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 […]
Courtnay S., Arlington, VA. Why are we so uncomfortable talking about racial privilege? Does anyone shy away from saying they are privileged because of their income, sex, language, or education? Western privilege exists. English-speaking privilege exists. On that same token, white privilege exists. It is okay to have money, to be male, to be American, […]
Penelope Howard, USA. I realized lately that while I don’t discriminate against skin color (as far as I know), a part of me discriminates against the way many black people talk. Did I learn nothing from My Fair Lady?
Juan Dominguez, Sacramento, CA. Mexican people say I am a shame to our people with gauges in my ears, the clothes I am wearing, the fact I do not have an accent when I speak. It’s like I was raised in America but by Mexicans that eat tortillas with every meal celebrate mothers day the […]
Nancy Simpson Martin, Anchorage, AK.
Lyron Andrews, Long Island City, NY. I used to be a minister back in the late eighties and I was visiting and speaking to a group of mostly elderly and all African-American parishioners in Harlem about managing through adversity. After the talk many approached me and warmly commended me and thanked me for sharing the […]
Carmen Mendoza Tintaya, Arlington, VA. My parents are from a remote village in Arequipa Peru, where only until 2006 accessible roads were built. Now with both my parents gone, I find myself looking for my identity and looking towards that little village. I haven’t made the trip yet. I moved to the US when I […]
KM, Austin, TX. I am current in college at one of the largest public universities. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a group of students sitting at a table and asking passerby’s to join their organization. One of the most numerous types would be the such&such Students’ Association. I am of mixed […]
Michael Chan, Maplewood, MN. I am half Chinese and half Caucasian, but my German and Hebrew language skills are much stronger than my Cantonese skills (my family’s language). So when I get the question, “Where do you come from?,” I laugh internally and typically spend a few seconds trying to figure out what exactly I’m […]
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 […]
Yasmin Igal, Seattle, WA. Africa is a huge continent made of 1000s of languages and assuming I speak African because I’m Somali doesn’t makes no sense whats-ever. Born in America and being raised here, children use to ask me that and i thought it was a joke, but sadly it was a legit question for […]
Maria Seattle, WA You’re Mexican? Then why the disguise? I was asked this by a viejito selling his wares in Tijuana, México, probably about 20 years ago. He had been shocked to hear me speak Spanish. I would of been in my early 20s, all rebellious with punked out bleached blond hair, red converse & […]
Chuy Benitez, Houston, TX. When you grow up at the collision of two countries, of two cultures, of two identities, you learn very quickly the different nuances between the two cultures and you adapt to appease whichever culture you have to encounter. It makes you more observant, but of course it doesn’t occur without making […]
Kristy, San Luis, AZ. The older I get the less fun it is for me to go places. Constantly getting judged for being Hispanic and worst of all assuming of what I can and cannot do, getting spoken in Spanish by non-Spanish speaking people is what’s worse. Why assume that I cannot speak English? Give […]
Kabao Lee, Sacramento, CA. I am Hmong and I am proud. I think it pretty much explains itself, but there are many people I know growing up who do not embrace their culture, needless to say I am proud of being Hmong. Even though many people do not know about the Hmong people, I am […]
Elysha O’Brien, Las Vegas, NV. Whites see me as Mexican, Mexicans view me as White because I don’t speak Spanish. I find it interesting that we don’t qualify other ethnic identities on the basis of language. Featured on NPR’s Morning Edition Segment: Living in Two Worlds but with Just One Language http://www.npr.org/2013/05/23/185839159/living-in-two-worlds-but-with-just-one-language
Stacy Reuille-Dupont, Durango, CO. This was a statement made to me by a woman at work. She was a client, me an employee. She had been curiously watching me. She was Finnish and had previously remarked that she struggled to capture English spoken around her. I assumed her glances were about language until one day […]
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.
Epiphanie Malloy Inkster, MI This stereotypical notion that women of color,especially us in the African American community, are incapable of orating with yell, screaming, being “angry and black” has become accedingly old hat. The shock an awe I receive when I properly articulate my feelings, ideas and general statements/responses is far more annoying and frequent […]
Cynthia Deras, GA. Are you hispanic? Why don’t you speak spanish? What part of Mexico are your parents from? Say something in Spanish! Your not really Mexican if you dont speak spanish. Basically thats the reaction I get from the latino community when someone finds out I dont speak Spanish. I lost Spanish as a […]
Keatan Oliva, McAllen, TX. Growing up near the boarder of Mexico, where I would often cross with my mother to have lunch on weekends, it seemed expected of me to know Spanish fluently. Although I was raised in a town named Rancho Viejo, which might even be considered nearer to Mexico and its culture than […]
M.H. Culley, CA. It is sad that my Indian Elders and Ancestors were taught to be so ashamed of being Indian that they tried to protect their descendents by not teaching us their songs and language. This is even more painful because in the 20th century out tribe was declared extinct by a white bureaucrat […]
Jaimie Scanlon, Brattleboro, VT. My husband is bilingual Japanese-American. His mother, raising three boys in Iowa in the 1960s, made sure her sons grew up speaking, reading, and writing her own mother tongue. Now all three men are completely bilingual and realize the value of the gift she gave them. Before our kids were born […]
Jorge Talamantes, Azusa, CA. Student ’15 I am a Latino man of Mexican and Cuban descent, so when people tell me that I speak Spanish well because I happen to have lighter skin and “can pass as a white boy”, I am offended that they relate skin color to race and ethnicity. My race and […]
Liz Kelly, Cleveland, OH. The big insight happened when I couldn’t understand the language no matter how hard I tried, although it was English. Knowing it was deliberate. Realizing “This is what marginalized people feel all the time– knowing they are hated without anyone knowing their thoughts or feelings or who they are.” Later I […]
E. Agardi, American Canyon, CA. Please speak English when in America.
Zoë Johnson, East Lansing, MI.
Sara Przybylski Stevens Point, WI People think this is a great place to live, work, and raise kids… and it is. Just under the surface, though, there’s a little more going on. I grew up here. I saw my first African American person at the grocery store at the age of four-ish and loudly complimented […]
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 […]
Nisha Ahamed Jersey City, NJ My mother is German, raised in Canada and my father is Indian Muslim. I was born and still live in the US. I grew up in a very white area, and now live in a very multicultural city. When I walk down the street in the Indian section of town, […]
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.
Ed Milkow Los Banos, CA I think it’s time we moved away from the language of racism. It feels false to most people, and ends more conversations than it starts. Very few people would recognize themselves as racist, and, in fact, it has been my observation that racism – the thought that a group of […]
Naomi Raquel Enright Brooklyn, NY My father was Jewish-American of Eastern European ancestry and my mother is from Guayaquil, Ecuador of African, Spanish, and Native American ancestry. I am bilingual, born in La Paz, Bolivia, raised in NYC and a citizen of all three countries. I am now married to an American of Irish and […]
Isaiah Santiago Philadelphia, PA My names Isaiah Santiago and I am Puerto Rican. Being Puerto Rican and being different is always something that I’ve dealt with in my life. I’ve always been called things like gringo(white boy) or just a fake Puerto Rican. All of this comes back to me not speaking Spanish. Everyone always […]
Erica Renee Contreras Houston, TX I’m from San Antonio Texas, quite possibly the most acculturated city with majority Latinos in the US. Growing up there was always so confusing. I don’t speak a word of Spanish. I live with the fact that no matter who I’m talking to, I inevitably end up feeling guilty for […]
Darcel Reyes Yonkers, NY I am a nurse and the concept of cultural competence is taught in nursing school and addressed in mandatory inservices in healthcare organizations. I am now a doctoral student and find that the topic is being researched to death. But white cultures get a pass on cultural competence. We only have […]
Dominic Lim Oakland, CA Like many 1st generation Filipino-American children, my parents never taught me Tagalog (Filipino), because they wanted me and my siblings to speak perfect English. And though I appreciate that they wanted to protect us from racism and bullying regarding any sort of accent we might get from learning Tagalog — I’m […]
Anonymous USA Real, round table discussions on race need to occur. But when people are concerned about being PC, they’re not honest. Honesty and understanding is need for progress.
Yamel T. Colorado Springs, CO I was always pushed away because I could not speak English when I was little. As a result people never really got to know who I really am. I feel like people should never assume or outcast a person because they speak only a certain language, because they never get […]
Claudia Delatorre Louisville, KY So much too say. I am Hispanic, white and grew up middle class. I have had Hispanics say I am not Hispanic enough because of the way I look and because I did not grow up in a ‘bario. I have gone shopping with my mother and spoken Spanish; store associates […]
Mary K. Coseo NY I am a Korean adoptee and was raised in the United States. I was reunited with my Korean birth family about 12 years ago. Although I am the same race as other Koreans and my birth family, what I really need to transcend the barriers is the ability to speak the […]