Nicole Valenzi, New Smyrna Beach, FL. My experience with race only started really when I entered public school. Until then, I can count on one hand the number of non-white people I interacted with. My mother told me part of the reason she took us out of our sheltered private school was because I pointed […]
Cora Keahl, Lakeland, FL. My mother has always held high expectations of me when it comes to grades and knowledge, I’ve always been really good when it comes to testing and keeping my grades up. And when I told people that I was Asian (Filipino), they would make remarks like, “that’s why you’re so smart” […]
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!”
Hilary Salazar, McAllen, TX. I attended a middle school with only seven Hispanics/Latinos. One day during 2nd period, the librarian called all seven of us over the intercom to come to the library. I had no idea why, but everyone laughed as I walked out of class. I got to the library along with the […]
Kate Lee van Loveren, Ann Arbor, MI. I was born in New York, grew up in New York, and live in New York (when I’m not at school). I’m of half Chinese and half Dutch descent, but for some people that registers into me not being American for some reason. Just by looking at me, […]
Eli Russell, Austin, TX. As a writer, these six words are something I’ve said before. I lend it here to hopefully add to the growing conversation, to close the divide in the races, to open racist minds and to unite all Americans, all people across the world in peace. It is up to each generation […]
Francis Lafayette, NC. Much like modern Germans, lower class white males in America have been granted a shame about their past. We’ve been told the History we learn in school is Eurocentric, but as a former social studies teacher, I can tell you that most Americans cannot tell you who Louis IV was. Or John […]
Julianna Cressman, Irvine, CA.
Anonymous, USA. Grew up as the only little brown girl in class, always having to explain why my hair grew up to the skies when it rained and the humidity took control of my tresses, then drew tightly too my head. Never getting assistance from the PTA moms passing out red and black combs on […]
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.
Jason Fong, Los Angeles, CA. Asian Americans have been in the U.S. for hundreds of years and yet we are routinely excluded from discussions about race relations in America. I’m in the 11th grade and I learn nothing about Asian Americans and our long history in America in my U.S. history class. I don’t think […]
Alexandra Garcia, Long Island, NY. My father emigrated from Spain in 1974, and we have been raised to be proud of our Spanish heritage and culture. In school, whenever I told people I was Spanish, they assumed I meant Mexican or Colombian or Puerto Rican. I’ve always been annoyed by that, because no one knows […]
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, […]
Jennifer Campbell, Chaska, MN. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in suburban Minneapolis I did not have many opportunities to meet people from another culture or race from my own. I continue to work in a suburban school district as a special education teacher. Again, the dominant race and culture is white. Students of […]
Newo Zoils, Minneapolis, MN. I understand that as a white male in America I have in many unconscious ways perpetuated racism. I and my family have also benefited from over hundreds of years of white privilege. This is a systemic problem in America that continues to be unresolved. I am a teacher and one can […]
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, […]
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 […]
King Kellz, Fayetteville, NC. We only learn what America has taught us about our specific race.
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 […]
Steve Snair, Canada. I’m a white male. By today’s definition, I’m the most privileged person to step foot on the planet. Well, let me tell you a story…it’s a long one, but bear with me. I was born to a single mother, poor, and started off life in a poor neighborhood. I was fortunate that […]
Julie Steele, Lenexa, KS. We are not blind, but we do believe that love will win. We will not lose our hope that in our home, in our community, in our schools, in our nation, love has to win.
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 […]
Howard T. Uhal, Mentor, OH. I attended twelve years of public school in the town of Mentor, Ohio, birthplace of President James A. Garfield. To the best of my knowledge, there was not a single black kid in the school system, and perhaps none in the entire town. This was in the 1954-1966 time frame. […]
Erin, MN. Racism isn’t in our curriculum, it’s not a lesson taught by chalkboards and worksheets. However it is learned. Yes, in school but also at home. It is taught through culture, through actions. This problem cannot be solved by a student’s eraser or a teacher’s pen.
Cynthia Waszak Geary, Baltimore, MD. I grew up in Durham, NC and attended Hillside High School as part of the first court ordered desegregation plan to achieve racial balance. I am heart broken that since that time there has been a steady and deliberate re-segregation of schools in the US. I am hoping for leadership […]
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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.
Adam Jones, Chaska, MN. I am a para in a special education class, and the high school in which I work is very diverse. The longer I work in this field, the more I have come to see that kids are kids. People are people. I am frustrated, elated, encouraged, concerned, and inspired by all […]
Sophia Leavitt, USA. I haven’t thought much about my race until talking about it in class. Now I realize that there is so much that I don’t know and so much I need to learn.
James, Sacramento, CA. Prime example, Texas textbooks.
Cassandra Coats, El Cajon, CA. I grew up in a very multi-cultural school where being white was the minority. I was never teased for it, but I felt like I was missing out. I spent most of my childhood wishing I could be Asian, or Native American, or speak Spanish, etc. Sure, I have red […]
Zanetea Reece, Fort Myers, FL. I am a bright skinned young woman, grew up in Southwest FL. We we’re not tought about our history in school. But racisim is and was learned at home. Because of that I grew up and still am a loner. No one wanted to be friend me because I didn’t […]
Sydney Arenas, Denver, CO. When I was growing up, the kids around me were punished for speaking Spanish in the classroom because the teachers assumed they were saying mean things about the other kids.
Mary Rodriguez, Carmichael, CA. True question asked of me by my very first crush. I remember this time vividly. I was in science class and across from me was the “love of my life”..it was 6th grade. I was really excited to work with him, and when he looked at his friend then back at […]
Jeremy Murray, Tuscaloosa, AL. Growing up my family moved around the country a lot. My brother and I had to attended many different schools but no matter where we were we always get told the same thing, “you don’t sound like you’re from here”, “you sound so proper”, and the my favorite one “y’all talk […]
Omar Eaton-Martinez, Oxon Hill, MD. Afro Diasporic communities need more opportunity to build coalition around blackness.
Virginia, Cambridge, MA. I’m half Filipina. And I’ve always thought of myself as half. But one day at a faculty meeting a colleague told me I “passed” as white. It’s bothered me ever since.
Erin Thomas, Riverside, CA. In 1956, when I was in 4th grade (9-10 years old), we had a less-than-kind teacher, but you were taught to respect your teacher, no matter what. We were sitting in a circle on the floor having some kind of sharing session and the teacher had a boy, Dale, stand up […]
Kelsey Connolly, Wilsonville, OR. “Think Grace, Act Grace, Teach Grace” I have always been a learner at heart, but not necessarily an excellent student. In school, I learned best by looking at examples and modifying the results with my own knowledge, and that worked out very well for me… up until I left my little […]
Anisha (Blair) Taylor, Riverside, CA. “Your beautiful. For a black girl.” . Those words spilled out the mouth of a young black male, in my 12th grade math class. Only then was reminded. That being a Dark skin Black Women, We are not considered to be as beautiful as other women. I was in second […]
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 […]
Clara Silverstein, Boston, MA. As one of the white children in Richmond, Virginia in the 1970s whose family willingly participated in busing, I had few friends of any race. What we could have used at the time was leadership instead of racist rhetoric, white flight, and school administrators who cancelled all after-school activities. The possibility […]
Fahad Alotaibi, Bowling Green, KY. I was born and raised in n Islamic country. When 9/11 happened, I had no idea that the world would turn on us as being Muslim. I was thinking that others would notice the difference between a religion and terrorism. I understand that when people get harmed, they start thinking […]
M. D. K. C., Deep South, USA. At some point in history, the powers that be thought it best to skew history. I’m sure the reasoning for this is very obvious. In my schools years, 89-current, we are not being taught the whole truth. Why? Whose agenda does this fit? Why were children not told […]
Xochitl Tovar, Riverside, CA. Growing up, my name was my worst enemy. Not only did my fellow schoolmates give me a hard time about it, but my teachers made it difficult for me as well. I became accustomed to spelling it out and pronouncing it for the comfort of others, which would turn into a […]
Ewa Konopka, Romeoville, IL. Look at this stunning couple. They see no color. THEY NEVER WILL. They see love, respect, honor, kindness, and goodness of each person. I wish the world would see through these kids eyes. The human race would be so much better of.
Vue Moua, Merced, CA. I’ve heard these words when I was in sixth grade. I am now in my fifth year of college, but I’ll never forget these words.
Reva Friedman, Overland Park, KS. We live in our comfy, constrained, psychic silos. My mission as a teacher educator is to create opportunities for my students break down those walls and create open, safe learning communities where all are welcomed and all are celebrated.
Diane Santorico CO I would love to see this project done with grade school children.
Carrie Hunsinger, Wilmington, DE. I am a 1/2 first generation American. My Mother is American (Detroit) and my father is Dutch (Holland). He’s been here almost 60 years and he still speaks with a heavy Dutch accent and therefore I speak English with a bit of a Dutch accent. When 9/11 happened I was in […]
Deb Wunder Brooklyn, NY Thank you for doing this.
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 […]
Bryant, Chandler, AZ. I was raised in a family that didn’t think about race. I didn’t connect that I was white and others were black. My family just didn’t think that way, I wasn’t raised to think about the color of someones skin. Only the merit of their actions. The shock that would stay with […]
JMM, Nashville, TN. I’m white. 100% pale as can be white. I grew up as one of a small handful of white children in my elementary and middle school, and was relentlessly teased. White girl. Cracker. White b****. All names I was called. I had gum put in my hair. I was beaten up. I […]
Nicholas Le, Sanger, CA. Since im Asian people always say im really good at math. Some people ask me if I can do their homework. I really suck at math so I couldnt even do my own homework. One day there was this dud in middle school and he told me to do his homework, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.
Stephanie Moran, Durango, CO.
TheBadApple, USA. I have come home from a bad day at work and am looking for honest open dialogue. I am a white teacher who works with children of all races, shapes and forms. One student in particular I have worked with is struggling with issues such as lying and stealing. I have tried positive […]
Tunya Marie Loftis, Dallas, TX. I love who I am. I am the firstborn of my mother with four siblings under me. Strangely enough, when I was young, I didn’t know my Mom was white. She was my normal. She was just Mama. Who taught me how to read and color. She did my hair, […]
Jasmin Marie Harpe, Burlington, NJ. It has been hard to fit in to both societies growing up as a biracial child, especially being in academia where there are few people who look like me. I had a lot of race issues growing up with my father who has very fair skin, and my mother who […]
Molly Kampa, Hastings, MN. I identify as a white individual. Throughout my schooling I feel that I was inherently taught that white is the superior race. We were taught that black people went through slavery and that they were, and still are, discriminated against but that is primarily where there story ends in the classroom. […]
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 […]
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?
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 […]
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
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]