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

Crystal Roderick

My Trip to Discovering My Family

One summer my family took a trip to go visit my cousins in southern California. My cousin and I were in her room listening to Michael Jackson music and talking about boys when she made a reference to being Mexican, even though we are part of the same family, I was stunned. I didn’t know that she is Mexican. How come she is Mexican and I am white, am I Mexican also? I don’t think so. Why? How could that be? It didn’t make any sense to me and I felt dumb because I didn’t know that my cousin is Mexican. I was so confused about this.

I grew up in small, predominantly white town, so I was a little sheltered. I was also a little mad that I had never been educated enough to understand just by looking at my cousin that she is Mexican. I was also mad that nobody had ever informed me that she is Mexican.
   It made me mad to think that my own cousin was not aware of my ethnic background. I understood that we were a little different but we are still family. I was well aware that we were different. I knew that she is white and I am Mexican. Doesn’t she pay attention to other people or is she only aware of herself? Doesn’t she care that people are different and live differently from her?
I always enjoyed the trips to my cousins’ house. My aunt always baked brownies when we came to visit. My sister and I used to get so excited to go and visit my aunt just for the brownies. They were always fresh and gooey. Mt aunt was always a talker, she was always interested in our lives and what was going on with school.

I asked my mother why my cousin is Mexican and she told me that my aunt is Mexican and that made my cousin half Mexican. Our fathers are brothers and they are white.  I was still confused though, because I didn’t know much about other races. I had heard the term Mexican used before but I didn’t really understand what it meant.  The only other Mexicans I knew were some kids in school and they always seemed to me to be a little bit scruffy looking. My cousins were not scruffy so I had a hard time associating my sense of Mexican with them. 

I realize now that this incident is related to white privilege. There was never any reason for my parents to mention that we were white and that my cousins were Mexican. It was just known that we were white. I never had any real chance to recognize differences.  Peggy McIntosh mentioned in her article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” that she could at any time arrange to be in the company of her own race. My town was full of people of my own race. So we never talked about racial differences at home and we rarely did at school.

   There were many times when I couldn’t tell you what race my friends were. For so long it really didn’t matter to me. I thought that I was practicing color blindness and it was a good thing. I thought we were all people and it didn’t matter what race a person was. Now I know that it does matter, because race and ethnicity makes a person unique. People of different races grow up in a different culture than each other and it is important to recognize it and celebrate it.

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