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Don’t believe everything that you think

Jim Schultheiss, St. Johns, MI. I have always felt that I needed to be very careful and thoughtful on issues related to prejudice. Growing up in as a white, heterosexual male in a community largely lacking diversity, I learned I needed to listen very carefully to the thoughts and experiences of others and not impose […]

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I’m not Iranian, I’m Puerto Rican

Darilis, Portland, OR. I moved from Puerto Rico to Michigan and people never knew what I was. Some thought I was Black, many thought I was mixed Black/White, and others thought I was Samoan. I recall one day I was at a store and a gentleman asked me if I was from Iran. I smiled […]

I was supposed to be white.

Brent A. Snavely, Paris, MI. I was raised by non-biological parents who had interviewed my white birthmother and had assumed my birthfather had also been white based on my birthmother’s general description of him.

The house I did not build

Adam Paberzs, Ann Arbor, MI. Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan Here are some other 6-word essays that you may use under my name (I know that’s probably breaking the rules – just wanted to share if nothing else). Whiteness. Welcome to the real world. Not who I thought I was. Fear. Guilt. Shame. Courage. […]

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I’m Wendy. Expected to be white.

Wendy A. Merritt, Omaha, NE. I heard Jamaal’s story this morning on my way to work and could see the similarities as an African American woman with a “white” name. Not so much anymore, but as a child I was teased for talking and acting “white”, as well. After attending a PWI (Predominantly White Institution) […]

My kid’s names will be normal

Anonymous, Canton, MI. As a conscious black man in America, I’m aware of the institutional racism that still exist. I am an educator in the urban community and have seen some names that will hinder some of my students from getting picked out of the pile of resumes. I’m thankful my parents named my brother […]

Then he died in our alley.

Sue Blanshan, Okemos, MI. My family lived in segregated Georgia when I was young. A playmates mother called the police to report a black man smelling her clean laundry on the back yard clothes line. The police came and chased him three blocks and shot him by our house in the alley. He died there. […]

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Learning I was a white girl

Rachel Robbins, San Francisco, CA. When I was child, we didn’t really have the commonly held words and concepts regarding the identities of biracial people the way we now do. So I was understandably a bit confused by my biracial family. My mom and aunties are biracial, and my own father was out of the […]

As Korean as you are Korean

Tesha Post, Holland, MI. I was adopted from Korea when I was six months old and grew up living in the U.S. with my White parents. As a result, I do not speak Korean or know how to cook Korean foods. People are often surprised to hear this– they may react with disappointment, confusion, or […]

Smile when you don’t like to.

Tim, Zeeland, MI. Some times i just think, “maybe if I smile they wont do any thing”, I feel so bad for even doing that. I should smile and be happy to smile, there people to so why don’t you smile at them like you do to your best friends. Think, what would you do […]

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I wish “white” wasn’t a race.

Eirann Betka, Grand Rapids, MI. I wish white wasn’t a race. Because where does that mean I come from? I am given five options of classifications to choose from. Five checkboxes. None of which correctly identify my origin, and of all of them, white seems vague and without a home. Where is white? How can […]

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Wait, you’re black? Are you sure?

Madison Jones, Lansing, MI. As soon as someone finds out that I’m half-black, the one drop rule sets in and I become full black. Also, everyone feels the need to verify if I’m sure of my heritage and not just confused or something since I’m so light.

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No…None of us were adopted

Madilyn Hays, Holland, MI. Me and my siblings are from all different ethnic backgrounds. I’m blond haired, blue eyed and full white. While my brother and sister are both of African American background, their great grand father was actually Louis Armstrong. And then my last two brothers are Puerto Rican. We all have the same […]

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People assume my daughter is adopted.

Rebecca Schwarzlose, Roayl Oak, MI. I am white and my husband is Indian. My daughter has my husband’s complexion. When we are together as a family people assume that she’s mixed but when I’m out with my daughter alone (which is most of the time) everyone assumes that she’s adopted. People ask me where she’s […]

Post racial society–dream not reality

Jennifer Woods, Okemos, MI. I am a 65 year old African American and am sick to death that in 2012 we are still, Still, STILL having this same tired conversation about race. That we still have to have “the talk” with our young men. That black people continue, decades after Dr. King’s dream, to be […]

We are lazy, we shouldn’t be.

Gil, Ann Arbor, MI. Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan I believe that discrimination and racist attitudes derives from human nature to be lazy. Because we humans are so lazy, we do not spend the effort and time to learn about the individual but instead, discriminate people by their skin color. This attitude is wrong, […]

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Human? We have something in common.

Brandon Attala, Grand Rapids, MI. ‘Race’ is just a way to classify ourselves on a more individual level. In actuality, we are all made up of 99.9% of the same DNA, and I think that should take priority over the color of our skin or our place of birth or ancestry.

Being blonde isn’t always more fun.

Heather Raymond Grand Rapids, MI Understanding Race Project – University of Michigan People say that “blondes have more fun,” but having light hair isn’t what it is cracked up to be. Many times I find myself at the receiving end of stigma when I have a “blonde” moment: dumb, human mistakes blamed on the color […]

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Born Norwegian, Raised American, not illegal

Linda Kristensen, Grand Rapids, MI. I am writing this for my daughter who is 34 with Autism. She became my daughter in 1980 when I was living in Norway. We returned to the USA in 1983 but my daughter even after 30 years is still not an American citizen. Here’s part of her story…. My […]

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Biracial by birth, Black by choice

Kimberly, Detroit, MI. I was just listening to Talk of the Nation with Celeste Headlee discussing Navigating The Lines Between Ethnicity And Identity and I could relate to notion of being biracial and adopted into a white family and having to explore my identity through education and exposure to other black people. I’ve learned that […]

“Lock your car while driving downtown.”

Michelle Allen, Grand Rapids, MI. I took drivers education in the summer of 1997, during a time when my hometown (a predominantly conservative, Christian Dutch community) was starting to become more heterogeneous. This lesson about locking my doors while driving downtown was strongly emphasized by my (white male) drivers ed teachers. It wasn’t until finishing […]

Please don’t ask me to jig.

Zee Brennan Grand Rapids, MI Often times when I share with people that I am Irish, many people aren’t surprised and demand that I dance a jig for them. Although I am also an accomplished Irish dancer, it feels as though there is an assumption among many Americans that all Irish know how to dance […]

At the hospice, everyone is blue

Debbie Taylor, Ann Arbor, MI. My mother passed away on December 14, 2012 of liver cancer at the age of 80 and she spent her last afternoon and night in Ann Arbor Hospice. The staff was loving, kind and professional. One nurse in particular examined my mother with such tenderness and care that I was […]

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Father failed his brown bag test.

Derrick Warren, Baltimore, MD. I remember my father talking to me about his college days in Missouri. There was this fraternity on campus that would require their prospective pledges to pass what was said to be a brown bag test. Essentially, if you were darker than the brown bag, you could not get into the […]

Most white college students don’t care

Gene Gruber, Houghton, MI. College students don’t seem to care about racial inequality, On campus, there is a lot of racial diversity but off campus is mostly dominated by white people. There is even a place where “the Asian people live.” Nobody ever seems to try to mingle outside of campus though. I wish there […]

We Created Race, Then Change It

Brent Vuglar, Houghton, MI. Just like any controversial subject where people do not see eye to eye, people tend to be close-minded to others opinions. This development of tension plants a seed of anger to one another. I myself grew up in a not so very diverse suburb, and when I was younger I believed […]

Aren’t WE all a little racist?

Skyler MI I come from a small town that is heavily populated by Mexicans so I was never really exposed to other races like Caucasians, Blacks, Asians, or any other race besides Mexican. It was very rare to see any other race and if I did see other races it was when I would go […]

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THE reason I have a scholarship.

Marilou Ingles, Romulus, MI. I am American Indian, I grew up in poverty, and I am from the South. I often joke that I received a scholarship to U of M because of my heritage. I do not believe that I would have been admitted based on academia, talent, experience, or personality; I am here […]

Black girl name, White girl speech

Terynee, East Lansing, MI. My name is Terynee, my sister’s names are Tyani and T’Asia. These are all names my mother thought to be creative and beautiful. I love my name and both my sisters names, but when people “Try” and pronounce it, it is repeatedly devoured. I get that it is different but sometimes […]

My ancestors do not define me.

R.M. Lutz, East Lansing, MI. My color does not define me. Why should being white make me feel guilty? I didn’t want slavery. I didn’t want Jim Crow. I didn’t ask to be born into a family that is upper middle class. But somehow, people blame me like it’s my fault. Like I wanted to […]

My color shouldn’t determine my future!

Tyler Logan, East Lansing, MI. Don’t fall under the pressure of society telling you that because of your skin color your path has already been chosen for you. Make your own path and lead the way for others regardless of what color your skin is! Success is colorblind!

It’s all about interactions with others.

Katelyn Prine, East Lansing, MI. As a white student who grew up in rural Michigan, my conception of race did not exist in my small community. For me learning about race is best done through meeting people who have faced the struggles and building relationships. Groups like MRULE on campus have inspired my growth and […]

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See me for who I am

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.

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Listen First. Pray Next. Speak Last.

Eric Nykamp, Grand Rapids, MI. My sense is that as white people, we too often choose to react or retreat from conversations about race because they are difficult to have. If we keep doing this, we don’t really make any progress. Yes, it is painful – for everyone. However, there is more beyond the pain. […]

Teasing Asians because they’re smart=DUMB

Lauren Dalecke-Sabandith, Holland, MI. About my whole life people teased me because I was Asian. I also hear people teasing other people to. People used to say “I’m smart because I’m Asian” and I told them it has nothing to do with being Asian, it is only my race. Asians aren’t born with a computer […]

I didn’t know they were different.

Tina S. Walther, Milan, MI. My mother was pregnant with me when she moved from upstate NY to the south in 1962. While the weather was nice the surroundings were challenging – especially for a white, woman, Catholic, with no accent and someone not willing to have a maid or gardener. So it was time […]

I cant trust white people fully.

Mr.Jones, Kalamazoo, MI. I feel that its very hard to trust white people due the their past/present, global destructive and deceptive nature. I know all white people aren’t bad but I feel that I have to be on guard when around them. I still see negative qualities in them that my grandad talked about from […]

It’s not racist, it’s segregated here.

Amanda Rae, Houghton, MI. I go to college in a very predominantly white city at the northern tip of Michigan. Here the student population is massively more diverse than the town around it. There are few black people but many Chinese and Indian students. There are no rules separating the different groups but we see […]

She gets to choose her identity

Felix Brooks Jr., Kalamazoo, MI As the father of a biracial child I told my daughter not to let anyone place a label on you. You get to choose for yourself . She took me up on that, and owned her own choice, and never struggled with who she was as a person .

You’re a tree in the forest.

Irene Li, East Lansing, MI. You’re not just a tree, you’re a tree in a forest. You are not a fish, but a fish in the ocean. You are not an individual person… but a person as part of a community. You have value as part of this beautiful network!

I try but stereotypes still linger

Anastasia Rogers, Detroit, MI. I am a firm believer that everyone, no matter if you’re a man, woman, or something in between, black, white, Asian, or a different race, should be treated equally and with respect. That being said, I often find myself making snap, harsh judgments about people that I’ve never even had a […]

Hispanic or Latino? I feel American

Hector Vargas, Grand Rapids, MI. I grew up on the east coast. The high school I attended was primarily populated by minorities. My mother is Mexican and my biological father is Brazilian. My mother remarried and i was raised with Mexican customs. On the East cost I was considered Latino, in the mid west I […]

Half white and half a man

David Conti, Grand Rapids, MI. What makes being half Mexican and half white so much more difficult is that I look 100℅ white. Half my family thinks of me as the white boy on the wrong side of the border and the other half sees me as the half breed, a blemish on their otherwise […]

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Apparently, I’m Jesus, or a terrorist.

John Abraham, Grand Rapids, MI. Thanks to my Italian and Lebanese heritage, I am blessed to say I have a fairly full beard and curly brown hair. However, these two attributes have granted me two common nicknames: “Jesus” or “Terrorist”. I suppose I look like many modern-day depictions of Jesus and when I’m referred to […]

I only know four black people

Gabriela Swain, Ionia, MI. I was raised in a predominantly White/Hispanic town in mid-Michigan. What few colored people that did live in my zip code I never interacted with because they were locked up in one of our correctional facilities. After going to a community college in Grand Rapids I had to face a lot […]

Stop using race as an excuse.

Gabrielle Hainley, Caledonia, MI. I understand that there is discrimination and racism in the United States. But, I also see many people of all races, ages and upbringing that use their race as an excuse to get away with things or as a way to make other people sound like people, when in fact, they […]

Do you love them the same?

Paige VandenBrink, Holland, MI. The worst question I have ever been asked is, “Do you love them the same?”. This was a question I was asked when I got a new adopted black cousin. I almost cried because I was too young to understand why anyone couldn’t love someone the same just because of a […]

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Highly educated black woman. …so what

Levaughn, Grand Blanc, MI. I’m a master social worker and received my accelerated advanced degree from a top ten university…MSU… I am an outpatient therapist and attained this job in less than a year from graduating. Which in my field is highly unlikely. I have worked very hard to go from poverty to the “American […]

For God so loved the WORLD.

Kim Laforet, Lansing, MI. When you consider that we were all created in His image, it’s hard to hate a group of people that look different than you. Look beyond race and you will see individuals with unique cultures that should be celebrated and not denounced no matter what the race is……including the White race. […]

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Black? White? Where are my Hispanics?

Janice Mendoza, East Lansing, MI. I moved to Michigan from Southern California in middle school. I was very shocked to find out that there were not many Latinos in my new area. I felt very out of place. I am current student at Michigan State. I loved the idea of diversity when I got accepted […]

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Colorblindness renders me invisible to you…

Dr. NiCole T. Buchanan, East Lansing, MI. I don’t want people to be blind to my color. Instead, I want them to see me in my entirety, including the fact that I am a Biracial Black woman, and I want them to actively embrace these parts that make me whole. I believe most people have […]

I don’t Want to be White

Holly Richmond, East Lansing, MI. I uttered this statement of shame at 12. My Dad said “sorry,nothing you can do about it now so live with it”. My Mom said “behave so you give whitey a good name”. I’ve been trying ever since but I still don’t want to be white!!!!!!!

Blinded grandfather gave granddaughter excellent vision

Nicole, East Lansing, MI. My grandfather was blind all my life. All I knew was that there was an accident. It wasn’t until he passed that I learned that the accident involved a white man. My grandfather was a doorman and was pushed into the glass door. My grandfather never spoke of the incident. I’m […]

More than just a “white” woman

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 […]