SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2007 Personal Memory Ethnographies
Friend or FoeIt was ten feet high when it reached its climax, it hung in the air for a second, and then the gigantic man-made wave came crashing down. I was seven years old and it was the summer of 1983. I was privileged to be cooling off at a water park, because Phoenix is known for its 100+ degree temperatures.
The wave engulfed some people and sent all others shooting to the crest until it lost momentum at the beach, where the wave was small enough for me to jump over.
My heart was racing as I walked waist high into the water. I stood there for a while and enjoyed the waves. Then I heard a voice come from behind me. “Hi, my name is Anthony.” I had never met the boy before, but he had a friendly smile. “Hi, my name is Armando.” We became the best of friends almost immediately. We talked about all the pretty girls and had a contest to see who could hold their breath longer under water.
Everything was fun until he brought my attention to two white boys. “Look at them stupid white boys. I hate them.” During such potentially conflictual incidents, I remain calm until I have more than enough evidence that its apparent meaning is intentional. The boy’s message to me was an attempt to invoke anger from a very passive person.
“What did they do to you? Did they hit you or something?” “No. But they think they’re all bad.” After hearing his comment and asking questions, I judged that Anthony had no good reason for disliking those white boys. I felt as if he was a brother talking bad about my other brothers and that upset me.
Those white boys looked happy minding their own business and they were about the same age as us. I couldn’t understand why Anthony was so angry at them when they had done nothing to earn his anger, or why he was so nice to me when I had done nothing to earn his friendship.
What was so different about all of us? If color was the only reason, then I may as well be white, because I didn’t choose to be Mexican the same way they didn’t choose to be born white. If I had been born white then he wouldn’t be confiding in me. Instead he would be talking about me. I would be his enemy, simply because I was white.
Around this time an anti-immigration sentiment had begun to surface in the US, largely focused on illegal immigrants from Central America. This began to spillover into a new racism against Mexican Americans. I guess it’s possible that this tense racial climate may have affected Anthony. He spoke perfect English, but I didn’t know anything about his family. I made a judgment that Anthony was a racist and that I didn’t want to hang around him.
I never thought that other white boys might have discriminated him against. I just saw and heard the facts placed before me. Now, I understand that there may have been many reasons for his racism. I don’t believe that he was justified in saying what he said, but I do understand that he may have had a rational reason for his emotions.
I grew up hearing the story of Jesus loving the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight. My experience with the boy was so important to me, because it contradicted my beliefs.
Overall, I learned that just because someone is friendly with you, it doesn’t mean that they’re friendly. I also learned that skin tone doesn’t guarantee who is a friend or foe.
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