Growing Up In Brownsville With Racism
When I think back on where I grew up in Brownsville there certainly was racism but I didn’t fall victim to it. It wasn’t like it was oblivious to racism, but wherever I went, I noticed I never really fit in. Was I going to let it break me? NO! I didn’t live in ignorance but I just simply lived. Even at such a young age, I knew I had to be true to who I was and not let it affect me. I went on and realized that I guess this was just life!
It wasn’t that my friends were racist or I dealt with bullying all of the time but there were sporadic moments of it in my childhood. Did I think that it was done deliberately? Yes! Did it make me mad? No! Experiencing acts of racism made me realize that I wouldn’t do such a thing to anyone else. It taught me a lesson. When I attended school there were moments that I was mistreated and I know it was because of the color of my skin. I was usually the only fair-skinned Latina girl in the class. My curly tresses would often get wrapped around the bolts of the chair. When I would get up my hair would pull. It was a little girl who wasn’t so nice to me and told the other girls, “She thinks she’s better than us because she has soft hair and ours is hard.” That was my first small introduction to racism.
When I went to middle school there was a young lady who took a disliking to me. She would constantly tell me, “You’re as white as a ghost.” At this age I wouldn’t keep my mouth shut and I would defend myself. During ELA (English Language Arts) class we were asked to keep a journal, the writer in me loved that part. The teacher discovered that in this girl’s journal she had plotted to kill me because she didn’t like my skin color. It was very disturbing and for a while, I had horrible nightmares about this episode. My sister wasn’t bothered as her skin was darker in tone and she more accepted in school because of this.
I didn’t share much with my parents because of course I didn’t want to worry them. I dealt with it in silence and just tried my best. It then moved on to high school when a part of my body was touched as I was told, “I didn’t know white girls had that much junk in their trunk.” I was mortified and I shared with my mother. The school took proper action and shortly after I remember us moving because things got worse. It was sad to experience this hatred and moving didn’t solve anything because my sister then encountered racism toward her darker skin in our new neighborhood. It was beginning to seem like I’d be seeing and hearing racism everywhere.
I’ve even experienced racism within in the Latino community. I’ve heard, “her last name isn’t Latino” or “she speaks with a New York accent” or “She’s Italian” multiple times. I laugh because my dad was American so that’s why my last name is Carter, I was born and raised in Brooklyn (so I do
indeed have a NY accent), and I am of a mixed family so of course I have beautiful mixed features that I am extremely proud of. All this makes me seem as though I am NOT Latina enough. I am more than enough for me! I knew who I was and I still know who I am so I don’t find it necessary to justify it to anyone!
Ultimately, I knew I couldn’t continue to live in this vicious cycle so I found friends that accepted me for who I was. Thankfully, not everyone is a racist. I continue to flourish realizing that not everyone will accept me or like me, but it’s not me who has the problem, but them! This is the way I continue to address racism when I encounter it today. As I dealt with it in the park one day with my kids or I deal with it with my dark Dominican husband, I don’t add fuel to the fire, and I live my life loving myself and my family. I know that hate breeds hate and I want no part of that! I truly believe that if we could all live this way of life, the world would become a better place. These encounters didn’t make me bitter, only stronger and determined to spread love and peace in my life.
Let’s share: Have you ever had to deal with racism in your lifetime?
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