Elise DuBord, Cedar Falls, IA. Growing up in the Midwest, I started studying Spanish as a second language in high school, fascinated with learning about other cultures and enchanted with the idea of traveling to or even living in a new country. As a middle-class white kid, I was completely unaware of the privilege I […]
Susi Matthews, Kansas City, MO. I am 1/4 Navajo plus Cherokee and Mohawk. I am also English, Irish, Scots and German. I LOOK white; my full sister looks Native. I experienced the reactions she got when we were kids on vacation. A small restaurant in Colorado thought she was Native America and refused to serve […]
Arturo Hull, Anchorage, AK. My mom is Syrian, Iraqi, Egyptian, Greek, Italian, Swiss-German, Austrian, South German, English, Norwegian and Danish. My dad is English, Scottish, Irish, Swedish, German, Polish, and Russian. I am light-skinned and can easily pass as French or Italian, but I embrace my Arab roots to the fullest and enjoy foods like […]
Katrina Des Moines, IA As an ELL teacher, this came from when I had to give a student who was new to the country from Vietnam an annual standardized assessment. She hardly new English, had been in the country for less than two weeks yet she was still required to take a standardized assessment in […]
Stephanie Connors Eureka, CA Music is one of my biggest reminders of the cultures that I grew up with. It fills me with nostalgia and pride, longing and love of the people who came before me. The people from: everywhere! I love all of it now. From day to day I swirl around in a […]
Chris Cochran, Murrieta, CA. Where are you from? It’s a loaded question in that I could answer where I was born, where I was raised, where I live currently, or from which country does my family hail. Well, I’m a bit of a “mutt” actually because I am a conglomerate of many immigrants of many […]
Somandy Real, Fremont, CA. Many people who’s first language was not English think that they’re English isn’t “fluent”, however they are fluent, it’s just in another dialect of English they have made on their own, and it is okay.
Vishwa Dhuleshia, Shrewsberry, MA. I started Kindergarten knowing how to say only two things in Enlgish: “my name is Vishwa” and “I have to go to the bathroom.” I spent the first 3 years of Elementary school going to ESL classes while my classmates took spelling classes. Those few years I had to face the […]
Megan Medrano, Houston, TX. Growing up Latina in south Texas, I have always been surrounded with rich culture. My home was filled with both the English and Spanish language and I was encouraged to live both my Mexican and U.S. Latina identities. I did not realize how important an ethnic identity was until I came […]
R.E.A.L. Talk, High Tech Middle Media Arts, 7th Grade Trailblazer I’ve been called racist just by talking to someone of color. As someone whose ancestors are English, American, French, and Belgian, I realize, that being called racist isn’t the worst thing someone can do to you in terms of discrimination in ethnicity and racism, but […]
Loreina Gonzalez, Edwardsville, KS. Imagine not being able to have a proper conversation with anyone, because they all assume you do not speak English. They approach you at your job because they need help finding something but before they even ask their question, they ask if you speak English. They see you and a Caucasian […]
Fernando Martinez, McAllen, TX. Some people assume I don’t speak Spanish because I have light skin. But others assume I don’t speak English when they find out I lived my entire childhood in Mexico and English is actually my second language. Little do they know that I can speak both!
Nora Woodman, Fishers, IN. What one Jehovah’s Witness said to the other when I opened the door and had yet to say hello.
Christina Martinez-Williams. Seat Pleasant, MD. My mother is German and English, at least third generation American born, and my father is Cuban, first generation born. Much of my life I tried to identify with my Cuban side, because that is the side that people cannot usually physically see, especially according to stereotypes of what Latina’s […]
Christine Thai-Pappa Fairfax, VA I was at a National Convention for my sorority, which is an Asian- American Interest sorority. A number of us had gotten onto the elevator at our hotel. There were girls from the University of Virginia, Berkeley, Standford, Cornell, and Carnegie Melon. At the next floor a group of older Caucasian […]
Gabriela Denise Frank, Seattle, WA. Despite being a Detroit native who grew up in Arizona, I was mostly surrounded by white kids like me during my childhood. Though my family is Jewish, I never experienced discrimination while living in predominately Christian communities. Even as an adult in Seattle, which is more ethnically diverse, I live […]
Phillip T., Elk Grove, CA. Prior to going to school I didn’t know a lick of English. My parents spoke to me either in Cantonese or Vietnamese, but when I enter kindergarten I learned English for the first time. I don’t remember much of kindergarten, I don’t even remember her name. I was in E.S.L […]
Nichole Pettit, Lake Como, NJ. Monmouth University I’m biracial. I’m not just African American, I’m also American, German, English and Irish! Many say “You’re black,” sure but I’m not just that. Do not reduce my race and ethnic background to a single word. I do not belong to a single group, I belong to many. […]
Jorge Alvarez, Salt Lake City, UT. One of the things that I find very annoying is when people say “Hola” right off the bat, “Si” or “Por favor, this”. Yeah I look like any other Mexican out there but I know English as well. Ditch the hola to not come off as patronizing and say […]
Guadalupe Mitchell, Damascus, OR. Growing up, most people just saw a little brown Mexican girl. I remember when entered the second grade and my family had a moved to a predominantly white neighborhood, I was placed in an ESL classroom. My classmates made fun of me because my Spanish was not very good. After struggling […]
Nicole Huber, Colorado Springs, CO. I am Asian American. Being an Asian American, no one clutches their purse tighter when I walk by, and no one finds it surprising that I teach at a university. But despite Asian Americans being perceived as the “model minority,” we are not seen as “real” Americans. I was adopted […]
Francis Ngugi, Harrisburg, PA. This is what they all said when we immigrated here.
Sandy Jiang, San Francisco, CA. When I was in a different state for a course, we were building a foot trail for a national park and I was talking to the park guide. We were talking for a bit and then he told me “Your English is very good. You have a nice tongue.” It […]
James Cannon, Sacramento, CA. I’m forbidden from appreciating my African English grandmothers experiences and how they contributed to my outlook on life, or sharing this outlook, because of the color of my skin. Even though I’m black enough where I would have been a slave in the south during that era.
Elaine Oyzon-Mast Avondale Estates, GA Filipino, German, English, Irish, supposedly with a touch of Cherokee and Iroquois. The melting pot serving up three beautiful boys.
Sandra Aguilar-Rodríguez, Bethlehem, PA. I am Mexican, I speak English, French and Spanish. I have a PhD in History, but still I find it difficult to understand why in the United States being bilingual or trilingual is not appreciated. I want my children to speak, read and write at least in another language, and if […]
Jose Pimienta, Tujunga, CA. Very often, when I speak Spanish to someone who also speaks spanish, they reply to me in English. I take no offense to it, but it does remind me to continue reflecting on such a big topic in my life, which is: race, ethnicity, nationality and culture and how they play […]
Sandra Reyes, Santa Cruz, CA. Response from some when they learn that my parents are from El Salvador and English is not my first language.
Kelly M., Indonesia. My six words were spoken by my daughter when she was seven years old. I am From Texas, my family tree consists of Irish and English immigrants and Cherokee Native Americans. We generally look Caucasian, but all five siblings have slightly different skintones. I now live in Indonesia, I’m a single Mom […]
Michele Warch, Georgetown, DE. My mom is English and Native American. My dad is Scotch-Irish and German. I speak Cherokee and read some Gaelic. I have dark hair and green eyes. Its a gift of my mixed ancestry. I have tattoos and ride a motorcycle. I also have a master’s degree and teach at the […]
Jocelyn Rueda, Napa, CA. I am a Mexican female. I once went to a store and went up to the register to ask a question and the women was looking for someone to talk to me. She was a white women and she thought I didn’t speak English.
Valerie Guerrero, Mission, TX. All my life I’ve grown up around my Hispanic family. It’s unusual for me to ever say something in English in front of them out of respect because they don’t really understand the language. The few times that I accidentally say something in English I get the old “no eres gringa, […]
Laura Pierson, Los Angeles, CA. I am Native American, Mexican, Spanish, English, Germany, and Irish. I was raised by a single mom that is Native American, English, German, and Irish. I didn’t know what being a Mexican meant or was like and I’m still trying to figure it out. As a child, I told people […]
Blair White Haddad, Los Angeles, CA. Being the child of an adopted mother, for a long time I only knew half of my genetic make up. After being reunited with my bio grandmother we discovered our Native American/ French background. My whole life I’ve been asked the question- what are you? Instead of identifying myself […]
Silvia. My Salvadorian mother came to the United States and wanted us to assimilate. We spoke English in the house and most of my mom’s friends were Americans. I’m sorry for this….I lost culture.
Michelle Liv, New York City, NY. Brooklyn As a person of color, it still angers me that mainstream society still regards what is “white” as “normal” or the status quo. I hate being judged on my racial appearance and assumed that I do not speak English because I am not white. These words were uttered […]
Ivan Vazquez, Sacramento, CA. Although I was born and raised in San Diego, CA ; I grew up in a household that comprised of both the English and Spanish language, about 60% English and 40% Spanish. I am a child of second-generation immigrants and even though I received my entire education in English, I came […]
Paul T., North Babylon, NY.
Linda Levittown, NY My three children are a mix of English/Irish and Puerto Rican and when you line them up in a row, you can see one mirrors me, the second mirors my husband and our third is a pretty even split down the middle and can “fit” either side of our mixed family. A […]
Adriana Pedroza Both of my parents were born and raised in Mexico. Looking at my family pictures, I’m the odd one out. As a child, I was blonde, and my eyes have always been on the lighter side. My skin is not dark. I don’t have my mom’s dark hair or my dad’s dark eyes […]
R. E. Longdon Clarksville, PA My family complexion has always been called dirty or ruddy. My ancestors came from Europe through England but family folklore has much more than English in our history. Our family always classified as white but we stood out in our hometown to the point our “dirtyness” was speculated by some […]
Leslie Brooklyn, NY From the southwest. Speak English and Spanish.
Anonymous Mobile, AL I was born and raised Caucasian, though of course, like most Caucasians, I was referred to and referred to myself as “white.” But like so many, I found myself attracted to African American culture, and, generally, more accepted by African Americans. As I’ve grown, becoming an instructor of English and therefore, an […]
Lisa Lee San Francisco, CA Asian Americans are constantly reminded that they don’t “belong” in America, despite their contributions of building up this great nation. We are reminded in ways big and small, such as the seemingly harmless remark of “but you speak English so well!” The Civil Rights Movement paved the way for all […]
Delia Moreno Valley, CA I am so tired of others expecting me to know every bit of Spanish, simply because I am Mexican. It is assumed that just because one is of the Mexican heritage they should know the Spanish language fluently. I do know a little bit of Spanish to kind of get me […]
Amanda Denise Ballantyne New York City, NY The Bronx I was at a dinner when a group ,mid 60s/early70s (age), of Caucasians were eating their sunday breakfast discussing an event. I specifically heard a section of the conversation, “I can’t stand moments like that. We are in America, speak English we are in America.” It […]
Sabrina Leira Denver, CO Sometimes when people are trying to do the right thing, they end up being wrong. For instance, every year at school, we have to check a box that says what our ethnicity/race is. I, being half Hispanic, sometimes check the Hispanic box. A few weeks later, I get called into the […]
Irmarie Richmond, VA Just because I am Hispanic, it doesn’t mean I only know how to speak Spanish. I’ve been speaking English since I was 5 years old. I think I have it down.
Thi Thumasathit Palo Alto, CA I’m Asian-American. I was born in Thailand, but immigrated here when I was 3 months old so I speak perfect accent-free English. Since the age of 4, I grew up in Hull, Iowa, population 1,500. Invariably, I am asked (even in the Bay Area), “Where are you from?” After I […]
Krisha Jain Los Angeles, CA I’m an international student from India, and when I tell people that, I always get the same response.
Cecillia Wong Mountain View, CA Even though I just got off the phone with my parents in another language, there’s no need to slowly emphasize your words. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my English is much better than yours.
Tammie Cordova Eugene, OR People think because I have olive colored skin, brown eyes, and brown hair that I’m Mexican. Not that there is anything wrong with being Mexican but that is not my ethnicity. I am Navajo, Portuguese, and some Scottish, Irish, and Cherokee and probably some other but I look more Navajo and […]
Anonymous Des Moines, IA Drake University
Albert Toronto Who are the real Americans? Why do we have African Americans, Asian Americans, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, but not English Americans, German Americans?
Keiko McCracken Anacortes, WA I am half white, half Japanese. I can’t count the times someone has asked about my race, commented on my looks or name, or altered their response to me based on how I appear. As a child, I was teased because of my background; as an adult, I’ve had someone run […]
Basundhara Mukherjee South Burlington, VT I was born in India, lived in Saudi Arabia, and grew up mostly in a small town in Vermont. English is in my blood, just like Bengali. When someone asks me why my English is so good, it reminds me of the ignorance that still, unfortunately, exists in this country. […]
Abel TX Speak English only they say. America is a melting pot; think American, be American. If you assimilate you will fit in and be treated equally! But when you assimilate, all that you gain is the loss of your cultural roots and your ethnic identity. Because, there is always someone around the corner to […]
Lisa Craig Washington, DC It’s a bit complicated. My father’s family consists of Scottish, Swedish, French, German, English, Mexican, and two different Native American tribes. My mother’s family consists of French-Canadian, English, Inquit (Alaskan Native Americans), and some other ethnicities that I am not aware of (I am not close to them). All of my […]
Erica Parker Southland, MI “Ebonics is retarded and anyone who speaks it is just showing their lack of a working knowledge of the English language.” These are the words that sparked an hour-long argument in the Student Life Center at my high school. These are the words from a White, wealthy, suburban boy who honestly […]
Nidia Rivera, Hyattsville, MD. “NO I don’t understand English”, is a common phrase that I am used to hear almost everyday when I moved to this country, U.S. It hurt when people who know English say to you that your English is terrible. However, as they said that, they encourage me to learn English, they […]
Angel Liu Los Angeles, CA I’m an international student studying in America. Since I was born and raised in China, I have an obvious accent when I speak English. People can easily guess where I come from and my ethical background is very simple. I identify who I am very clearly, but when living such […]
Natasha Jane Chrisandina USA Is it wrong for an Asian to speak good English? You ask, why do I speak such good English. I ask, why shouldn’t I?
Nancy Jane Grimes Smith Pittsfield, IL After being asked most of my life if I was any Indian (Native American) and saying no, mostly Irish, some Scot, And English my mom recently found that she is part Cherokee. I’m thrilled and would welcome DNA testing to find out what else may be part of me.
Yvonne Ramirez Dodge City, KS There are times where I have walked up to the register and and the cashier assumes I don’t speak English and they speak to me in Spanish. I don’t take offensive because the city I’m from is very diverse so I took it as them being helpful. It does make […]
John P. Olathe, KS Selected from Charlotte Seiler’s Social Problems class at JCCC.
Sameer Belgaumi Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan I’m a Pakistani-American who grew up in Saudi Arabia. I hear this question so often that I wish I had a better reason than “I was born speaking it.” The truth that English was one of the first languages I learned, seems like such […]
Margaret Anne East Arlington, VA
Karin Kross Levenstein Austin, TX Korean adoptee, adopted as an infant by white parents. “Are you Chinese? Japanese? What are you then?” Always weighing out exactly what is meant when someone asks “where are you from?”, and then that sinking feeling (after you say “I’m from Austin” or “I grew up in DC”) when they […]
James P. Ayers Ft. Wayne, IN Dear Michele, We enjoyed your Fort Wayne Presentation. My 6 and 5 words in two versions: THE RACE IS IS OUR CENTER or RACE IS AT OUR CENTER (in 5 words) I was tempted to ask a question as a follow up to your including the reference to diction […]
Anna Lemos Redlands, CA These words were spoken to me by an educator when he learned I was bilingual – I spoke English and Spanish. In his mind my English should have been heavily accented and broken.
Jenny Braintree, MA I used to work at my dad’s Chinese restaurant answering the phone and taking orders. One time a man came in to pick up his order and was shocked that I was Chinese. He out right told me I did not sound Chinese when I was on the phone with him taking […]
Janette Santos North Quincy, MA I was at the local grocery store mulling over which yogurt to get, when a middle-aged woman came up to me. The first words out of her mouth were, “Do you speak English?” I was so shocked at the time that before I could even get a chance to respond, […]
Elizabeth Liechti Chicago, IL Because I also speak German and Arabic I am sometimes VERY tempted to have a bit of fun with the person or persons making the assumption. Usually I say nothing and simply walk out of earshot, but once in a while I find it necessary to say, in English, “I can […]