You Italian then? No, I’m Hispanic.

image9 (3)Andrea Lopez,
Sacramento, CA.

When confronted with the question of whether or not I’ve experienced racism in my life, I always remember the first time I felt discriminated against. I was about twelve years old and I was meeting my best friend’s father for the first time. She moved to California from Georgia with her mother and siblings, her father followed later and in the end he did not stay. I always felt welcome by her family and never even thought about discrimination, so when I met her father I was taken aback by his question. “You Italian, then?”, I immediately understood what he was really asking. I answered “No, I’m Hispanic” but quickly felt the need to validate myself so I offered up the fact that I come from Native American ancestry as well. I suppose I felt the need to let him know that my roots were imbedded in US soil unlike his European ancestors that migrated here. It was a rude awakening for a child and it had lasting effects on me. I was now aware that other people were aware of my skin tone and ethnicity. Even being called “blackie” due to my darker summer tan by the overweight red-headed freckle-faced bully in school did not make me think about race. As an adult I see that the boy who bullied me had insecurity issues of his own, bless his heart. So, it took an adult from the Deep South to rain on my parade, he introduced racism to me and I finally understood what it meant to not be white. My friend’s father ended up moving back to Georgia after a domestic dispute became physical between him and her mother. I was glad he was gone because I never felt comfortable around him, I always knew he disapproved of me. From then on I was always aware of my surroundings and I knew that I would not always be accepted and that I would have to learn to be strong and not let other people’s prejudices interfere with my life. As an adult living in California I rarely experience racism, but I do think about it often, especially when I’m thinking of planning a trip to other states. I research the percentage of the Hispanic population to see if I would be accepted as a visitor and I often worry because my boyfriend is white and some people in different states may not be so welcoming of the two of us. It definitely adds a different perspective to life, I may be free to roam about the country, but will I be accepted?

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