SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2003        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Magdalene Cox

I  Am Proud of Who I Am 

I remember running home and crying because I am half White and half Mexican.  I know it is a little hard to believe, especially now in the twenty first century, where it doesn’t appear to matter if you are multiracial.  Well it does, and I had to find out first hand that being half White and half Mexican in some people’s views is not a good mixture.  I was not accepted fully by either group, because they said that I was part traitor.  I used to run home crying, because I didn’t understand what people were so upset about.  My “friends” used to ask me if I felt weird on the inside.  Because I look White on the outside, they figured that I must be Mexican on the inside.  Also, whenever I would make a mistake at school, I was told that is what happens when you are half Mexican.  The kids would tell me that if I had been all White I would be smarter and God was punishing me for something that I did in my past life.

I am from Klamath Falls, Oregon and was born August 20, 1980.  During this time, there were only about three families in the whole community that were not White. People that lived there at that time really knew nothing about Mexicans.  They found it easier to discriminate than to learn about my culture.  The only way that I would have been accepted, is if I had pretended that I was not Mexican.  But I never let them take that away from me and I am proud of myself for that.  Although there were times when it felt like giving up would be easier, my cousin always told me that people never learn if they don’t try.

 Grade school is where I got discriminated against the most.  My older cousin who was 8 years older than me, used to walk me to and from school everyday until I was 10 years old.  He was always the one to defend me against people that were ignorant.  My grade school was very White oriented, and only had seven Hispanic kids.  Neither crowd accepted me; I was called a “gringa” by the Hispanic kids and a “wetback” by the White kids.  My cousin always told me to stand up for myself, but I was too shy and too nice.

 The day I learned to stand up for myself was the day I started sixth grade.  I went to my cousin’s house, so he could walk me to school.  He was waiting for me outside and told me that I was too old to be escorted to and from school.  I started to cry, because I was scared, so he hugged me and told me to remember everything that he taught me.  So, I gave him a hug, told him that I love him, lifted my head and walked to school for the first time by myself.  When I got to the corner of my brick red school, a few kids saw me walking by myself and ran up to me.  They asked me where my body guard was, and when I didn’t answer them, they began to hit me.  I will never forget the feeling of the cold chain link fence on my back or the sound of cars passing me without stopping to help as the kids bruised my face.  Yet I somehow found the strength to push back.  I remember my cousin came running up after about 10 minutes and he got those kids off me.  Although I lost the fight, I won respect in the long run.  Everyone was cheering for me and told me how cool I was for defending myself.  After that day, I never had to defend myself physically again and I owe it all to my cousin who never stopped believing in me.

 My cousin was the only one who knew what happened to me on a daily basis at school.  I did not want to tell anyone else; because I thought that no one would listen.  Now, I wish I had told them, because they could have helped me cope better.  Yet, when I was younger, I thought no one would understand, or even believe me, so I kept most of it to myself.

  I wish I could say the rest of my family helped me out also, but that would be a lie.  My parents got divorced when I was young and their cultural differences became very evident after that.  My Mother’s side of the family is very traditional Mexican.  My Dad’s side of the family is very outgoing and open with their feelings about their Anglo American beliefs.  My Mother’s side of the family, such as my aunts, cousins and uncles were somewhat threatened by me.  I would go to barbeques with them and they would not associate with me.  My cousins would tell me that I am only half their cousin and they didn’t have to be nice to me.  On my Dad’s side of the family, my cousins, aunts and uncles used to make fun of me.  They used to tell me that I should be really good at cleaning, because of all that Mexican blood running through my veins.  My parents told me to just ignore the negative comments, because they don’t know what they are talking about.  Yet, for me, it was impossible to ignore them.  They are my family and the people I thought would accept me no matter what.

 As I got older, I realized that I was going to have prove myself to the world.  I had to learn how to be a Mexican and how to be White, simultaneously.  I thought that would be easy, but little did I know.  In 1995, my family and I moved to Arizona.  I thought it would be easier to fit in, because Phoenix is a big city.  So, when I started high school here, I had a group of friends that were White and a group of friends that were Mexican.  The two groups did not like each other, so I found myself running back and forth between groups.  I had to keep both sets of friends, because my family was separate also.  I would take my White friends to my Dad’s house and my Mexican friends to my Mom’s house.  It was very stressful and I always felt as though I was walking on egg shells.  Until one day, I just got tired of pretending to be two different people.  So, I decided that I wasn’t going to try to fake who I was.  I thought of myself as the best of both worlds and I wasn’t going to stress myself out about what the two worlds thought about it.

Currently, my family has learned to accept me for who I am.  I have a full time job, am a full time student, and I take care of my siblings.  These characteristics are some that everyone can appreciate.  I have learned a lot about the two different cultures that I belong to and try to educate my family.  They have become less ignorant and more open minded about each other.  I tell my family every time I see that that I love them for who they are as people and that I am happy they were able to open their hearts and let me in.  I get an apology almost every month from someone, who feels bad for what they put my through when I was younger.  Most of my friends grew up and through education realized how wrong they were to not like someone because of their race.  As for the friends that chose to stay close-minded, I got rid of them.  I don’t believe that I need to have negative people around me and they don’t want to be around me anymore.  I am not too shy to stick up for others or myself anymore and I have heard that people find this very threatening.

 To this very day, the memory of being discriminated against every day as a child, because of my culture, is still very haunting.  As an adult, I am better able to cope and understand my feelings.  Although I still do not completely understand what drives people to hate others because of their culture, I am educating myself, to help others like me.

I chose to write about what happened to me when I was younger, because it was so dramatic.  Many people do not believe discrimination is still so drastic, yet I am proof that it is.  In addition, I was so afraid when I was younger and that fear still lingers with me today.  I find myself wondering what others are thinking about when I walk down the street with my Mom, who is Mexican.  The experiences that I am telling you about has changed my life forever and I am hoping that it will have you take a look at yourself and how you treat others.

 Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage