Home > reflections on race > What was your first experience with race?

What was your first experience with race?

Part 1 of 3

Well, if you’re reading my blog it’s no surprise that Im now reading Tim Wises book, White Like Me. And in it, he mentions facilitating or participating in race workshops where folks are asked to describe his or her first experience with race. He made an argument, and the point was something I kinda thought I knew and understood, but he really kinda drove it the rest of the way home.

I’d like to invite anyone who reads this blog, of any race, to think about that subject question, and try to answer it for yourself. If you’re really interested in humoring me, you’re welcome to post your first experience with race here, on your own blog, or shooting it to me via myspace mail.

I’ll post more later about how I think I’d have answered the question and Tim’s point.

Right now, I’ve got to go do a Crisis Clean aka Stash & Dash. Between suffering heat exhaustion (it’s been in the 110’s for a couple weeks now) and the fact that I spent half the weekend mucking out the pool I neglected one day too many, and finding & replacing the Hummer’s battery (##^ $# ^&* *^%$), and fielding no less than 15 calls from Ro yesterday, virtually no housework got done this weekend, and Ro decided today to fly home… tonight. I’m sure this trip and the phone calls have more than a little bit to do with the fact that he really pissed me off Saturday night, and he knows he’s wrong. He can’t just say he’s sorry… he has to bug the piss out of me by calling every half hour to make sure I am still speaking to him.

In the interest of having a peaceful visit, I need to get the laundry into the closets, the toys into toy baskets, and dishes into the dishwasher.

I must confess that I have never heard of Tim Wise, but will now check him out. I hope that you have less stressful days to follow!! I also hope that you have a peaceful visit! Their are enough stressers during the day without a non-peaceful visit!! Take care!


Posted by on July 17, 2006 – Monday – 9:13 PM
[Reply to this]

LOL!!!!!! no, wait, ROTFLMAO!!!!! this is about the Ro part. wait, still giggling. sorry, it’s not funny, but the fact that that huge black man is calling to be sure little ole you are still speaking to him cracks me up. WTF did he do this time? work may be slow today…call me here
Posted by on July 18, 2006 – Tuesday – 5:56 AM
[Reply to this]

Never underestimate Cyndi, my darling Christie.

I can’t participate in this game as I’m reading the book too, and no matter how I answered it, it would tilt the scale. But once the discussion gets going, I’ll be there.

Posted by Ei on July 18, 2006 – Tuesday – 6:58 AM
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well it needs to hurry up cause I want to see what it all means!!
Posted by on July 18, 2006 – Tuesday – 7:47 AM
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Black on Purpose
Wow, I honestly can’t remember my first experience with race. It may be because I’ve experienced it on a daily basis during my lifetime. If it were a sporadic thing, perhaps I’d remember. (I’ve really thought about this, too.)
Posted by Black on Purpose on August 28, 2006 – Monday – 10:01 PM
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I think you’re right; you don’t have a single conscious memory because you realize that race is something you experience daily. You’re the only non-white person who answered the question, but I suspect your answer wouldn’t be uncommon amongst other non-white people. You realize it’s an every day part of your life. Most of the white people I’ve spoken to don’t realize it’s an every day part of our lives. It’s a different part of our lives, yes… but it’s still something we experience every single day.
Posted by CURLYGURL on August 28, 2006 – Monday – 10:33 PM
[Reply to this]

What was your first experience with race? – CURLYGURL’s MySpace Blog | Cyndi–s Jewels.

  1. October 19, 2009 at 12:02 PM

    I have read the book. In college about 7 years ago. Geesh. Loved the book. So interesting. It is hard to recall my first experience with race. I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in a very diverse area. I was blessed to grow up at such a time, I know. So many of my friends are of different and various backgrounds that race was never a huge deal in my – or my friends – eyes. I suppose it would have to be in middle school when I saw an increase in segregation. But, it was more of a segregation between sports and band and drama club versus race. Love the post. Let’s get people talking!

    • October 19, 2009 at 7:15 PM

      Thanks Meli! I’m actually about to blog about when I first noticed a “segregation” 🙂 Stay tuned!

  2. October 19, 2009 at 6:13 PM

    First, thanks for your comment on my daughter’s hair. I am going to check out that site and look forward to learning lots.

    I grew up in church and we had a few families of another race so I guess I could say that I kind of grew up with it. But when I think about my first real experience with someone of another race it’s in high school when we had one black student in our class. We were friends and I think back now and wonder what it was like for him to be in our school.

    • October 19, 2009 at 7:13 PM

      You’re very welcome! Glad to see you here. 🙂 I stumbled across your blog originally when I was looking for some links for my white privilege/anti racist ally page (it’s a work in progress). Anywy, I saw your recent post about white privilege; in addition to this post, there are two more “follow up” posts that go with the question. One is an excerpt from Tim Wise’s book, White Like Me, and the other is me kinda thinking through what my first experience with race really was vs. my first experience with a racial other.

  3. October 20, 2009 at 12:44 AM

    Good question. I’ll have to check out that book. But I still remember what was perhaps not my first conscious moment with race, but the first moment that I admitted I was somehow different because of race.

    When I grew up, I was usually one of very few if any black children in the class. However, I got more flack from people of my own race for being poor, than I got from other races for being black. But anyway one day when I was about ten or eleven, I got into a verbal confrontation with a white classmate. The shouting match soon turned into the two of us hurling insults back and forth. Finally, out of exasperation I called him the worst thing I could think of. I called him the n-word. Everyone just stopped and looked puzzled for a minute, then someone behind me whispered, “You mean honkey don’t you.” So I called him that. Then everyone just started laughing and the whole situation was defused.

    But often when I think of that incident, I think it is ironic that when I searched for something to call him that would hurt him, I could only think of that word. Perhaps there is some theoretical explanation for my reaction.

    • October 20, 2009 at 1:09 AM

      Have you read the follow up post, “The Depth of Racist Conditioning”?

      I bawled when I read that section. Not the pretty cry, not the I’m brave and holding it in cry, not even the silent river of tears, but the chest heaving snot blowing ugly cry. For a woman who told her father to burn his KKK robes or she would burn them for him to start hurling the n-word in the end days of her life broke me… to know THAT is how deep that word is imbedded in our collective subconcious.

      On a lighter note, I was at a baby shower about 18 months ago, sitting at the kitchen table & relaying a story about how another shopper had threatened to call CPS on me in Walgreens. A friend turned from her conversation a few feet away and said, “WHO threatened to call CPS on you?”

      And I responded without thinking, “Some crazy white lady.”

      There was dead silence for a solid 15 seconds while all the people who didn’t already know me stared with their mouths open, seeing as I was the only white person there at the time, before they all fell out laughing.

      “She says that like she’s not white.”

      *sigh* I forget somtimes.

  4. October 20, 2009 at 2:39 AM

    I’ve been reading for a while but have never commented.

    I grew up in fairly integrated areas so race was never a problem for me.
    But I remember in pre-school when some Black kids teasing a girl because her mother was white.
    Thinking that I’d stop them, I said; “So what, my mom is Mexican.”.
    “Oh, that doesn’t count” they said. But they did stop teasing the girl.

  5. October 20, 2009 at 10:05 AM

    Didn’t you comment last week about Sara Baartman? Either way, I’m glad you chimed in.

    Something that I try really hard to impress on my kids is not only not to make fun of anyone for any reason, but also to never stand by and be part of the “bully circle” either.

  6. October 20, 2009 at 10:16 AM

    (Oh yeah… that was here?)

    • October 20, 2009 at 2:06 PM

      Yeah. I have a tendency to blog ADHD style… It’s a lil random 🙂

  7. Arria
    October 20, 2009 at 5:27 PM

    My first encounter with racism was in fifth grade. Mind you I grew up around a diverse mixture of people. Yes I knew I was black, and often the only black in certain places. But I got along with everyone. Well I was in the grocery store with my mother and like I always did when someone crossed my path I smiled and said hello(back in “those” days kid could do that without fear of being snatched)well this white woman that I had spoken to turned to me and called me a nigg** child. I was stunned!! I cried for two days as my parents tried to explain to me the way the world was in the 1960s. I was eventually consoled by my white 5th grade teacher who had never seen me as anything but the smartest kid in her class. And for that I thank her.

    • October 29, 2009 at 6:40 PM

      So I meant to tell you, it’s about time 😉

      I think what hurts me most about this is knowing your daddy and knowing that no matter how much he would have wanted to, he couldn’t have gone and knocked that woman on her ass.

  8. MomTFH
    October 26, 2009 at 6:56 AM

    Oh, I typed a long response to this, and then fumbled somehow on the keyboard and erased it. Let’s see if I can reconstruct it.

    I haven’t read that book, but I am a Tim Wise fan, and have read may of his essays.

    I am guessing that white people (like me) describe their first experience with the idea of racial differences was in regards to someone else’s race, as theirs is the assumed default race. And, I assume most people of color would describe their first experience with race being at a younger age, and in regards to their own race, not another group’s.

    I grew up in an exclusive neighborhood. Even though it was the 1970’s in supposedly desegregated America, our gated neighborhood required that any new resident be accepted as a member of the private country club in the community, and that country club was allowed to blackball (no pun intended…well, not really) anyone who was not the right color, religion or ethnic background. So, pretty much, we were all WASPs with the occasional Catholic Spanish Duke allowed. If you were royalty, the membership committee could make an exception. (I remember it being a really big deal when I found out my father’s family had converted from Judaism when they immigrated from Hungary, and I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone at the country club)

    One of my first memories of race was my mom telling me that it wasn’t that our community was racist, we just didn’t let black people move in because we didn’t want the property values to go down.

    I also remember my older brother calling the brown colored Fisher Price people he played with at church “jigaboos”, and my mom thinking it was so funny. I think she thought he made up the word.

    There was only one black child in my public school in Miami Beach. I remember everyone being so surprised at how normal and well behaved he was. Kids would chant “A fight! A fight! A n****** and a white! If the n******* wins, we all jump in!” whenever anyone fought. It was invariably two white kids fighting, and I had no idea the term was a racial slur. I am not sure how many of my classmates did.

    I could go on, but these are the earliest memories.

    • October 29, 2009 at 6:48 PM

      See, stories like this are so hard for me to wrap my head around. I grew up in the 70’s & 80’s, and I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t allowed to play with black kids. I can’t even think of a time (before moving to KS in 5th grade) where I didn’t live next door to or across the street or around the corner from a black family.

  9. November 2, 2009 at 11:27 PM

    I am white. When I was really young, my mother’s best friend was black. She lived far enough away that when we visited her, we stayed overnight. On one visit, my mom’s friend was bathing me and her daughter. I don’t know how old I was (young enough to share a bathtub, but old enough to remember).

    I used to love soap bubbles and I loved lathering up and covering myself with soap. So, during this bath I did that. We were having fun and I was “making myself all white.” Then I suggested that my friend make herself “all white,” too. The pause and tension that followed made me aware that I’d said something wrong.

    Although, my mom’s friend didn’t make a big deal of it (and her daughter delighted in lathering up), I knew then that what I’d said had implications beyond my intention.

  10. November 4, 2009 at 6:28 AM

    So I wanted to say thank you to everyone who shared their experiences. My thoughts on thsi were so long that I put mine in a separate post, which you can find here: Cyndi’s First Racial Experiences

  11. November 4, 2009 at 10:53 PM

    I really like your blog and would love to chat with you about linking to our site.
    Email me offline and we can discuss more

    • November 5, 2009 at 5:42 AM

      Brandy, I really like people who really like my blog 😉 The Next Family looks like an awesome resource… email to follow!

  1. October 18, 2009 at 11:16 PM
  2. October 26, 2009 at 4:28 PM

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