By Sam Piha
We invited a group of young people enrolled in a local community college class, focused on race issues in America, to answer a few questions. We asked about their early experiences with racial and ethnic differences and how those early experiences shaped them. Below are some of their responses.
These early experiences shaped me into the person I am today by making me very comfortable with who I am, a strong biracial woman. In my early years, I was almost ashamed of being biracial and not being able to connect with a specific group. Now with everything that is going on in the news, like Black Lives Matter, I see the importance in embracing who I am as a person of mixed race. I see that a person doesn’t need to specifically connect with a group just because they are the same race but being able to connect with them because they don’t judge who you are and the actions you take."
"Middle school was definitely harder because people were comparing themselves to each other and were less tolerant of individuals who were different. There were times when people said things about those in my race or other races, but this helped me to be kinder to others and tolerant. People have physical and cultural differences, but it’s the kind of person they are on the inside that really matters."
"My early experiences with racial and ethnic differences began when I was in 5th grade and could start to realize what were the differences between me and other students. An experience I could remember was when in class I was being accused of something I didn’t do and when everyone else pointed out the person who did do it, the teacher was in denial because they saw the other kid as innocent because 'that’s not in him to do, and not in his nature.' When I started to figure out what she meant, I realized that people of color are targeted at an early age."
"My first experiences with racial and ethnic differences was when I was younger and I would visit my sister’s house. My sister lived in a predominantly white town, and I lived in a predominantly Latino town. Her town was very quiet and everyone was in bed by 9 P.M. In my neighborhood the noise never stopped. It felt like being an outcast to be in her town because when people there saw a person of color, they often liked to stare.