Well, on Monday’s I am going to try and have posts about my childhood. Like I said, I think it will be great for Isabela to have all this when she’s older!
I had this great post already written, but my laptop crashed. Chris has to order this thing he needs for it, since the local Best Buy doesn’t have it on hand. BOOO!! SO, I am going to start in an entirely new direction, and save that post for another time.
From the beginning….
All I knew is that something special was happening. We were moving, but I didn’t really understand that concept. I was only three years old, and I remember my mother trying to explain it to me.
I went to sleep and woke up to my dad carrying me into the car. I remember that it was dark outside. Also, I think that my grandparents (dad’s parents) followed us down to Louisiana.
Let me give this a better beginning. I’m not sure, but I think we were living in Michigan. It was either that or Indiana. A three year old doesn’t really mess with the details. MY parent’s visited Louisiana, and during their visit, they decided they liked it so much that we should relocate there.
And on the road we went. I remember dark skies with bright lights. Feeling special, and knowing that something BIG was happening!
Then, I remember visiting a family’s house. They had a church gathering, and there were so many girls my age. I was so excited to play with these girls…they looked like they just stepped out of “Little House on the Prairie.” Long, uncut hair. Long skirts and dresses. Pretty bows in their hair.
And that was one of the many times in my life where I instantly felt like I didn’t belong. Because, my hair was short. I had bangs, and I don’t remember what I was wearing, but I know it wasn’t a long dress or skirt. Also, I didn’t know this, but another girl brought to my attention that my skin was really dark.
She asked me what country I was from and I didn’t know, so I had to go ask my mom.
Right around this time, I learned that I wasn’t “white.” I learned that if someone should ask, that I should say that I was Mexican, Filipino, and Czech. I wasn’t really sure what that all meant, but I was glad that I had an answer.
So, these girls were my first friends. We all belonged to a church called Evening Light Tabernacle, a nondenominational church. My parents replaced all our clothes with long skirts and dresses. My sister’s and I grew our hair very long, and we weren’t allowed to cut it. But still, I remember feeling very happy. I had friends, a lot of them, and I slowly started to look more like them (with the long hair and dresses).
Around this time in Louisiana, segregation was still very much in practice. At the doctor’s office, the white people sat on one side and the black people sat on the other. In our neighborhood, if little black kids rode their bikes around our block, the white mother’s would hurriedly usher their children inside and draw the blinds. There was a white swimming pool and a black swimming pool. A white flower shop and black flower shop. A white high school prom and a black high school prom (until the year 1997). The KKK had rallies around the courthouse consistently. It was a horribly RACIST environment.
And, I was neither. I wasn’t black or white. I truly did not fit in. Our family was the only Hispanic family in town. The only other “brown” family was an Indian family that owned a local motel.
I grew up hearing white people saying the “n” word. I grew up feeling hate and tension between both races. Racism was the norm for many people….and it made my world so confusing. Because in the outside ‘world’, things would be one way. And, at home, I was taught another way. How the color of skin didn’t matter. How we were all God’s people. How racism was evil and not tolerated in our home.
For the most part of my early childhood, I would be conscious of my race. And for much of the beginning of my life, I would be made fun of for my race. Honestly and sadly, for much of my young childhood, I hated the color of my skin. I just wanted to be accepted. I just wanted to fit in, to blend into the crowd. And, I just wanted to be loved, regardless.
To live in a racist environment is horrible for any person. Sadly, much of the segregation I described in 1983 still exists today. The small southern town acceptance of it is horrifying, to say the least. When people say that racism does not exist anymore, I can only sadly shake my head.