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Resistance (Online discussion)

February 1, 2012

Do you have memories of family or friends challenging racism during your life?  What happened and what impact did it have on your?  Outside of your own experiences, what examples of anti-racist activist did you learn about in school?


Last day for conversation – February 10, 2012

  1. Olivia Newhouse permalink

    I grew up in a little town in Washington State. There is still a lot of racism evident in the town but I never knew how extreme it was until I got to college. I am a Caucasian girl and had only dated Caucasian boys in high school. This summer was the first time I had a boyfriend during college. To my surprise my community cared more that I was dating a black guy then that I had a boyfriend at all. I thought my friends would be excited that I had met someone knew in college but everyone kept saying to me, “I heard you have a black boyfriend.” I wondered why they couldn’t just ask if I had a boyfriend and why they had to emphasize that he was black. I was in my friend’s wedding this summer and my new boyfriend wasn’t allowed to be my date because he was black. My mom challenged this. Even though the girl was one of my closest friends my mom decided not to go to the wedding because she felt she needed to stand up for what she thought was right. After this, I gained a lot more courage to stand up for myself in situations where people challenge race and show I don’t agree with them even if it’s against the norm. My community most likely will remain racist and have issues with white girls dating or marrying a man of a different race. But because of my mom, I now have the confidence to go against the norm my community has set and if I want to be with that person, the color of there skin doesn’t matter to me.

    An anti-racist activist that stuck with me the most in middle and high school would have to be Martin Luther King Jr. He stood up against the norm even when it was a time that he could face death because of it. He pushed the United States to see that every race in our society deserves to be treated equally. I know that even today our society still has problems with inequity and racism, but with out him I don’t think our country would have grown as much as we have in our path toward equality.

    • Julia Balaban permalink

      That is a very bold statement to make and it is very empowering I guess you could say. I live in a majority all white town as well and seeing couples of white and black was not the “norm”. But, myself being in a family of white and family from India it tends to get weird looks. When you said “An anti-racist activist that stuck with me the most in middle and high school would have to be Martin Luther King Jr. He stood up against the norm even when it was a time that he could face death because of it.” I like that statement because you have stood up for what you believe in and what feels right to you.

  2. Growing up in my home my dad was always a very racist man. He would constantly remind me that I was not to date or be best friends with someone of color. As I got older I pushed his buttons and asked why, he just replied with well because I said so. Eventually in middle school I challenged how strongly he felt about it by bringing home a friend who was Mexican. My dad thought she was the coolest person ever, then I said her last name, because growing up if I wanted to hang out with anyone my dad needed to know who they were exactly and where they lived… annoying as it was I told him and he said that’s funny your last name sounds Mexican. Liz quickly replied to my dad well it is. He said if we wanted to hang out we should go to the park. For a while he wouldn’t let us hang out at the house, nor very long. I believe he was thinking this would lead to us not being friends, but he then realized it wasn’t going to end that way. After 7th grade my dad finally except that her and I were friends. Only problem is even now to this day when she comes over, especially with my friend whom is black, he cracks jokes about their race. They don’t mind and they just crack them back at him about him being white, but it doesn’t make it any better or less embarrassing to me.

    • Thanks for sharing. Interventions at this level can be very difficult — why do you think it is so hard

    • Olivia Newhouse permalink

      I think it’s really neat that you have tried to challenge your dad on his opinion of race. Do you think your experience in this class will help show to your dad that he shouldn’t judge people based off the color of there skin? Also, do you think your dad’s negative attitude toward someone of a different race ever had an impact of who you became friends with when you were younger?

      • Kyla Chappell permalink

        I think it’s great that you stood up to your dad and challenged his beliefs and constantly asked why. I think parents miss the point frequently that the more you shelter your kids and tell them “not” to do something, the more they are going to want to rebel and do it anyways. Especially when the reasons why not to do something is based on opinion, and quite frankly, morally wrong, like in your situation. I think it says a lot about you as a person that you were able to stand up for what you believe, and continue to spend time with the friends you chose, no matter their race.

    • Aaron Verhei permalink

      Congrats on challenging your father that must of taken a lot of courage to do. I think parents learn from there parents and it keeps getting passed down through the generations and that is why racism sticks around among other things. I think it is amazing that you have challenged your father as well as not picking up his habits. I think you have made an impact on him as well by bringing over your friends and pushing him to accept them for them because by doing that you are showing him how everyone is equal even if he does still make jokes.

  3. Josephine Vorenkamp permalink

    My Grandma used to tell me a story when I was growing up. When she was a little girl, a black family moved in across the street from her. She quickly became friends with the little girl that was around her same age. My grandma never mentioned her family having any opposition to this friendship, but the father of the other little girl certainly did. If he ever saw the two of them together he would yell and say that his daughter should not be playing with a white girl. This was in a different time period, so I think he might have been worried about the legal consequences he could potentially face if a little white girl was hurt in his home. But my grandmother and her friend always played together anyway because they did not see a reason to stop. Whenever the dad would come home they would hide under the bed and wait for him to leave! While this isn’t an extraordinary act against racism, it is a significant one. It shows that these young girls were able to challenge authority in the only way they knew how, by playing together no matter what the color of their skin was.
    The anti racist activism that I learned about that had the biggest impact of me were the peaceful protests lead by Martin Luther King Jr. In my history classes I learned how white people would spit at, pour coffee on, and burn cigarettes onto black people who were simply sitting at the wrong counter. I think the idea of peaceful protesting really gave their movement its strength. It showed that they were not violent, that all they wanted was equality. I think that many other movements could benefit from this strategy.

    • Olivia Newhouse permalink

      When your grandma told you about this story did it have an impact on how you acted toward different races? When you were young did your family care if you played with a girl from a different race? Martin Luther King Jr. also stood out to me as an anti racist activist. I remember in middle and high school being some shocked that a man would stand up against the norm for what he thought was right even if it cause him to be killed!

      • Josephine Vorenkamp permalink

        I don’t know if my family would have cared or not. To be honest I didn’t even meet anyone who wasn’t white until high school. But my grandma’s story has always resonated with me because It taught me to question whether or not the people in charge were always right. Just because they have the power, does not mean that their way is the only way. And I definitely agree with you about MLK. It really shows that him and other people were sick of being treated so unfairly, and that standing up for themselves and risking their lives was a better alternative than standing for it any longer. It’s always interesting to me to learn about the brave individuals who can start that kind of change.

  4. Anna Chrisman permalink

    I grew up in a very small town with a lot of very uneducated people. There was one situation that sticks out to me as way that I personally had to deal with racism. We had one African American student in our entire high school and we were good friends. There were a couple of our classmates who drove big pickups to school every day that thought it would be funny to hang a confederate flag from their pickups. They did not think they would offend anyone, but they did. During lunch, my friend and me went out and tore down the flag and threw it in the trash. He was very offended by the flag, as was I, even though there is a good chance that my classmates didn’t even know what it stood for. This was a difficult situation, but it seemed clear to me what I should do. I was really glad that we tore the flag down, because it made people at my school realize that there was an actually bigger issues that they should be thinking about. After we tore it down, they did not put it back up or get upset at all. It was good for my friend because he had never really stood up for himself before regarding his race. In school we learned about the usual anti-racism activists like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X. It was hard for me and my classmates to understand these problems with race because of the lack of diversity in our town. It was difficult for us to see the implications in everyday life and learning about race was comparable to learning about the US government or other things that seemed so far away. During our social studies class our teacher addressed the issue of the flag and we had a discussion about it. I think that it made the students in our class realize that racism is a big issue in society today, outside of our small town.

    • Madison McKenzie permalink

      I can relate to your high school experience completely. I am also from a small town in Washington and we are known for being very…country. My high school was also predominantly white with very little diversity. It drove me and a lot of others crazy to see ignorant people driving around with confederate flags thinking that it was a big joke and that it didn’t really affect anyone. I never understood how they could just drive around with such a sign of disrespect flying from their vehicle. I think that it’s really cool that when you and your friend tore the flag down the people didn’t feel the need to replace the flag. It also makes me happy that I haven’t noticed the flag much in my home town when I’m visiting, maybe people are getting that it’s hurtful.

    • Kyla Chappell permalink

      I can partially relate to your situation, as I grew up in a small town as well. I applaud you for being able to side with the ONE diverse person at your school, and help them learn to stand up for themselves. Tearing down the flag was a big act to pull off, but you guys did without any conflict, surprisingly. I believe these little towns are in need of some diversity and the knowledge that there are indeed various races and there should be no scale of importance among these races.

  5. DeShaun Mizner permalink

    I do not remember a ton of racism growing up during my childhood because my family was very diverse. My mom comes from an italian Caucasian family and my dad comes from a Mexican family. At family reunions or holidays everybody would come together no matter what color their skin was. My family situation was very unique among others because of all the cultures we would capture at a family bbq or at a birthday partly. Whether it was the kind of food or specific decorations, everything always went along well.
    Now on the other hand, i did have a few friends who could have been classified as “racist” although i did not see it at the time. Certain jokes would be made, and i would just laugh and dismiss them. After a while I began to wonder of the jokes were even jokes after all. Even till this day, many jokes are made about racism, but some people i know will definently take things to far.
    The impacts on me were not very severe because i have joined several diversity clubs, joining in the effort to eliminate racism, stereotypes and more.
    Throughout my high school years, i helped present assemblies based on Martin Luther King Jr, one of the major activists of the civil rights movement. He was my idol for a long time and still continues to move people to this day. The diversity in my school was practically eliminated after our annual SIT-TOGETHER-DAY, which forced kids to sit with a culture not of their own. It was an amazing experience to see clusters of kids break apart from their normal cafeteria habitats.
    The impact that school had on me was great, helping me realize that even though people are different, its not a bad thing. not at all. I continue to treat people the way i would like to be treated no matter the skin color or cultural differences.

  6. Why do you think there is so little attention given to activists outside of MLK? Why do you think the focus on King is only on nonviolence and not his views on reparations, war, affirmative action, combating poverty?

    • Josephine Vorenkamp permalink

      For me, the only anti racist activist I’ve ever heard of is MLK. I think he is so popular first of all because it happened fairly recently. I think that his other views are still controversial and that’s why they get ignored. It seems like people think racism is a thing of the past, and that MLK is the reason we do not have to worry about it. But wars and poverty are still very prevalent. If we focused on his other views, people might get discouraged that we still have to worry about them. As the popular saying goes, “ignorance is bliss”.

  7. Greg Wandro permalink

    I do not have any memories of outright racism toward myself or those around me. I have always lived in communities that were predominantly white, and everyone seems to get along well, regardless of their skin color. No one would use ethnic slurs or hate someone because they were not white. Now this does not mean that there was no racism; just because no one is using racial slurs does not mean that there was no racism. There could have been situations such as a store owner following black people, or teachers grading students differently based on their skin color. The thing is I do not know if that did or did not happen. Since I am white I have never had to think about how people will perceive something I do based on me being white, and not me being me. When I was younger I assumed that everyone was treated the same as me. In school we were taught about Martin Luther King and his stance on racism. Now that there is no more segregation my teachers made it seem that racism was over. I am now more observant of how people act and how race does play a factor in how someone is going to treat you. While I do not judge people based on their skin color but how they act, I see that there are people that do judge people based on their skin.

  8. Madison McKenzie permalink

    A couple of memories stick out to me regarding my family and friends challenging race. The one that stands out the most was about 7 years ago when my aunt got a new boyfriend after a tough divorce. In my family we are all white and pretty close knit. When my aunt introduced her new boyfriend to the family everyone was a little surprised that he was black. All I knew is that he was super friendly and I personally didn’t think much about his race but, my grandparents, having grown up in a different time, were very shocked. They were of course friendly to him but everyone could tell that they were uneasy about the situation. I can remember being confused when I heard my other aunts, uncles and grandparents talking about how “it’s just a rebound” and not having any faith that they’re relationship could succeed. I think they had a really hard time believing that they would last and he would be married into the family. Even though my aunt and her previous boyfriend aren’t together anymore and my aunt is happily remarried, I now realize that my aunt did challenge race by at least attempting a relationship with him and not listening to my other family members.

    The anti-racist activities that I learned about and that stuck with me in school were Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Every January we would have a Martin Luther King assembly in high school, and being a member of ASB I was on the committee to put together the assemblies. I can remember searching for speakers to come speak to the school and the MLK assemblies were always the ones with the most powerful message. I can also remember during junior year of high school, in my English class, half the class did a Rosa Parks demonstration to bring the significance of her act to life. It was so interesting watching my own classmates reenact such an important mark in history.

  9. Kyla Chappell permalink

    Growing up, I was surrounded around racist people. Majority of my family are prejudice against Mexicans and/or black people. It is almost daily routine to hear a racist comment coming from one or more of my family members. But one particular situation that sticks with me is in high school when I brought my new black boyfriend to a family get together. I had recently broken up with a boy who was white and came from a wealthy family, my family just couldn’t understand why I would go for polar opposites. For me, I really couldn’t understand why it mattered; I wasn’t dating these boys because of the color of their skin or their family wealth, but for their personality attributes. It really bothered me that they treated my new colored boyfriend like such an outcast. My grandpa had even made a comment at the gathering like, “Now come on Kyla, you can do better than this”. Right in front of him! I was so embarrassed and felt terrible for him. But, even through this happening, it did not make me want to have the same racist beliefs as my family. Actually, it made me want to be the opposite. I wanted to be able to see people beyond their physical attributes. My family has grown to recognize this and has gained some respect for me and whom I chose to be with. I appreciate this and all, but I just wish there was something I could do to shift their beliefs.

    The anti-racist activities taught in school I believe are the same across. The ones that stuck with me are learning about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. I remember there was a time in the school year that the curriculum was revolved around these past events. I believe because they were so drilled into our heads that is why they are remembered so often. This is a good thing. We need to be able to remember not only white history, but also how blacks made significant markings in history.

  10. Amy Leonard permalink

    In my life, I never experienced much blatant racism. I have one memory of my fourth grade teacher. She told us she was with her grandmother and her grandmother’s friends, and one of them referred to someone as “colored” and my teacher looked at the woman and said, “Well what color was she?” This has always stuck with me and I have always admired her for being confident enough to stand up to someone that by societal definition (an elder) she should respect and not question. But what the woman said was wrong, and she felt the obligation to tell her. I have always dreamed of having a similar opportunity in which I could help educate someone about not being closed minded and racist like my teacher did.
    In school, I learned about the standard anti-racist activists throughout history such as Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks. We always learned about how inspirational and wonderful these people in history were, and how we could learn from them and their courage to stand up for what was right in the world.

  11. Alex Carkner permalink

    I do not have any memories that stand out to me of people in my life challenging racism. By no means is anyone in my family racist, but I can’t think of anyone I was exposed to being an activist, at least to my knowledge. However, as child we don’t always see everything that goes on that shapes our opinions. Something that has had an enormous impact on my life and my beliefs is music. I feel like I was partly raised on country music and can thank Chris Ledoux, Garth Brooks, and Tim McGraw for playing a part in my life. After reading this discussion prompt I immediately thought of Brad Paisely’s song “Welcome to the Future”. In the tail end of the song, he tells a story about an African American friend he had in high school. His friend was the running-back on the football team but a group burned a cross in front of his house after he asked the homecoming queen out on a date. The song effects your emotions and makes you think about this kid as just a normal guy who wants to go on a date with a pretty girl and makes it obvious that no one should be punished for something like that. Songs like this point out problems that people like to ignore and recognizes them. Discussing race is a touchy subject so it’s brave for artists to mention them, especially in the country music community where both artists and fans are expected to be hill-billy white supremacists. This song isn’t totally dedicated to issues of race and discrimination but I like it and appreciate it. It helps acknowledge discrimination as something that’s bad and fights against the normalization of it. Like Brad Paisley says, “everyday is a revolution,” so little by little we can continue to make a difference and evolve into a more accepting society each day.



  12. Gary Barquet permalink

    When I was about 8 years old my mom took my cousin and I to Disney Land, overall a very fun experience. I do recall one situation where I felt discriminated against and couldn’t really do anything about it. I was in line for a ride with my cousin and there were 2 teenaged white kids behind us in line. I noticed that they had let 2 younger white kids cut them in line for whatever reason, I didn’t think anything of it just they were being nice. My cousin had to use the bathroom, which was literally about 10ft away so I assumed it was fine and he would get his spot back. When he returned the kids behind us started complaining claiming that we cut in line, knowing that he was in line before and just went to the bathroom. They then cut us and tell the other kids to cut them again, I try to defend us but the kids were twice our age and size. So then I just asked why they were did that and they didn’t give an answer. Then one of them said under their breath “because your black” as soon as I heard that my heart dropped and I couldn’t really believe they just said that and laughed about it. Turned out that my mom had heard them and said some things that aren’t appropriate for me to repeat, she caused a huge scene and even got the kids parents involved. I was very happy, I felt as if my mom was hero and it truly inspired me, I was very proud to be black.

    Definitely learning about MLK was inspiring and something I learned about almost every year until High school. The way he fought against racism but not physically in any way, even when receiving physical harm. Even though Malcolm X had different tactics than MLK he still was fighting for his people and his motto by any means necessary means a lot.

  13. Reed Clarridge permalink

    A bit after 9/11, it seemed people of middle eastern decent, like me, became lumped together as terrorists. Unfortunately, my best friend in seventh grade became caught up in the hype and, to put it simply, we could not be friends anymore. When the worst of it occurred, I came home from band practice to find my dad getting home from work without his Pagri on. He told me it just wasn’t worth it, anymore. The end of the year came around, and it was time for presentations on the cultures of our ancestors. I used this as an opportunity to share some family stories with the class about how my great grandparents and grandparents lived in fear of Turkish raids on their village. One raid took my great grandmother, but she took two of them in the kitchen before expiring. I did my best to present stories from many middle eastern cultures and tried hard to convey that allowing rare bursts of evil define a culture is a dangerous idea, because no culture would be safe from that level of scrutiny. I was not maliciously taunted after that. A few cases came up where I was called a terrorist or towelhead in high school, but they were all in good humor, and I made sure to rectify their mistakes promptly.
    Most of the racism I learned in primary school was through the US history classes. The post-civil war racism and civil rights era racism were the most memorable for me, probably because it was so apparent and appalling. The most eye-opening thing I learned during the time was that during the civil war, the abolitionists, for the most part, shared the same white supremacist views as their southern brethren. Previously, I had understood the ordeal little more than as a battle of the good guys vs. the bad guys.

  14. Maddie Steiner permalink

    I grew up in a suburban neighborhood north of Seattle, which is a mostly white community. A few years ago a new family joined our community, and they happened to be African American. The family fit right in to our community and became fast friends with my parents and their friends. However, not everyone was as accepting. I remember that a new pizza restaurant opened up one day, and were having an opening day celebration with specials and what not. When our friend Jamie, the African American man, tried to go to the restaurant, the staff was rude to him and told him that they were closed. But when his friend Rob, a white male, went into the restaurant they welcomed him and provided great customer service. He called out the staff for how they treated his friend and complained about how their racist actions. The restaurant manager apologized to Jamie and nothing like that ever happened again. This was the first experience of racism that I had ever heard about, and was outraged that it happened in our community. I was proud to know that Rob stood up for Jamie and called out the staff for being racist. Its sad to think that racism still exists in our communities. But stories like these make me hopefully for a time when racism no longer exists.
    In high school I took a class called “Minority Studies” this class really opened my eyes to our country racism history and even to my own personal stereotypes. Taking the class made me aware of my own biases and helped me to overcome them. Learning about this and about the people who have given so much in the cause to end racism was a great experience.

    • Why do you think “Minority studies” courses are under constant threat given its impact on you?

  15. Julia Balaban permalink

    Growing up in a majority “all white town” in an “all white family” was my social norm. I never really thought anything of it until my cousin started dating a black man. My family questioned it and didn’t seem to quite approve. I live with a very open minded family when it comes to things like this. I was just confused on why certain things didn’t go with what my parents (I thought) believed in. This challenged me to wonder the whys of it all. In my family its all about personality. Yes, every person to everyone gives off certain vibes of their first impression, but it really is in the hands of the individual of how they themselves want to be presented and portrayed.

  16. Aaron Verhei permalink

    While growing up I was raised in a small farming community where we didn’t have much diversity in our area. I was raised around farmers and people who were very racist sad to say. I learn from my parents at a very young age that everyone was equal and it didn’t matter the color of anyone skins everyone should be treated the same. Than when i got into middle school i started to see the way people treated others, there was a group of kids who would pick on anyone and everyone for any difference possible mainly just to make themselves feel better about there own lives. The main people that they picked on where the small group of African Americans that we had attending our small school. I watched as they got picked on and I was actually friends with all of them and i saw how bad it frustrated them to just get picked on for something as stupid as the color of there skin. They mainly went along with the jokes so that the kids wouldn’t pick on them anymore but you could tell they didn’t appreciate it. Most of them either moved to a different school where they would be better off or they fought back and eventually overcame the bullies and proved that they were better than them.

  17. Alyssa Rumann permalink

    I grew up in an area that had very diverse culture, and I think I became aware of different cultures and races at a pretty young age. (Not that the differences I observed meant anything beyond face value to me). That being said, I didn’t witness much in terms of outright racism. Everyone seemed to recognize we had a diverse group of people living in the neighborhoods, and people were acceptant of that. My grandparents on the other hand, live with a different perspective than I do. They are extremely kind people and don’t purposefully discriminate against someone with the intent to harm, but they grew up in a different time where being racist was more of a norm. It’s never happened in a public place, but every once in a while a negative comment will slip out that baffles me. Coming from a place where I was taught that even joking in a racist way can be hurtful, it shocked me to see it evident in parts of my own family. I’ve confronted it every time, because it’s embarrassing and disappointing to hear things like that from people I associate with.

  18. Jacob Holmes permalink

    In my whole entire life, I have not really seen resistance against racism, because I haven’t either noticed I have been around it, or I just have never noticed it. So I guess it really didn’t have an impact on me, since it didn’t really happen.
    In school I have learned about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, WW2 with the US against Germany on mass extermination of all the Jewish people (Holocaust), A lot of the anti-racist activists are peaceful, and not violent, they do not call for random killings of the people discriminating, they call for peace protests, and to voice their opinion, having many come far and wide to support them.

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