Janice Cooper, MN. My newly married parents immigrated to the U.S. from Germany via Ellis Island during the mid 50’s to follow the American Dream. Growing up in small town Michigan and attending Catholic school, my younger brother and I were constantly accused of being Nazis during our grade school years. Even though my parents […]
Yonah Vang, Fresno, CA. Most of the time in high school, students who are not Asian are really confused. They can not understand that the Hmong ethnicity is a type of Asian. They also constantly assume that I was born in a different country.
Rahul Iyer, Mesa , AZ. I graduated high school from Dixon IL, a small town halfway between Rockford and Moline, in the Northwestern part of Illinois. Dixon IL is a small town, and boyhood home of former President Ronald “Dutch” Reagan. Cornfields surrounded the town. I am the son of two medical doctors who practiced […]
Colin Schmidt Sun Prairie, WI I worked at a retail store in high school, and this struck me as an example of the subtle racism that still pervades our daily lives.
Margaret Sullivan Decorah, IA In high school in the 60s my friend was told that she “knew too many white people” and that if she didn’t drop us her boyfriend would get the crap beaten out of him. To this day I’m not sure why her boyfriend was to be the victim.
Lu Ann Joplin The Villages, FL I was in junior high, she was in high school. I’m white, she’s black. She asked if she could sit with me. I said sure. It didn’t occur to me it could be a problem. I really got the treatment everyday when she got off the bus. The bus […]
Ava, Westchester, IL. Here is my Anatomy Class during spirit week!
Patricia L. Gadsden, Central, PA. As an African American female in the 1960’s, I was discouraged from attending college. It was explained to me that I wasn’t college material. I’m not sure what they really meant since I graduated with straight A’s from high school.
Patty Reed, Greenville, SC. Originally from Pennsylvania, I’ve lived here the majority of my life but I cannot say I’m a native South Carolinian. While it seems to be more widely acceptable now, during my high school years in a small town it wasn’t okay to be from “up north somewhere”. A foreigner in my […]
Epifanio Rios, Philadelphia, PA. My name is Epifanio, I am a fourteen year boy who attends the high school SLA. I probably know as much about race as the next guy but I think race is perceived differently by everyone. To me I think race can’t only be defined through your skin tone but were […]
Jessica Eaton, Minot, ND. My maiden name is “Hess” and carries a lot of weight for being a “Nazi name”. Growing up, other students in school would call me a “Nazi” because of my last name and distant relation to a couple of people who took part in the Nazi regime. I didn’t like it, […]
Christine Faris Lufkin, TX Actually, no. Yes, I was blessed to come from a middle class family. And yes, I’ve been blessed to travel the world. Wanna know how? I worked my ass off. Blew out a knee, graduated high school early, started college at 16, took summer school, worked multiple jobs, all so I could […]
Julia Rivers, Milwaukie, OR. As a high school student dependent on scholarships in order to attend college and reach my goals of a much higher level of education, every day I am consumed by the thought of how I can make myself stand out. What will make the people in charge want to give me […]
Andrea Vonstein, Akron, OH. During high school, I was considered the whitest black girl because I got along with them so much.
Nathalie Barahona, Kearns, UT. For many years throughout my middle school and high school years as I was growing I felt as though many of my teachers doubted my abilities or intelligence in some classes that may have been harder such as honor or concurrent courses because of the lack of minority students that actually […]
Nona Lynn Simons Orangevale, CA My Six Words: Have you ever felt different from everybody else? I have and sometimes I still do! In the fifth grade, I was different because I was part Jewish and my classmates weren’t. They went to church and I didn’t. During the last week of school, one of my […]
Heather Holdridge, Dunwoody, GA. I am a high school student and every time I take a standardized test it asks me for my race and ethnicity. Why do these questions matter? We are all human.
Kristin Christy, Frederick, MD. When my son began high school in the fall of 2011, he chose not to request a locker; preferring instead to wait until he was assigned one as a baseball player in the spring. I admired Chaz’ confidence to be selected to the team, but wondered where he would keep things […]
Nathan Krasniak, Moreno Valley, CA. As a young child, my parents instilled a solid work ethic and introduced me to setting goals. 18 years later I am so very thankful! Initially I wasn’t very receptive. I didn’t understand why my friends didn’t have chores and I had quite a bit of them. My parents would […]
Jake Carrasco O’Connell, San Francisco, CA. I chose my six words to be: society is crashing, be white passing. I chose these six words because my whole life I’ve seen that if you can pass for white that it is just as good as being white. I attended a predominately white private high school and […]
Ashley Cooper Hair, Washington,DC. Georgetown Day School In the town where I went to high school, the privilege I felt was one of class. There were almost no people of color. Living in Washington, DC, I feel my white privilege constantly. Not only am I not followed around Best Buy, my shopping bags are never […]
Cierra Garza, Parlier, CA. When I first moved to my new high school 15 minutes away from my hometown, I had no friends. I am now a senior in high school. I’ve met new people and made friends but, one thing that always comes up when someone is comfortable with me is the phrase, “I […]
Michel Bassadon, White Plains, NY. I was born in Morocco. My mother was Austrian and my father Jewish Moroccan, known as Sephardic. In high school some of my peers said my accent was French, others said it was Spanish. They decided I was from Monaco, especially since my first name was French. For a long […]
Skye Carr, Virginia Beach, VA. Throughout middle school and high school, people used to always call me an “Oreo” because I was one of the few black students in my class that spoke properly and enunciated my words. I’m curious when enunciating became something that only white people did.
Samantha, Seattle, WA. I’m an Asian American woman who gets this all the time. Throughout high school, people assumed that because I was Asian, I should be smart. Most times I laughed it off, but that’s allowing the stereotype to live on. It’s interesting to look back and see how other Asians in my year […]
Mariah Frisk, Morris, MN. Being from a small town in northern Minnesota, I haven’t been exposed to much culture in my day. My sophomore year of high school, I took a trip to New Orleans with my church for the 2012 National Youth Gathering. We were there to help the community recover from Hurricane Katrina. […]
Treysea, Tacoma, WA. I grew up in San Diego, CA in a predominantly blue-collar, working class, relatively ethnically and racially mixed community. Most of my friends and classmates growing up came from two-parent families – however strained or toxic the home, although there were plenty of kids that were also in foster homes or lived […]
Fannie Blakely Philadelphia, PA Was in a gifted class in junior high school. First day in an advance math class teacher informed me not to worry, but I would never be as smart as the other kids, that it was not in my genetic make-up. I aced that class (highest grade) and every other class […]
Heather Melberg, Renton, WA. I am born and raised in Seattle. Lived in Japan my junior year of high school. Fascinated with all races and cultures and our stories of now and the past.
Margaret Davenport, Vienna, VA. This was said to me by a black male student in a high school program for disadvantaged but very bright, high potential students where I was academic adviser and counselor. It was said with a combination of dismay that there were few men or blacks working in this kind of program, […]
Nicholas Howe, Northhampton, MA. Smith College I attended a mixed-race suburban public high school in Connecticut, where I competed on both the swim team and the track team in the late 80’s. Only one member of the swim team was African American, and his race was the elephant in the room that nobody would talk […]
Mona Khadr, Washington, DC. “But where are you from, originally?” is a question I get a lot. When I was younger, I answered proudly (“Egyptian!”) because my heritage was something that made me unique from my mostly white-American peers in the suburbs of MD and PA. As I got older and entered high school, college, […]
Leighayn Green, Nutrioso, AZ. When I see the Confederate flag on something, I am wary and a little fearful of the person who put it there. My dad and his dad are from Texas. I remember my granddad exclaiming in awe and admiration a run Tony Dorsett made for the Dallas Cowboys back in the […]
Sara Tall, Submitted via Twitter: @saractall. In my super diverse high school we would have said “So acceptable we all crack jokes.” Low income = high understanding.
Anonymous, Spokane, WA. Playing on the radio when my 16-year-old friend in high school came back to school after her brother was murdered someone playing Russian Roulette while drunk in her home. Native American Family
M C Antone, Ft Lauderdale, FL. In 1969 I told my parents that I would rather dance with the black kids at a high school dance. My father stated he did not want anyone calling his daughter a “n*****” lover. I retorted “I am and I’m proud of it” Then he struck me. I can […]
Maria Pacheco, Riverside, CA. My parents never graduated high school. None of my family members have ever been to college. But this Chicana wants to be the first one to make a difference in my family to show them that it is never too late to go back to school and earn a degree. I […]
Joelle Kanyana TN Going to school in a town where I’m in the minority as a black girl (Burundian heritage, Ghana-born, American citizen) has its interesting experiences. One that always seems to repeat itself is the matchmaking by my classmates with the black guys there. I’ve had this conversation many times before: “Joelle, you’d look […]
Karen Gold, Atlanta, GA. Collected during: Six Word Stories on Education Last fall, ProPublica and The Race Card Project teamed up with two Tuscaloosa, Ala., high schools — one integrated, one almost entirely black — to tell the story of resegregation in the South. I am a 25 year veteran teacher in metro Atlanta GA […]
Andrea Krida Goff, Providence, RI. I’m a teacher in a wonderfully diverse urban high school in Providence. Every year during Spirit Week, one of the days is devoted to cultural celebration. We have African-Americans wearing colorful headwraps, Asians wearing kimonos, Dominicans waving their country’s flag, and me. Every year I struggle with a wardrobe that […]
Margarita, San Marcos, CA. Many people have judged not just me but my parents as well because of their citizenship status, we’re not good enough, just a burden to society. People have said that I won’t finish high school because I’ll end up pregnant by my senior year. My parents have had trouble getting jobs […]
Caroline Kish, Dunwoody, GA. I will not deny that race continues to reek extreme havoc on modern day social order. I see it every day at my high school, in the news, and even on the billboards lining the highway. We can all say that we ‘don’t see color’, but in reality, there are not […]
Tom Vásquez, Seattle, WA. I was in high school when this happened. I’m a son of a Mexican-American, so I’m 50% Mexican blood. 50% French-Canadian and English. When I was in high school, I was struggling to understand what it meant to be Mexican-American. The other Mexican kids in my school … well, the ones […]
Mary Smith, Fort Collins, CO. “Growing up in southeast Texas, I went to segregated schools until high school – Junior year. Laundromats and water fountains bore these signs. I asked my parents why we lived in a place with such hateful attitudes, and they said, “”If people with better values didn’t live here, things would […]
Jonah Gerry, Haslett, MI. My name is Jonathan Gerry and I organized my Black Student Union at my high school. This quote was inspired because we have all been discriminated against. And it’s what’s on the inside that matters.
Jules M. Marquart, Louisville, KY. In Louisville during the pre-busing 1960s, this “screening” question was based on assumptions and generalizations about race and class. A high school in the West End of the city–African-American (Negro or Black back then) and poor; in the South End–white and red neck; and in the East End–white and privileged.
Rachel Butler, Japan. I’m from Virginia, from a primarily white town. I went to a pretty white high school, but had a mixed group of friends all the same. I went to the University of Nebraska, which isn’t known for any great ethnic diversity, but it was welcoming to all. I was a collegiate track […]
Brandi Schroeder, East Lansing, MI. I have a rather diverse group of friends, and the other day one made a comment about my origins. I grew up in a predominantly caucasian town where my high school held maybe 10 black students. My friend, who happens to be Somali, asked this question, and upon my answer […]
Peter Alison, Richmond, VA. I come from an Austrian mother and an American father, so when people ask me about my ethnic background I tell them I’m half-Austrian. Throughout middle and high-school this elicited responses asking me if I hated Jewish people, or if I praised Hitler. It was annoying at first, but later it […]
Harry Dapron I was a white, nerdy, shy, socially invisible teenager in senior high school. She was a beautiful, black classmate with a lovely, engaging smile that I would see when she turned around in her seat in Latin class to talk to me! I liked her and she seemed to care about and maybe […]
Annie Woodbridgem VA In high school, a white male classmate once said this to me. I am a half-Korean, half-Dominican woman. I had no idea how to respond. The context I perceived was that he meant that I spoke very clear, unaccented English, ate American-typical food staples for lunch, got excellent grades, and was in […]
Nancy Rawn Storrs, CT I have been so proud of my beautiful boy for all of his 20 years. He struggled with so many high school identity issues but it has been especially painful to watch him struggle with the big question of “Who am I?” in this white community and white family. He has […]
Randall E. Dalton, MD Somerset, KY Above is the comment of a white Cincinnati, Ohio police officer when I left the ranks of a “sit-in” in a public high school, in the aftermath ot the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King, to go to the restroom — I was subsequently arrested.
Janice Lowe New York City, NY My mother, Dr. Willa Lowe was one of the first black English teachers in several high schools in New Jersey, Washington, DC and Ohio. She was part of that first wave of school integration in which talented African American teachers were hired before African American students were admitted. She […]
Raj Merchant Philadelphia, PA Hey my name is Raj Merchant. I am Indian so technically I am Asian. I am a high school student, and I go to a magnet school called Central High School of Philadelphia. My grandfather said this line when I was going over the thing that were on the PSAT. When […]
Katrina V. Cromwell, Pearl Harbor, HI. My father is Hispanic and White and my mother is Black. They met in high school and they have been married for 28 years. I knew nothing about racism until my father sat me down as a kid and told me about things that my parents went through in […]
Jessie V. West Sacramento, CA. As a little girl I was always told “you have such pretty hair” and then with that i was asked what are you? As a kid I never thought about it until I got older.It wasn’t until I was in High School that that phrase used to bug me. At […]
Elizabeth James Sugar Land, TX I wasn’t really aware of this till I became older, yea my mom looked different than I and pretty much everyone mostly on my moms side of the family but I never put much thought into it. I got this a lot in middle school and high school actually “Well […]
Powerful words from a high school student—shared during the second annual Youth Diversity Forum with a room full of Washtenaw County high schoolers—helped set the tone for a day-long discussion Friday at Eastern Michigan University.
About 200 students and teachers from every public school district in Washtenaw County attended the forum, held at EMU’s College of Business in downtown Ypsilanti.
High school students participate in a social identity exercise at the second annual Youth Diversity Forum at Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business in Ypsilanti.
Ava Raddatz Drake University Des Moines, IA
Josie Villanueva Washington, DC “… pick our melons on my Daddy’s farm.” she said to me, with wide eyes, on one of the first days at Hoosier Girls State. I was one of the very few Latinas in the program, a delegate chosen for my academic excellence and leadership at my high school. I think […]
Irene M. Pepperberg, Swampscott, MA. I was in high school, a racially integrated one, in the 60s, discussing racial issues with a contemporary black woman, an honors student, headed for a fine college. I asked her why she was so angry, what kind of discrimination she felt, living in a middle class community, going to […]
Mark Babbitt Clayton, NC I was born in 1954 in Western Massachusetts. I was raised to be color-blind. I still remember a friend of my father, who was black, came to our house in the late ’50s and had a reel to reel recorder. Thought that was the coolest thing ever. The color of his […]
Nancyann Irvin St. Helens, OR I would find it insulting if I were constantly told I was a helpless victim and could not do anything to improve my lot. As a woman I grew up in a time when women did not do certain things because they were incapable. I was not allowed to go […]
Dan Rinzel Washington DC A memory from my junior high school bus in DC in the early 1980’s.
Marianna Boncek Woodstock, NY I am a high school teacher. I have been accused of being a racist so many times I can’t count. I am not a racist, nor have I ever been. I actually have a multi-racial family by marriage. The first time a student accused me of being a racist I was […]
David Painter Winter Springs, FL I had a black southern Mammy in 1963 (who I adored), graduated from private, elite, lily-white high school in 1981, and welcomed my first niece, who’s mother is black, into the world in 1991. I have benefited from white privilege throughout my life, but most frequently black people bestowed the […]
Kristen Hartke Washington, DC I have been a DC public school parent for 14 years, and my daughter is about to graduate from high school. She has always attended schools that were at least 80% African-American with about 30% of the students in the free lunch program. I have been a longtime volunteer, working particularly […]
M. Griffin Tampa, FL As a public high school teacher I hear this word thrown around often and generally it is applied to brown skinned students. The exception is when your white and you’re “acting” like one of the brown-skinned students. I use the term “brown skinned” because many of the white students equate brown […]
Robert Whitley Renaissance High School class of 2013 Detroit, MI
Jacob Barshaw Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan For my entire life I have lived in in a town called Sterling Heights. When I was in elementary school, close to 800 children went to my school. Only one was black. Until last year, not one black person owned a house in my […]
John D Gardner Overland Park, KS I was in high school from 1979 to 1981. During that time there were a few girls that I thought were pretty decent, who happened to be black. I’m white, and was awkward, lonely, scared, and so forth. I figured that if I asked them out I’d be seen […]
Jennifer Ashland, KY I am from a small city in Kentucky… people automatically think “Do you have your teeth”, “Do you wear shoes”, “She hates “colored” people”.. while all of these are simply uneducated guesses. I truly didn’t realize how bad racism was until I got older and in high school. I went to a […]
L.C. Phoenix, AZ In youth we never noticed our skins were different shades. We rode the same bus, lived on the same street, were in all the same clubs and classes, graduated high school in the same robes and cords. I hope I’m not just another white girl to you, too.
Ryan Wilcox Urbandale, IA My parents moved my sister and I out of Milwaukee in the early 1970’s to avoid the repercussions of desegregation. We were very young at the time so we did not understand the reason for the move. Later on my siblings and I attended an inner city high school, Washington Park […]
Alexis C. Oakland, CA Student of Ms. Tunik at Bishop O’ Dowd High School in Oakland, Ca.
Clyde Taylor Milwaukee, WI I’m 56. When I was a teen, I thought that by now (the 21st century) race would be far less an issue in American life than it was when rioting broke out just a mile from my home in the summer of 1967. Too bad, I was wrong. From “rag head” […]
High School student Great Falls, VA
High School student Washington, DC