SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2015       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Daphne Villanueva

Running From Blackness

I grew up in a Latin household in north phoenix. There were certain expectations my parents had for me. They expect me to go to college and get a degree, help around the house, help take care of my younger siblings, etc. My parents also expected me to stay away from the dating scene. As a hormonal preteen that was hard for me. I’ve never understood that outlook. As a human being, I have emotions. I feel for other human beings. Sometimes as a friend and sometimes as something more.                               

The neighborhood we were living in at the time consisted mostly of white people. There were two other Hispanic families that I knew of in the area but they did not live near our house. It was a middle class neighborhood. There was an older couple that had an American flag hanging from their porch as if to stake a claim about what nation we live in. The white neighbors that lived next door to my family had two young boys. The older one went to school with my sister and I. Aside from this boy we did not speak to any of our neighbors and they did not speak to us.

The older white couple had a lawn covered in grass that was a perfect shade of green. A beautiful white house with baby blue trim sat on top of it. Our next door neighbors had another white house, although not as nice, that sat behind a yard filled with black volcanic stones and beautiful Japanese maple trees. We had grass but it was nowhere near as nice looking as the older couple’s. There were a few weeds and brown spots. The color of our home was a tan shade with maroon trim around the windows and doors. The trees in our lawn were these incredibly tall palm trees.

There was a boy I knew from middle school named Devon. Devon was tall for his age, he played basketball and he was African American. Actually, he was mixed. His mother was white and his dad was African American. Devon looked more African American that anything but I was okay with that. The summer going in to high school Devon and I talked 24/7 through text. We grew very close. We told each other secrets talked through our fears and sang our favorite songs to each other. He was my best friend at the time. Although we were relatively young, I had very strong feelings towards Devon. So much so that I pictured us as a couple going into high school. His number was in my phone as ‘Megan’ just in case anyone got curious as to who I was texting. I got really gutsy the day before school started and decided to change it back to ‘Devon’.

I am a Latino man that grew up in many different places. Chicago, Albuquerque, Roswell, Flagstaff just to name a few. In all of my neighborhoods there was no such thing as a good black man. When you live in the hood you need tough skin so you can look out for your family but these black men ran around in their gangs talking about robbing stores and drinking 40s. They took from the innocent with a blatant disregard for the law and consequences. They were violent, uneducated, couldn’t hold a job. That’s what you find when you enter the ghetto. I was dirt poor but I never took what was not mine. I worked for my money. I worked to get out of that neighborhood.

The summer of 2008 was difficult. Mainly because my middle child was troubled. My wife and I tried to help her in every way we could. I think it had to do with a boy she had met that summer. My daughter thinks I’m stupid. I know that there is something going on, a boy most likely. She’s constantly on her phone. Of course when I pass by she quickly turns it off. It was no surprise when I saw the name “Devon” flash across the screen. She despised her mother and I for forbidding her to go anywhere near him. Her insubordination caused us to make a rule that summer in regards to talking to boys. It simply was not allowed.

                  While unloading groceries one day my dad saw that Devon was texting me and immediately went into a rage. First it was because I was talking to a boy (because to my dad boys are greatly different than girls) and then something else. He began asking me questions like “who is he” and “Is he black?” When I explained myself my father told me I was not to talk to “that kind”. The black kind. The black boy kind. I learned of two differences that day. One of gender and one of race.

                  I knew I wanted a different life for my kids. I want them to stay clear of all the things I did growing up. I know what boys are like; I was one of them. They don’t realize that I am only trying to save them from a life of unhappiness. It was one rule: No boys. She disobeyed me. She undermined me as a parent. With a black boy nonetheless. Is she getting involved with gangs? A million things flash across my brain and I went into a rage.

My raged drove me to make decisions on her behalf. I made my daughter send one last text message to Devon. It read “I will never want to be with a boy of your kind”. I made sure he would never come near my little girl again.  I have no regrets about the action I took. I did what a parent is supposed to do.

My family had a pool that my parents worked hard to maintain. Constantly pouring chlorine and acid in it so my sisters and I could swim whenever we want to. The days here in phoenix get very hot, which makes the chlorine evaporate into the summer air. The smell of chlorinated air and the dripping sweat was a sure sign that it was the dead of summer.  At the time if my incident my family was unloading heavy groceries from the truck. There were so many. Making it impossible to get it done in a short amount of time. The dry heat intensifies the feeling of frustration and anger.

My father never met Devon in person. The only bad thing Devon did was to be black. My dad’s misconception of the African American race was shaped by the media. In his time there were so many stories in the news about African American rioters destroying property and killing each other because something made them angry. The media shaped Black culture into one that is so prone to violence. Take the 1992 Los Angeles riots. After the police officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted the public lashed out. If there is one thing to know it is that violence is never good. In the 1992 riots 53 people were killed. Ergo, according to my dad, being exposed to black culture would not be good either.

My dad unfortunately did to Devon what so many of our men in blue have done to other Black males such as Michael brown in Ferguson or Trayvon martin in Florida. Figuratively speaking, my dad shot him down and let him bleed out… and I was his accomplice. I will no longer be responsible for something so terrible.

For a long time I have always done what my parents have asked of me. When my father told me not to date African American boys, I didn’t. In fact, I no longer found African American boys attractive. It’s almost as if a switch went off that day. I was forced to choose between my family and a romantic interest. My dad made it clear that there was only room for one, so naturally I choose my family.

I knew something had to change. The pressure of being what my father wanted me to be was too much. My senior year I decided to take control. So for the past two years I’ve made the conscious decision to do things that please me, even if my parents don’t agree with them. Devon is no longer in my life, but I’ve seen him at his job. Seeing him brought up a huge aspect in my life that needed changing. I am actively trying to change the outlook that has been shaped in my mind about men of race.

Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage