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



On one school day, I bumped into this girl (I can’t seem to remember her name now) who for some odd reason just kept giving me dirty looks.  I was only twelve and at that age dirty looks were fighting looks.  I walked up to the girl and asked her what she was staring at.  She replied by swiping her hair outward from her shoulder.  She was snotty. 

Later that day while I was talking to her friend she was laughing at me.  I walked right over to her, intending not to talk but to hit her.  She was saying something; the girl’s tone of voice was so strong that although I didn’t pay attention to most of what she said, because she kept rolling her eyes.  I did figure out she was somewhat annoyed by me.  All I remember is that she said “you and your nigger friend.”  I asked her if she had a problem with my friend.  Sarah was the only person I hung out with so I knew as the conversation went on that she was speaking about Sarah.  I don’t think she said anything really bad, because given the temper that I had I would have probably fought her.

That day after school at dinner I asked my mother what nigger meant.  While cleaning the dining table my mother explained, “ignorant people say nigger, it’s a hurtful word, it has no meaning.”  Without any hesitation my mother responded with an answer that still as of today I would consider the most politically correct answer a child could hear.  Looking right at me she said, “It is used by those who do not appreciate the difference in others.”  She asked me where I had heard the word nigger and I told her about the incident.  She said, “people are different in many ways like in color of skin, hair type, look, the way one walks, the way one talks … we all breathe the same air, it’s only appreciating those differences that makes you different and that is a good different.”  At twelve years old, after being sheltered all my life about race, I found out about difference. 

I told Sarah what had happened and as if she knew this day would come she asked, “Do you know what nigger means?”  She stared at herself up and down waiting for me to follow but I got frustrated and angry because to my mind we were really not that different.  I told Sarah, “My mom told me about it, as far as I am concerned, yes we are a little different but it doesn’t matter to me.”

Sarah told me not to be upset and to leave it alone because those girls were just dumb.  I didn’t listen.  As her best friend I had to defend her.  I went back to school the next day and got into a fight with that girl.  I told her not to ever call Sarah by that name again.  Sarah wasn’t around me when I got into that fight but I knew she would be proud of having a friend who stood up for her.

This was my first time experiencing prejudice.  It’s almost as if I had been seeing in black and white all my life and all of the sudden I could see color.  The story illustrates the fact that I am not prejudiced towards black people.  That’s the prejudice we know about.  What the story is disguising, however, is that I am not really as unprejudiced as I had always imaged.

Yes, I am prejudiced.  I am working toward a brighter future by admitting it.  The explanation is simple; I have friends of all races but lack some of my own race.  Not by my choice.  I just don’t seem to have a connection with most of them.  I am somewhat an outcast in the world of Latinos.

I was raised by my mother, who is Mexican, so I would consider myself to be a true Latina.  But I also carry my father’s blood and he is German Hungarian.  I was raced with a mixed culture and feel very unbiased in choosing a race.  I choose to be me: a multiracial woman, unique and opinionated.  For many Mexicans or Latinos that is an outcast.  A woman with thoughts and a voice is not accepted.

My reason for writing this paper was to show everyone an incident in which I became aware of social difference.  I was surprised that after telling my story, which was supposed to show how balanced I am towards other races, it turns out that it opened my eyes to an area of prejudice towards my own race.

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