How old were you when you first experienced racism and how did it affect you?

Maybe this thread has already been done…if so, I apologize.

While reading the threads on gaybashing and stereotypes and the like lately I started thinking about the first time I can ever remember being exposed to such things and what kind of an effect it had on me.

It was 1982 and I was 7 years old. My parents had decided I needed to take piano lessons so we went to a well respected college in town that had an outstanding fine arts program. My mother and I met with the director of the program and she told us there were 2 teachers taking new students.

I remember sitting there and kind of paying attention to the lady but then she started talking about one of the teachers a lot more than the other one. She told my mother that she thought it would be a “better fit” if I was in Ms. A’s class instead of Ms. B’s.

My mother asked her why and the lady looked at me and then back to my mother and whispered, "Because Ms. B is B-L-A-C-K.

I remember thinking, “Hey…I’m seven…I can spell, lady.”

Now my mother was raised in a time period where the N-word was used frequently. She was brought up in a home where people of color were thought to be beneath white people. BUT…my mother never taught me nor my sister to be racist. In fact, she always strived to teach us to evaluate people on how they treated us…not on how they looked.

I distinctly remember my mother getting The Look on her face and then she cleared her throat and politely asked the lady, “Well which teacher is better qualified musically?”

The lady said that she really didn’t think it was a good idea to put me in Ms. B’s class and that I would probably be happier in Ms. A’s class, blah.blah.blah.

My mother then asked her again which teacher was the best and the director reluctantly said Ms. B was.

I will never forget my mother’s response: “Then that is who my daughter will have.” And we got up and left. We never spoke about it but I will never forget the impact that made on me.

I ended up taking lessons from Ms. B for 10 years. For the first 4 years I was her only white student and me and the other students always made jokes about the recitals where they would call me the cream in between all the oreo cookies. :wink:

I don’t play the piano much anymore but I love music and that love came from Ms. B and all she taught me.

I have often wondered what would have happened if my mother had gone along with the director and put me in the other class. And how sad it was that the director of this fine program could have been so ignorant.

So what stories do you remember and how did they affect you?

It’s not exactly racism, I don’t think, but it was the first time I was ever made to feel different because my father was black.

It was the first week of my freshman year of high school at West High. On a thursday, I think, I recieved this call slip to go to a classroom during third period. I go, and I am told to sign in and be seated. As the kids file in, usually one by one, I began to notice that they are all black. In the room, the dean is there and a police officer. The whole point of that meeting was to talk to all the black freshman about being good. The white students didn’t have to go through that.

They even said that I was there because my dad was black, even though I had never gotten detention nor have been late.

The thing about me is that I’m half Mexican and half Black. But, unlike my brothers, I am very light. I look either half white, or mexican and white.

I am completely against BSU and the like. This one time, there was a BSU meeting, but I never go to those things, and before the meeting started, there was this guy telling all the black kids to go inside. I stood next to him and asked if I had to go in, he said no, yet he made all the visibly black students go in.

The affect on me, it just made me pissed off. My mother is mexican, my father is black, I am my own person. I do not want to be inside a box with everyone else. I do not want special attention because of my race.

I am mexican and black, yet I look like a white guy with a year around nice tan. All, except for maybe two, of my friends are white, and I listen to “white” music. If I ever wanted to be, I could never be accepted as black. I have to convince people I am related to my brothers. We went over to my older brothers fiance’s home, and my older and younger brother walked in first. I walked in last, and when I did, her mother yelled “He’s white?”

As I said earlier, being treated differently, whether good or bad, gets me nothing but pissed off.

My grandfather could have been the role model for Archie Bunker, and he wasn’t shy about using any racial or ethnic slurs around us. Very early on, we knew this was wrong, but we accepted that he was an old man and that’s just the way he was, but we knew better.

I also realize that it affected me more than I thought. I lived in a lily-white neighborhood and attended lily-white schools till I went to college the first time. There I met and made friends with a black girl and a Hispanic girl. I remember feeling - not exactly surprise but maybe wonder - that they really weren’t any different from me. I guess for so many years, I’d heard grandparents, aunts, and uncles casually toss racist sentiments about, I assumed there was some truth in it. I’ve grown out of that.

Thankfully, my kid seems to have been spared all that. No one on either side of the family uses epithets - at least not that I’ve heard. She seems to accept people at face value and unless they demonstrate otherwise, she treats them accordingly. One small step to living in harmony, huh?

This story might be a twist…its about PC-racism and how it poisons the minds of children.

The Netherlands received five major (and many minor) immigrantstreams in the last century. From our former colonies came mixed blacks from Suriname & the Dutch Antilles. From Indonesia & Papua New Guinea came mixed Dutch-Indonesians.
And finally, starting in the 1960’s, when the economy was booming, came many “temporary labourers” from Morocco and Turkey. These people have stayed, and raised a second generation. About 15% of the population in the Dutch large cities is now from Moroccan or Turkish descent.

So no, we do not have the “apartheid”, especially not the white-vs-black kind, that I’ve read exists in the USA. What we do have, however, are a lot of very PC white people who make an identity (and often a job) out of “fighting racism” in the most counterproductive way possible.

Basically the message of these people is: “Racism is bad! When you notice a person is darkskinned, you are racist!”.

This puts the good-willing white person who meets a darkskinned person in the same position as the guy who is strictly forbidden to think of a rhinoceros in the next five minutes: he cannot see anything but the dark skin. Consequently he feels (at a subconsious level) very uneasy about himself and about his dark-skinned companion. And what do you do with people you feel uncomfortably with? Well, you certainly don’t hire them or make friends with them. You think of them as “not my kind”. And either avoid or overcuddle them. Ffor an hilarious example, see here

A Dutch writer once wrote that as a kid she admired the tall black GI’s that were stationed at the international military airport near her home. She was half in love with their shiny exotic ebony skin and their white teeth.
Then she learned at primary school that she was not supposed to think bad of these blacks, just because they were black. It did not take her long to get the message: blacks were very much like persons in wheelchairs. They were slightly less worthy then “normal” people, but it was bad manners to make remarks about it.

I’m white, and I had very PC parents. I went through a similar anti-rasicm education. It took me until I was twenty to figure out that racism is not "bad’, but simply incorrect. So deep was the taboo about racism ingrained in me that I never questioned it before.

RandMcnally, what is BSU? What is white music?

Not to answer for Rand but I think BSU is Black Student Union.

I grew up in a small town in Arkansas during the '40s and early '50s so the seperation of the races just seemed more or less natural. My family was not overtly racist but just accepted the system. I think I must have been about 7 or 8 when I first began to realize that something was wrong.

My half-brother, who was quite a bit older than me, was building a house and had hired a black carpenter to help him. I had been taught to address my elders as “Mister” so it seemed only natural to me to address the carpenter that way. The first time my half-brother heard me call him mister he took me aside and told me that “we don’t call them mister”.

It probably didn’t make that much of an impression on me at the time but planted a seed of doubt in my mind about the relationship between the races. I really became aware of the disparity when I was stationed in Germany with the Air Force in the late 50’s. (I’m giving my age away here). By then the services were totally integrated and it struck me that we were all individuals and the color of one’s skin or the church, synagogue, mosque, temple or whatever one attended or didn’t attend had nothing to do with one’s ability or personality.

I meant to add that I tried to bring my children up to look at people as individuals and not as members of some group.

I remember when I was 11, I was told that the cool gang didn’t want me at Sinead’s party because I was a fucking Brit.

My mother (another fB, as it happens) told me that they were telling fibs and the real reason that those silly girls didn’t want me at their party was because I was too pretty and had a nicer dress.
It forcibly struck me that my mother was not being entirely truthful, (dead sharp, I was!!) but it was nicer to hear that than to to have to think about being wanted for something I had no power to change.

In the town I grew up in Utah, there simply weren’t many minorities. Not in my life, anyway. There were some Mexicans who worked the farm, but very few of them had kids—or had kids that went to my school. There was 2 black girls—one was adopted, and one lived with her white aunt. They were both younger than me. My family was never overtly racist—and my mother went out of her way to teach me that racism was, well, evil.
So, when I was 15, I met Jaime online—got a picture of him. BIg, tall, black guy with huge, kinky hair. Didn’t phase me one bit. Didn’t even give it a second thought. When he told me his heritage–black/mexican/Piute Indian/white–I was thrilled and impressed.
So, he comes out to visit me in Utah. By this point, he was my BF, I loved him very much, and in the back of my mind, I already knew that iwould marry him.
First–My grandmother cannot properly pronouce his name (it’s Hi-May). She gives up, dismisses it by saying “You’re father must have named him after his people. Does anybody eles in your famly have funny names?”
Second–My grandma “warned” my mother–“Be careful, he might just be with her to get his greencard.” (He’s a 4th generation American.)
Third–My Uncle commented casually “He’s ok for a nigger”.
Fourth–Everywhere he applied for a job as “Jaime” he aws rejected. He applied to the same jobs as “Jim” and most of them called back. I remember thinking “Oh well, that makes sense, they pobably think he is illegal.” And then it hit me like a fucking ton of bricks—it didn’t make sense and it wasn’t right, and jesus christ, did I really just think that?"
Fifth–My grandpa was going to Mule Days in Bishop CA. There is a casino there, becaues of the Indian Reservation. The Indian Reservation where Jaime’s family lives and where he spend a great deal of time growing up. Grandpa said he had a cupful of nickles, which the “damn theivin’ Indians will probably rob from me.”
Sixth–A friend exclaimed “BUT HE"S BLACK!” In the most horrified voice I had ever heard.
Seventh–A teacher told me it was probably best if blacks and whites didn’t “mix”.
All this happened within the first two weeks he was there—and they were just the most memorable. Fortunately he took it all in stride instead of running back to So Cal where he didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. But it made me carefully and thoughtfully re-evaluate every stereotype I unconsciously bought into, every racist thought that was planted in my brain, and my attitudes and actions. I realized if I did marry him (and I did) and I had children, I could not have any any of the thoughts or feelings reflected in my family, because there was some stuff there I didn’t even know existed.

I don’t recall having to face the issue. In my family, no one denigrated anyone because of race, and we were strong supporters of the civil rights movement of the time. My school was nearly all white, though, but that was just the way the demographics fell. I don’t recall seeing any anti-Black feeling. I do know that when my folks began hanging out with one of the few blacks in town, they treated him like anyone else.

I did face a small amount of antisemitism, but it was trivial. A group of boys tried to get a rise out of me, saying “Hey, jew.” I turned, smiled at them, and asked, very sweetly, “Jealous?” They laughed and never bothered me again.

When I was about 7, my dad and I were driving somewhere (I honestly don’t remember much about the comment, other than the actual comment) when he mentioned to me that black college scholarships were racist to white people. And I remember thinking how stupid it was of him to say that. I think I told him he was just being prejudiced.

Then he made sure to tell me that he’d disown me if I ever dated a black guy.

I was SEVEN!

I don’t remember what I said back to him, but that remark stuck with me. I did date a black guy when I was in college. And I did not get disowned by my dad or anything, but I just remember that I couldn’t imagine why he was so racist. I still don’t get it.

By the way, I hope that post didn’t come out opposite of what I wanted it to. I didn’t date the guy BECAUSE he was black, I just really liked him and he really liked me. It didn’t work out at all in the end though. Not because of the black/white issue. It was more of an uncompatability problem.

As another poster has said, BSU stand for Black Student Union. I put white in the quotations because it is a stereotype. Matchbox 20, American Hi-Fi, I have been told that they play “white” music. I do not agree with the stereotype though.

I grew up in a fairly small town (pop c4000). The first I can remember of racial differences is being given an assignment in year 2 about researching Aboriginal culture - it was only me that got this assignment, because I was pretty much smarter than the other kids (I know it doesn’t sound very modest, but that sort of thing stands out at a small school much more than it does in a bigger one). I remember I wrote a lot of cliched stuff about Aborginal culture and now they’re integrated into contemporary society (not the words I used, obviously - I remember I talked about footballers as an example). Not a great piece of research, but I wouldn’t expect a seven year old to report on the years of complex black-white relations in Australian history. This wasn’t racism, but it was the first time I can remember being actively aware of racial differences, though I do know this wasn’t the first I knew of them.

Probably the first instance of racism I noticed was in fellow primary school students telling mildly racist jokes (I think it was - what do you call a group of Aboriginals rolling down a hill? Vegemite) I mean, it’s not really racist, just stupid, but that’s the earliest I remember kids actually talking about racial differences.

As I got older, the jokes got nastier, and that was my introduction to racism. I never really had a shocking realisation about it, just a gradual introduction to the fact that some people got treated differently because of their skin colour. I came from a middle class background, in a small country town, and sadly you don’t meet many people who aren’t white in those sorts of places. I only really encountered actual racism against people when I moved to a larger city in high school.

Later, I realised that there probably were a few kids at primary school that I knew that were Aboriginal, but I didn’t know at the time. And remembering, they were the poorer kids at school. But I never noticed. To me, there were “aboriginals” and there were the kids who I knew at school, some who were more tanned than others. Maybe I was a bit of a clueless child.

Don’t know if this counts as racism (as it’s not based on race, per se). When I was about ten, I had my first experience with anti-semitism - neighbor on the school bus thought she was funny for asking me if I knew I was going to hell for being Jewish. Continued through all of fifth grade through seventh grade. Total effect: one fight, and it probably shaped my (somewhat non-existant) religious beliefs.

I can’t remember the first encounter I had with racism. This was due to the fact that I took such things as a matter of course, as being right and normal, until one day a lightbulb went off in my head and I realized “That’s racist!”

I went to very a racially mixed schools K-12. In elementary school, there was a gifted program designed to set the “smart” kids apart from the “average” kids. The “smart” kids got to leave class 2 hours a day and do enriching activities that the average kids did not have the opportunity to partake in. Such as French. Such as drama. Such as creative writing. Fun, educational things that would have been a benefit to everyone, but instead were only reserved for the “smart” kids.

These “smart” kids were overwhelming white and middle-class. Looking back, I can see no reason to have a gifted program in elementary school other than to make one group of kids to feel more special and better than another group of kids. Many of the “average” kids were better students than the so-called gifted ones, and often showed greater promise as life-long learners because they were harder workers. It sucks that so many of those “average” kids, who were implicitly told that they did not deserve to learn French and write stories because they were not smart enough, were non-white and non-middle class.

There were also unfair disparities between how black trouble-makers were treated and how white ones were. The white kids got away with stuff more than black kids did.

In orchestra, whites and asians were frequently chaired higher than blacks when the blacks were the better players.

In academic team, whites were by default considered better players than black ones. Black ones had to do twice as well as their white counterparts just to be considered their equal. And even then, they took more heat for mistakes than the white kids did. Let me tell you, it was infuriating.

I saw a lot of these kind of subtle things growing up, things that are easy to rationalize and explain away until you start recognizing a pattern that can not be justified with reason.

As a white kid growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, racism was a part of my everyday life - although the funny thing was that we saw ourselves as pretty darn liberal. We (by we I mean my parents, I was 19 when Nelson Mandela was released) didn’t call black people kaffirs like they did up North, we voted for the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) which was fighting for the abolition of Apartheid, we were kind to the lady who cleaned our house and the man who tended our garden (both black) and helped them out when they had troubles (financial, accommodation, etc) and so on.

The incident that therefore sticks in my mind was the first time that I realised how racist I, myself, was. It was on a family holiday in England, and we were driving somewhere in my Uncle’s car, and we drove past a building site. As we passed it, I thought to myself - “That’s odd… there is something strange about that building site…” - it wasn’t until a few minutes later that I ralised that the thing that was odd was that all the laborourers on the site were white, and not black. Not that I believed that manual labour should be done by black people, but in the country that I grew up in, it all was. For me, that was the norm, and to see white people carrying bricks round a construction site was just odd. It made me realise that I expected things to be a certain way as a result of the society that grew up in, and started a process of self-examination to make sure that I had no other similar expectations of people whether based on race, religion or whatever - and where I found these expectations, to try and eliminate, or at least compensate for them. It is an ongoing process… I count myself fortunate that I had the oppurtunity to become aware of my own prejudices, and how they influenced my thought processes - too many of us (by which I mean human beings) carry on with our lives thinking “Well, I don’t hate black people/gays/Fundamentalists/Muslims/Catholics/etc, so I’m OK.”


Now that is simply the most bizarre thing I’ve read in days.

I have worked with several Mexican professors and graduate students and known other Mexicans. I would classify all of them as “white”. Indeed many of the Mexicans I know would be far lighter than my father, who is often classified as “white”.

So, do you go down to Mexico and tell everybody there that, regardless of how they look, they are not “white”?

I’d have to say that I grew up in a veritable Cape Horn of racial tension. My maternal grandmother was an old-style unreconstructed redneck racist. My maternal grandfather seemed to have started out that way but at one time or another came to the conclusion that, even though he thought that way, it wasn’t right. My father is 1/4 Filipino and shows it–and when he was younger, people would presume that he wasn’t even from the USA (we were in Indiana). So it was always “interesting” to have a grandmother who personally doted on me and my sister but who had quite a bagload of racist attitude.

My paternal great-grandmother had similar ideas and was quite adamant that “Jesus was a white man”, for example. I didn’t inquire into her opinion on the racial status of Jews.

As I grew up in Indiana in the 1970s, I got to get a ringside seat for racism in action, as my father was subject to repeated anti-Japanese personal slurs and occassional attempts at assault. Why anti-Japanese? Well, that’s what they called him–“Jap”. Generally, the run-of-the-mill Hoosier bent on getting personal revenge against Toyota is too stupid to realize that anybody who lookes “Oriental” isn’t necessarily “Japanese”–and the idea that even all real Japanese don’t necessarily run Toyota would probably be so earth-shattering as to drive these yahoos insane.