told her which highways to take. My mother was not very familiar with highways other than Interstate 10 and she began to worry once we noticed we had gone past the exit for the next Interstate. We decided to exit at the next exit since I had to use the restroom and we needed to gas up, this was about five miles way. Once we exited we noticed we were in a very small town. It looked as though there was only one gas station in the whole little town, so we stopped. When we got out we noticed there were a couple of people staring at us as we walked up to the door. My mother paid as I walked around the store. Once I grabbed what drink I wanted she went outside to pump. I looked at the clerk and asked him where the restroom was. He looked at me very strangely and said it was outside in the back. I asked him if the one in the corner of this gloomy and dusty store was working. He stated “No.” He told me to go around the back and there was an outhouse on the right I could use. I immediately noticed he and about two others were glaring at me.
As some friends of mine and I sat by the counter of the gas station we noticed a lady and her daughter walking up to the door. We knew they weren’t from around here because this was such a small town and we knew everyone. The friend of mine to the right said “Look what we have in our town. We don’t get any of these coming through these parts. They can not be with some one from this town.” I looked at him and stated “Maybe they're lost. Once the two ladies walked into the building the young one walked around the store as the older lady paid for some gas. The younger one then joined the older at the register with her bottle of water. The younger girl looked at me and asked where she could use the restroom. I was about to say the one in the corner but I remembered that one was being closed due to sewage problems. I gave her directions to the other restroom and noticed the look she gave me while I explained. She asked about the restroom in the corner and I tried to explain why it was closed but my friend jumped in and said “That’s not for colored folks.” I couldn’t believe my ears. She looked at us sadly and rushed out the door.
After my mother fueled up the truck we hopped into our vehicle and left without looking back. We picked up our cousin and went to enjoy our vacation and time with our family. When it was time to leave we took the same route but this time we drove right past the small little town, without looking back. But while we were driving I was wondering why some people were so hateful and would want to hurt others. My mother tried many times to explain why people treated others the way they did. But it didn’t make sense of how I lived in a multicultural environment and we tried to look and treat each other equally, but some places had the characteristics of people during the 1900’s.
Once I began a class at Arizona State that taught about racism and discrimination I began to understand why this incident was so important to me. This trip stood out in my mind when we were told to write about an incident. I begin to understand the “borderlands of difference.” It was a clash between the white privilege and the other. The men in the store were one socio-economic class and my mother and I were the other. I now understand that I was in someone else's home and not my own and this made me feel out of place, and I was very displaced and hurt by the comment made. This event was something many people live through every day; it is just another example of inequality amongst our people.
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