How/What Did You Learn About Race?
A while back I wrote a “racial autobiography” about my experiences growing up and how l learned about racial and ethnic identity issues. I would like to challenge other pale-skinned folks- white, Caucasian, European-American/Canadian, or heck even European to write their own such autobiographies. Because when I talk with you about these issues, I know where I’m coming from, and what I’ve learned, but I’m not sure about you. Many of our friends/relatives/neighbors of other ethnic backgrounds have had to confront their skin color and ancestry on an almost daily basis, but we have the luxury of ignoring it. In fact, we’re often taught to deliberately ignore it. This makes it really hard to understand their experiences, and we probably never will on the same level that they do, but even just examining our own history and the messages we have picked up on. Remember the focus is on you and your history, your family, neighborhood etc. It seems in all these racial discussions that you want to talk about how Poor Whitey’s perspective is being ignored. OK, well here’s your chance.
If you don’t want to share your specific age, give us an idea of the time period in which you were growing up
When did you first learn about race?
What was the cultural/ethnic/racial makeup of the town/city/neighborhood(s) you grew up in?
Were there other divisions, such as class, occupation, religion, etc. that were significant? How did those affect you?
Were any of these divisions present in your family?
What were you taught about your family’s history- how recently did immigration happen? What countries did your family originate from?
Were some parts of your heritage more emphasized, or proud of than others? Were there parts you were taught (implicitly or explicitly) to be ashamed of?
Did the things you learned about race in school (history, culture etc) differ from what you learned at home?
Overall, how were people from the group you identify with portrayed in history books?
Were you taught to ignore racial slurs and comments, to confront them or to simply change the subject when it was brought up?
Did you have any personal, familial or cultural expectations factor in to who it was appropriate for you to make friends with, date, marry, adopt, do business with, where to buy/rent a house, etc.? What clothes to wear, how to style your hair, gender roles, type of music you listened to, food you ate/cooked, what occupations and forms of education were considered appropriate for some people in your community and not others? How have these expectations differed in different places you have lived?
Did you only find out about some of these “unwritten rules” after you “broke” them? Did you face any consequences for breaking these social rules?
Did reading and/or answering any of these questions cause strong feelings? Describe your feelings.
What is racism- how do *you* define it? (I keep seeing people say X isn’t racist- but Y totally is!) So what’s racism? Are there different kinds of racism? Is racism always intentional?