SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2007        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Misty Smith


    In 1986, Houston had the sixth largest Spanish origin population in the U.S., most of which was of Mexican descent.   Also in 1986, Congress passed the Immigration and Reform Control Act, which provided legalization for certain undocumented workers.  I wasn’t cognizant of these facts at that time.  I was 13 and my major concerns were who my friends were, what I was going to wear each day and getting homework done.  But looking back, these historical facts lent to the racial fear of those close to me during a particularly difficult time in my life. 

    I must have known that it was socially wrong to date outside of your own race at the time, but I wasn’t exactly conscious of it until I was coerced into doing just that.  I was a very shy girl who was like most teenagers who wanted to fit in, but didn’t know how.  When my friend Tammy coerced me into dating a Mexican boy, Juan, I became very cognizant of the social dating errs.  I was scared.  If I didn’t go out with him, most of the Mexican girls would become very angry with me.  I knew that I would receive threats from some of them since quite a few of the girls had a reputation for fighting.  I also knew that my white friends would no longer accept me if I did go out with Juan.  I was in a dilemma and I could only think of one way out of it.

    I decided that I would go out with Juan for two days and then break up with him.  Since I didn’t even know him, it didn’t seem that it would be odd that I would break up with him after such a short time.  That’s exactly what I did.  It seemed as though I had fixed my problem. 

    A few weeks later I heard someone yell my name in the hallway.  I turned and saw Juan holding up something with my name on it.  He had a huge grin on his face.  I found out that he was making a personalized license plate with my name on it for his motorcycle.  I was very impressed.  I suddenly started rethinking about whether or not I wanted to go out with Juan.  I started to grow feelings for him.  Eventually, he asked me out again and I said yes.  After that we talked on the phone all the time.  I even took a trip to his house once and got to ride on his motorcycle.  It was awesome!  My face hurt from the cold wind, but I was very excited to be with him. 

    Although I was having a good time with Juan, some of my peers tried to talk me out of going with him.  They said some pretty degrading things about me being with him.  Most of it, I ignored, but there was this girl that surprised me.  I can’t remember her name, but she was a little person.  She gave me the worst time about being with Juan.  I wasn’t sure why she was so upset.  Most of my other friends ignored me or the fact that I was going out with Juan, but she was very insulting about it.  I thought she was my friend.  I knew she endured ridicule for being so small.  I must have thought that because she experienced cruel jokes from other kids in school, she would have some sympathy for me.  The assaults I received from my friends were hard, but I liked Juan and didn’t want to break up with him because of what other people said.

    One evening I called Juan and got some very bad news.  Juan had been hit by a truck while riding his motorcycle and was seriously hurt and in the hospital.  His family said that he may not make it. It was very hard to endure the night waiting for word.  When I woke up, I called to see how he was doing and was told that he had passed away.  I could not control my anger and grief.  I’m glad my parents were not at home because I began throwing things and crying uncontrollably. 

    Once my father found out that his daughter was dating a Mexican, he was furious!  He gave me no sympathy.  My mother was quiet about it too because she feared my father would become angry at her for supporting what he thought was completely unacceptable.  Since I began dating Juan again, I had received criticism from my friends at school, but now my own father was ashamed of me.  He seemed glad that Juan had died because it meant that he daughter was no longer dating a Mexican boy.  I couldn’t understand the hatred that I saw from my father.  I wanted his support and love during the most difficult time in my life.  No one in my life had ever died before and I needed both my parents’ support and understanding.

    That moment was very difficult for me, but also a very defining one.  I learned that it is hard to please everyone.  There are certain things that shape people’s prejudice that are beyond the control of each individual.  Although I have dated outside my race after that, I was fearful of what my father would say, so I kept it from him.  But I have now learned that I cannot choose who I want to spend time with based on what my friends’ or family's criteria are.

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