Family

Your hair’s pretty. What are you?

Renee Bracey Sherman. Oakland, CA. “Can I touch your hair?” they ask, hand already extended, a mere inch from my thick brown curls. I feel invaded. Living as a biracial woman isn’t the easiest thing in the world. People come up to me with an inquisitively tilted head and say “What are you?” If I […]

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Biker gangs have love for me

Richard Haynie, Oakland, CA. I walked into a roadside tavern near Allentown PA that had several motorcycles parked outside. Loving bikes, I thought nothing of it. Inside, a motorcycle “club” were the only patrons on that Sunday morning. I ordered some food and, despite a warning from the proprietor, decided to stay and eat there. […]

Ever had sex in the backseat?

Earlaine Williams, Oakland, CA. This is the question that was asked of me, when I was 17 years old, by the white man who was administering the driver test at the Depratment of Motor Vehicles in Richmond, CA in 1960. I was behind the wheel and he was the person who would determine whether or […]

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I will never really ‘get it’.

Celia Beasley, Seattle, WA. Being an upper-middle class white woman, I know I will never truly understand what it feels like to be a person of color in America. Despite my attempts to be aware of racism in this county through conversations, news stories, interviews, books, this website, etc, I know that I will never […]

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Wow, you speak English really well!

Sharmila Guha, Oakland, CA. It was my first summer job after high school. A man in the lunch room one day tried to ask shy me this odd questions… which just left me stunned. I was born and raised in Los Angeles; why wouldn’t I speak English well? I guess the “dad from India and […]

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Half Indian, Half German, totally American

Marika Oakland, CA People often ask me “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” which is par for the course for people like me who are ambiguously brown looking, which is how I’ve come to refer to myself. Over time I’ve noticed my attitude toward other people who ask these questions changing. I used […]

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Black-white man; white black man

Kirl T. Lawson, Oakland, CA. I have so many tales to share about my experience with my color (or lack of “definitive color recognition”). growing up in Chicago, I was called “a white n*****” by friends at times w/ affection and at times derisively. Initially the appellation hurt my feelings until I took an objective […]

Learned about race FEAR at 13.

Jay Bailinson Napa, CA In lived in Oakland CA. during preteen and early teen years. I belonged to a Boys Club sponsored by the Chinese Presbyterian Church in Oakland’s China town area. I played on sport teams in a church leagues sponsored by this church. I was one of two white boys on the team […]

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2042 can not come fast enough.

Nathan Henderson-James, Oakland, CA. 6 words is obviously limiting. However, my 6 reflect my own experience growing up as one of the few white kids in my local public schools. It was an education being constantly in the minority (in school, outside of those walls, I was comfortably back in a white affluent world) and […]

People say I’m not black enough

Yodassa Williams, Oakland, CA. Whenever I speak freely around strangers, I am reacted to as if I am an alien for being black but not “sounding black”. “You speak so well” they say, leaving out the ending, “for a black girl.” I’m irritated and saddened by the insult that a black person’s use of proper […]

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Indian dad, European mom, identified Latina.

Nisha Balaram, Oakland, CA. My dad would joke around, saying that my mom couldn’t help but fall in love with him when she first saw him. My mom was usually busy in the kitchen at the time, and would smile and roll her eyes in response to his comment; when the pungent scent of lentils […]

Reading actually helps quell racist thoughts.

Jules Jeung, Union City, CA. At this very moment, as I write this, destruction is going on in Oakland due to the decision of the grand jury in the Michael Brown/Ferguson case. I grew-up in Oakland. I hate having negative thoughts about another race and their experience in this country. I hate feeling like a […]

Guessing my race isn’t a game

Sheila Islam, Oakland, CA. You do not win a prize if you get it right. People hardly ever guess it right and thats not exactly the problem. The problem is, that when people do this, I feel objectified. I feel like my physical appearance is being ripped from me and being judged. I am so […]

No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

Benjamin Christy Laguna Niguel, CA This is the title of John Lydon’s autobiography, which refers to his upbringing as an Irishman in London. He was reminded of how the Irish were despised and how there used to be signs in apartment buildings and hotels that expressed their displeasure with these three races. I used to […]

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Not white, but my kids are?

Rob Silva Oakland, CA First generation with Indo-Dutch/ El Salvadoran heritage. Family has seemingly always been the non-white in the group, especially when listening to the my parents’ stories of assimilation. So strange then when my son was bullied at his new school in Berkeley for being the white kid.

The worst are the most visible.

Paul Hanchock Oakland, CA Almost every assertion about race is pushed to extremes, but most people aren’t extremist. The public mostly sees stories about people who exceed the boundaries of rationality and good sense.

Ambiguous Brown Girl with Big Hair

Caty Salas Oakland, CA Being a guessing game gets old. PC-ness has cut down on questions like “What are you?”, “What color are you?”, and “Is that really your hair?”, all of which used to sincerely baffle me when I was a kid. Now they just ask me where I’m from. Endlessly. I am from […]

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Lizzie’s Journey from Plantation to Farm

Michelle Hill, Oakland, CA. Our family is so fortunate that my great, great, great grandparents were not separated from each other and their children during slavery. Because the family stayed together, we have a family Bible, pictures and records that document their lives in this country. My great grandmother, Mama Lizzie, was born in 1870 […]

I am a happy, Latina Woman

Gabriela Rivero Oakland, CA What’s it like being a Latina living the United States? It’s not always the most easiest thing. You have people coming up to you asking you if you can speak English. “Of course I can” I think to myself. What kind country do we will in where people are being judged […]

Excuse me, do you do landscaping?

Ricardo Oakland, CA I was recently asked at a garden store if I did landscaping. I am a Mexican-American male, who is also a sergeant for a medium sized city police force in the Bay Area. I must say I was dressed shabbily, driving a small pick up, a lime tree in the cab, a […]

“Good Morning!” But there’s no response.

Clyde Jasper Oakland, CA I’m a tall black man with dreadlocks. I’m a husband and a father. I’m a property owner, and a taxpayer. I’m a veteran. I vote. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a world class university in Berkeley, CA. In passing, I many times acknowledge a white persons presence and humanity with […]

Gun robbery, scared of black, racist now?

Olga Kazakova Oakland, CA I was robbed at a gun point by two black men a couple of years ago. Now when I see black men walking towards me and no people around I cross the street. Does it make me a racist? I live in a very beautiful, diverse but high crime city.

But you aren’t white, are you?

Sally Oakland, CA I am white but I grew up in Alabama where my tan skin and my dark hair and eyes made everyone question my ethnicity and ask my blonde haired blue eyed mother if I was adopted. I’ve been asked “What are you?” all of my life and now that I’m married to […]

Struggling souls behind different skin colors

Jack Faulkner Oakland, CA Atttended an “interracial dialogue” in a psychiatric clinic in 1966. The two sides, black and white were polarized. Finally, a blind man said he had been lisrening carefully but could not understand what the conflict was all about. He concluded: “You see, I am a member of a third minority.”

No other boy will date you.

Deborah Lewis Oakland, CA Howard had a girlfriend. But, we used to chat at work. He invited me to go get pizza with him. I asked my parents who were incredibly strict. My mom said that I could not go because Howard was black and if other boys saw me with him, they would never […]

White moms avoid my black son.

Anne Janks Oakland, CA Many privileged white people who live in the Bay Area of California believe that there’s a high level of tolerance and little prejudice here. White moms steer their child away from a seat next to my 7 year old boy. We went to the county fair and the seat next to […]

White privilege while crossing busy streets

Elizabeth Alford Oakland, CA White privilege goes wholly unnoticed and unacknowledged by a lot of white folks. Talking about it often makes people defensive. I recognize my white privilege every time I come up to a street corner with a person of color already waiting to cross, and cars stop for my white skin and […]

Dark White Guy, Please Stay Mute

Joe DiPietro Oakland, CA As a short, dark white guy who’s been called “kike,” “spic,” and “raghead” by white guys, “gringo” or “anglo” by Hispancis, “dago” and “WOP” by blacks, I’ve learned what voice I have in the discussion about race and ethnicity. None. Yeah, I know–I haven’t lived the oppression. I’ll be a good […]

I can’t speak my own language.

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 […]

Mexicans take unwanted jobs; Why Complain?

Carlos Rodriguez Oakland, CA I’m a typical Mexican-American teenager, who eats beans and tortillas every day. When I hear people who are unaware say, ” We should just deport the Mexicans, they’re taking our jobs.” I can’t help but say something. Mexicans work hard everyday with low wages. If you notice, Mexicans work as janitors, […]

Waiting for, “Are you the nanny?”

Emily Miller Oakland, CA I shouldn’t have been surprised when my youngest daughter was born with White skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair. She looks just like her Dadddy. But she doesn’t look like me. My eldest daughter has my brown skin, eyes, and hair. But I still shouldn’t have been surprised. I’m mixed race. […]

The price of privilege is fear

Erika Malinoski Oakland, CA When I was in college, I ran psychology experiments on volunteer college students, and I was always perfectly comfortable running the experiment late at night alone in the building except for the participant. Until I went to do the exact same thing I’d done a hundred times with a Black participant. […]

I can count my brown friends.

Liz Hohl Oakland, CA Race is so intrinsically linked and correlated to wealth, education, and power. I frequently consider my surroundings and realize how few daily interactions I have with people who are not white. My job, my community, my wealth accentuate disparities and separations that fall along lines of ethnicity and skin color. In […]

Do articulate whites also impress you?!

Charles Reynolds Oakland, CA From time to time my black family or friends of color will receive an odd “complement.” Apparently our fluid command of the English language is worthy of an at-a-boy. The, “wow, you’re articulate!” observations do not always smack of adulation but bigotry. Before you “compliment” in this way ask yourself a […]

WW TWO VETERAN POTUS BARACK OBAMA

Leo Howard Galloway Oakland, CA Retired military. As PIC of the annual Veteran’s day celebration at St. Benedict Catholic Church, I knew despite the outcome of the election I would have to stand before my church family regardless. That Sunday, November 11, 2012 I was able in uniform to stand tall before them and say […]