When did you first realise...

… that there were people who looked different to you?

I can remember exactly when this was pointed out to me. I was 17 and we had just been on a school excursion to see a play (Anthony and Cleopatra). On the way back from the play the girls in the seat behind me (same class) started talking about how there was a chinese actor and a couple of black actors performing. I sat there thinking, really? I hadn’t noticed them. From that time on I have noticed that there are people who look different to me. Some of my friends were black (Australian Aboriginal to be more specific) and others Chinese and I had never noticed. It had never been important to me. Ok, I did grow up on a farm and only had 1 tv channel, but I had been going to school for 12 years by that stage, and this was the first time that I had thought about it.

And it is not just me. My sister also grew up with no idea. And I have a friend (Swedish) who when prowing up went to a school in South Africa. One day he came home from school really proud. “Mum, I know how people know if they are black, they have bigger lips”. His sole basis for judging people in South Africa was on the size of their lips.

So my poll, When did you first realise that there were some people who appeared different?

…when racism became an issue.

Having grown up living in different countries (hippy brat), I think I always took it for granted. When I was living in Scotland, I had several friends who were black, two close friends were a (male) gay couple, and a roomie for about a year was from Pakistan. I was never particularly aware of these differences being any more than significant than the thousands of other ways they were different to me.

On moving to the U.S. in 1979, racial, and more recently, sexual orientation differences have become so politically and socially loaded issues I am more aware. In the company of people of asian origin, I now stumble over the correct appelation; when I’m around black people (my neighborhood is about 50% black), I never know whether to say “African American” or “Black.” It’s silly, and I don’t like feeling that social pressure/political correctness has made me, at times, uncomfortable.

So, I would agree with Darqangelle.

When I was 22. I was not brought up to notice differences in people. It wasn’t anything overt; rather my parents treated everyone the same, and I guess I just did too. (I’m a Navy brat, BTW.)

So I’m 22 and working at an air force base. I’m talking to a girl who mentions that she “doesn’t have opportunities other people have because [she’s] not white.” (She was from Okinawa or Guam. I don’t remember which.) I had never noticed that she was “different” from anyone else! All I saw was (remember, I was 22) a hot babe! I started at her statement, and she didn’t believe me when I said I hadn’t noticed; but it’s true. After that, I noticed if people were black or white or Asian or Hispanic or whatever. When I realized that I noticed people’s races, I felt as if my innocence had been taken.

…that people looked different or were different?

I don’t know if I understand the question right. Everyone looks different. Even within racial groups, there are differences. It never made a difference to me, even growing up in post-civil rights era MS. My parents didn’t treat people differently based on any type of possible differentiation (money, class status, age, whatnot), but treated everyone equally well. So it never made a difference that people might be darker, or differently shaded or whatever else you could possibly judge by.

Argh… I’ve gotten disconnected 4 times since I started this post, so I’ll just stop here for now.

I realise that people look different from each other. I was just thinking about how some people think that skin colour is an important thing, and it never occured to me as an important issue.

I also wouldn’t use the word were as they still are different to me.

My parents treated everyone the same as well. But in school we always made fun of people with big ears, hair length, big teeth, slumbering, etc. But never skin colour. It was just never thought of. So I was just interested when other people learnt to recognise skin colour.

Ah. Interesting. Growing up in Mississippi, you realise that people tense around other people. It was hard to understand why. Later you realise that people used to hate each other, and even now some diehards still do. I was always aware of it. It never seemed to apply to me. Our generation, some learned their parents ways, others learned to get along. By now, it’s getting better.