Gabby Mbeki, Boston, MA. In the fall of 1997, I started 6th grade at a day independent school in Connecticut. I grew up in a predominately West Indian neighborhood surrounded by faces like mine, but my father wanted me to have a more rigorous education. I entered the school being one of three students of […]
Rose Johnson, Redwood City, CA. I feel so dirty. I don’t know why. I feel racist even though I go out of my way to be kind to all the Mexican kids at my school, or the homeless African-American guy who camps near the 7-11 I go to after school, because I know they probably […]
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 […]
Thomas M. Lenz. Weston, MA. I was the white kid in Providence. I stayed in my 4th grade class where I was happy. The Black kids were forced to come to unfamiliar territory and join us, and their neighborhood was closed. No wonder they became angry at the White world. Who wouldn’t be?
Elizabeth Swenson, Hacienda Heights, CA. I went to school in NC were it was predominately black & white in2006. My husband and the majority of my friends are Hispanic or Spanish descent. I never really though racism exist coming from LA, CA were its divers. But here I saw people say nasty things, dirty looks, […]
E.C. Boyd, Canton, OH. I was not born, but I was raised in a predominantly white neighborhood because the school system was better in Perry Township than the low-income, mostly black Canton City Schools. As the only black person on my school’s debate team, I dealt with a lot of people surprised that I could […]
King Kellz, Fayetteville, NC. We only learn what America has taught us about our specific race.
Cameron McCall, Fontana, CA. The reason I choose these six words is because I don’t like how I am stereotyped to be un-educated and ghetto. I am a proud African American male in college and I am proud of the proper english that I use.
Laura Reeder, Boston, MA. I teach teachers. I am a teacher. I am exhausted by the confusion that we perpetuate about who deserves to learn and who needs to be schooled.
Ryan Mearig, Fountain Valley, CA. School does a great job of giving you the surface level depiction of slavery. It took 22 years to learn that every foreign race was oppressed, and that we thought it was ok.
Anna Hill, Dallas, TX. I assist Hispanic school children with their homework after school. They bring their issues to me and the majority are black educators making differences between black children and Mexican children.
Katie Rotondo, El Segundo, CA. I’ve been learning a lot about race and ethnicity lately. Looking back, it bothers me how many times I was asked what ethnicity I am, responding by saying I am Italian, and getting the famous saying, “But you don’t look Italian!” This is a daily response. Just because I don’t […]
Susan Duncan, Bristol, NH. When I was in the fourth grade, my family moved from Concord, North Carolina, to Leaksville (now Eden), North Carolina. Our street, Patrick Street, was parallel to Henry Street and the dividing line between the “white” neighborhood and the black/African-American neighborhood. Our next door neighbor, Miss Mary, had a large yard […]
Barry M., Canada. Whether at work, in school, in a neighbourhood… especially a new one you moved to, as a Black person, especially as a Black man your acceptance is conditional. Your every mistake is taken as a reason you do not belong. When you do right no one notices. Anyone is allowed to make […]
Dave R. Oakland County, MI Black America has proven me wrong. When I was young and dumb, I believed racism was the realm of idiots and red-necks. As I have grown older, I see the culture of Black America is little more than a drain on society. They and them are words I never thought […]
Rebekah Bickford, Baldwin, ME. My white family moved from Indiana to Mississippi in 1977, when I was 8 years old. Our family was seen as “Northern Yankees” and we were not welcomed by many in the white community. The black children were kind to me when I entered school and quickly became my friends. I […]
McKinley Dixon, Richmond, VA. In the dominantly caucasian school that my sister used to attend, she would get picked on for her hair being curlier and fuller than the other girls in her school. It got to the point where she would straighten it every morning before we go to school. Damaging her hair, for […]
Georgia Calhoun Kingwood, TX
Star Houston, TX I am a 15 year old middle class white girl. I lTexasove everybody. Why do black/mexican/etc. people I have never meet bully and a avoid me? I go to a school where my brother and I are the only white kids, and he is my only friend. Racism is real and its […]
Storm Alexander Brooklyn, NY
Vicki Vardaman Lynn, IN When I took my 4 year old grandson to the Indianapolis Children’s museum’s exhibit of Ruby Bridge’s school and the reproduction of the empty classroom she entered, he listened intently to the story and replied, “Mamaw! I did not know that!”
Patti Bear Middletown, DE This was a exchange when I was in 5th grade, over a call in a kickball game. I know now what I was supposed to call my friend after she called me a cracker but I thought she was making fun of my white face with freckles so I responded with […]
Bobbi Siegelbaum Bronx, NY I found my political voice and activism as a 10th grader in 1961, in my Social Studies class during a lesson on bussing. My teacher was a racist.
Shen Lin Philadelphia, PA I’m originally from mainland China but spent most of my developmental years in Europe. After moving to the US I realized the extent to which people are able to connect so deeply with their racial heritage and express their opinions so freely in this country is enviable by the standards of […]
Jenna Roberts Sacramento, CA I was raised in a low income area, primarily white and latino. My experience with African Americans was very limited until I moved to Sacramento, a relatively large city compared to where I’d come from. It was the first time I’d experienced “Urban Youth.” I’ve lived here for 14 years, and […]
Karen Bentwood, TN with me about what her name really was, as opposed to how the professor said it. She would say her name, the professor would butcher it, she would continue to make her points in the class discussion. After class, I decided to talk with her about the interaction. She graciously took the […]
Amber Roberson-Rowell Essex, MD That was my second incident of prejudice and what instilled in me that race–the color of my skin–was a problem. The first was during my first day of pre-school and being pushed off a tricycle by a little white boy and being told “You don’t belong here!” I was the ONLY […]
Edward Lyons Boston, MA If all schools provided a quality education, it wouldn’t matter so much how we decided who went where.
Joan Goldbach Winter Park, FL When I was in high school, the classrooms were integrated. The cafeteria, though, was segregated – by choice, not school mandate. Please tell me that this isn’t the case anymore.
Moira O’Connell Morristown, NJ
Jaxon Isaac Stams New York City, NY Brooklyn In my school, there are more non-Caucasians and are of multiple races. In my family, my grandparents on my father’s side are interracially married, including my Uncle Ron, who is Trinidadian. On my mom’s side, my mom’s aunt is married to a man from Yemen.
Ryan Owen Milwaukee, WI The problems we see in our schools are a result of the bigger problems that are acceptably in grained in our society.
Alisha Ragan New York City, NY Brooklyn My six words come from practically every field trip and public outing I have taken my students on over the past 7 years. Both teaching here in Brooklyn and teaching LA, people have told me my kids are ‘well behaved for black kids’ or ‘so nice for Mexican […]
Tamika Brown Atlanta, GA Race and socioeconomic status are nearly inseparable. And nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in American classrooms. Education has become a battle between those who have, and those who have not.
David Gire Camargo, IL Life
Maureen Curran New York City, NY Staten Island The words by the Jacob Lawrence poster talking about people in Brooklyn in 1962 calling for school desegregation in our schools, breaks my heart when combined with this weeks news story about NY having the most segregated schools in the nation. Why? When will injustice cease?
Amanda Hemet, CA I know how it feels to be judged only on the color of your skin. In 8th grade during the LA riots I went to school just like any other day. When I got there I was confronted by a large group of students who began yelling at me. This quickly escalated […]
Monica Walker Columbia, SC
Cynthia Cahoon Moyock, NC In 1970, I was a junior in high school and new to that school. As a member of the drama team, I made friends with Julia and Carlton and friends ere few and far between when you’re new. Since I had a car, after school and before drama practice, I would […]
Theil Baumann Ramsbey Smithfield, RI Everyone was so friendly when my family moved when I was in second grade. It was because, a classmate told me years later, they had never had a Negro in their class before. I am Caucasian but have olive skin that can tan deeply (although I never do this now!).
Ted Hochstadt Falls Church, VA This is approximately what my mother said to me when I asked her why our African-American cleaning woman could not read the word I asked her about from my second grade reader. The conversation with my mother occurred in Brooklyn, NY almost 65 years ago, but I still remember that […]
Maya PS Boston, MA Growing up in a color-challenged yet friendly midwest suburb, we were one of 3 families of color in our local school. Even though it was not an issue for most of our childhood, sometimes the desire to squelch our culture reared its ugly head. We did try to assimilate as much […]
Sharren Wellsboro, PA I was floored when a special education teacher called me a racist because I did not give her daily lesson plans I had developed on my own. The daily plans took hours to develop, and she never volunteered to help. Instead she made copies for herself, without my knowledge, to use in […]
Debbie Spragg Brisentine Plain City, OH I was born in 1954, lived in Mt. Pleasant Ohio, pop. approx. 500. Attended school from 1959-1972. Had both white and black friends but, to me, they were all just friends – no difference! I never knew anything about racial issues until maybe 1969, 1970. It was an idyllic […]
Kit Arnquist Longville, MN In 1968 I was a senior in high school. The day after Dr. King was assassinated, the principal asked if anyone would like to speak about him over the intercom. I did. My friends would not sit with me on the bus that afternoon.
Haley Powell Santa Barbara, CA Me and my friends have noticed and talked about this before- it’s not like we tried to avoid making any black friends, it’s that we were never even presented with an opportunity in our schools.
Sue Schiller USA Rather than integrate them, our city closed the public schools in September 1958. When they reopened in January 1959, Geraldine (I know her last name, I will never forget it) was the only Black student in my school. I will never forget seeing her walk down the hall during change of classes, […]
Deb Wunder Brooklyn, NY Thank you for doing this.
Deborah Council Wilmington, DE In 1970, I was doing my practice teaching in Barrington, NJ and took on of my student’s to an outing. When I returned her to her home, her mother informed me that the neighbor approached her and told her how lucky she was to have had two (2) maids in a […]
Bob Blizard Acton, MA Growing up in western New York State in the ’50s, there was only one black kid in school. I remember our First Grade teacher answering a question from another kid in my class about why Tommy’s palms were light colored by saying “God made them that way so we know all […]
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 […]
Pamela Tish Dupo, IL When I began my first teaching job in Cahokia, IL, “Any black kids in your class?” was always one of the first questions asked by friends and family. I return to that question in my own mind so often as I look across my classrooms, 20 years and three jobs later, […]
Winter Rose Los Angeles, CA Everyone in the USA is required to attend school, unlike impoverished countries around the world. Our education system is paid for. If you are not learning in school, it is through either your own fault, or a physical/mental requirement for special needs, which is also provided for in our system. […]
Charlene Leger LA I grew up on the outskirts of a city that is almost 70% African American, on a family farm that was right next to the farm of a black family. All of us kids, in both families, grew up thinking that we were one family. I was devastated when my elementary school […]
Bobbie Clark Baton Rouge, LA My father taught school in rural parishes all of his teaching career from the 40’s thru the 70’s. I recall one afternoon he arrived home, and he and my mother went into the bedroom. I sat by their door to hear what was going on and heard my father crying. […]
Kashi Gomez Oakland, CA I just applied to PhD programs. The private Universities gave me fellowships for diversity, the public one did not. I am half Cuban (2nd generation) and half Russian-Jewish (3rd generation). I still check the box that says I am Hispanic but I am lost somewhere in-between. I come from an economically […]
Adja Toure Annandale, VA Not a day goes by without at least one schoolmate telling me I’m white. But only on half of these occasions do I defend myself. My parents are not American, so my upbringing is quite different than that of other black students I am acquainted with. As an advanced student, I […]
Patrick Nolan Jacksonville Beach, FL As an educator having taught in urban school districts for more than twenty-seven years I have had the pleasure of teaching students from numerous cultural and ethnic backgrounds: We’re all one race–Human–and the variety we present is astonishing and awesome. My students have taught me that external factors have nothing […]
George Joji Hamamoto Colorado Springs, CO
Caren Klein York, ME During 1970 my family lived in Texas with prayer in school. My teacher would walk over to me place my head down during prayer.
Theresa Salomon Parkland, FL A few months ago, as my 7 year old son was about to seat next to a class mate, he was told that Blacks should stay on the other side. That sentence changed our lives. My son and I had many conversations about racisms, and throughout I was able to redirect, […]
Erin Murphy Barling, AK I grew up in a mostly African American neighborhood outside Miami, Florida. My friends never made me feel out of place but the other 60% of the students at the schools I attended sure did. My great-grandparents were immigrants -on one side of the family I was third generation American. That […]
Anne Zepeda Panorama City, CA
Christina Vallem Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan When the elementary school holds a Heritage Day my kids would ask me “What are we?” At first I would say we are “mutts.” Kids love dogs and understood the answer. My best answer evolved into “Northern European mix.” An improvement over rattling off […]
Dan Euliss Vancouver, WA You get to feel the other side of the race card.
Phoebe Ruona Minneapolis, MN I went to a little 2-room country school in MN. There were 3 black kids in our school. Mavis was in 5th grade with me. My parents threw a surprise party for me and invited all the 5th grade girls except Mavis. I remember being angry and sad that she was left out, […]
Manuel J Bascuas Miami, FL In school, many years ago, I was taught that they were four: white, black, yellow and red. According to some government forms, now we have Spanish, Latinos, Asians, etc. They confused country of origin and/or cultural background with race. Under our skins we are all the same.
Stacey Aronson Morris, MN
Diane Santorico CO I would love to see this project done with grade school children.