Though I am Generation X’r (I think) I personally was subjected to racism, growing up in primarily black schools. There were a small handful of white people to say maybe 15 total and being a light colored Hispanic, I was disliked by the black kids because I was “white” and disliked by the hispanics because I “looked white”. I was jumped many times over, by groups of black boys, beaten up and then suspended by my black principal for having been beaten up. I experienced the reverse racism. The first day I started high school I tried to get on the school bus to go home and was met by a group of young black girls and boys standing in front of the doors to the bus. They told me that if I stepped one foot on the bus that I would be beaten to death. I was forced to walk home, which was miles away from my house, in the hot, Texas August heat. On the verge of passing out from the heat, a 20 something year old white young lady stopped in her car seeing me on the ground and told me she would take me home. I didn’t know her, I knew not to get in the car with strangers, but I wanted to get home alive and in time to go to my youth group meeting that night. So I let her give me a ride.
When my parents finally moved, I transferred to a school for my district that was primarily white. There was maybe a handful or two of Hispanic and Black kids. There, I was bullied, hit and called a “Spic” repeatedly by the white kids. Until one day… We had this Senior who looked like he was 30 and way too old to be in high school, named Ray. He always teased me, playfully, but never hatefully. I was enamored with him. Ray was tall, with a strapping physique, deep voice, and facial hair that would make most men jealous. He was gorgeous. He drove a beat up Bronco sitting on giant tires with a rebel flag across the back window and was always blasting country music. I hated country. He would wear white undershirts and denim jeans with cowboy boots every single day. Being now married to a former construction worker I can say he dressed like he was on his way to his construction job, every day. I was in awe when I first saw him. Giving all that I knew of white people though which wasn’t more than what popular culture around me said and the tv, I thought he was probably a bigot, redneck, racist, but I didn’t care. He was funny, handsome and most importantly incredibly kind to me when not many were. Today, he who would be seen as the equivalent of A Constitutionalist, a gun-toting, 2nd Amendmenter.
One particular day I was walking down the halls of the school trying to get to my next class, when one of the boys who was white, very country-like and always loved to torture me, shoved me up against the tiled wall and yelled “Spic” right in my face. I was humiliated and a bit terrified. Ray happened to be walking down those same halls and saw this and probably the look of fear in my eyes. He ran over, grabbed this boy by the throat with one hand and shoved him against the adjacent wall, holding him up by his throat and other forearm dug into his chest. Ray stood maybe an inch or two from this boys face and calmly told the boy that if he ever harassed me again, he would kick his you know what, and yelled “She has the same rights as you do so back off!” Well this made me love Ray even more. I now saw him as my big brother and from that day on none of those people harassing me ever came anywhere near me again. They knew they would have strapping Ray to deal with. I took that freedom and opportunity to start pantsing the bullying boys in the hallways and making their lives miserable on a daily basis. Not my finest moment but I digress…
It was that moment with Ray standing up for me, that I no longer saw the division of race. Even within myself. Being Spanish and Italian I was already a race divided! I saw us as united. I knew nothing about Ray’s culture, as I grew up with my own culture and heritage. I didn’t understand the appeal of country music or what the Rebel flag stood for to him or why he insisted on wearing cowboy boots every day. One thing I did know, is he saw me as the same as him. A human being with the right to exist happily and un-abused. He saw me as a person and was willing to stand up for my rights just as much as he was for his rights. We were the same in this. Throughout my life I have had primarily white and black friends. I didn’t know many hispanic kids, but the ones that I did know we were fast friends as well. I didn’t care the differences between us all. I saw them as equally important and as invaluable to this country as all other races.
I learned through this boy who didn’t really know me, but was willing to stand for me — That I had to repay that kindness and humanity for the rest of my life, by doing the same for others who I may not know or understand their walks. What I did understand was that we all shared the same freedom.
As I have watched this election and done ridiculous amounts of research on both sides, I was able to come to an informed decision on what I wanted to see for this country that had given me and my family so much. I see the riots today and understand that this is raw for many, really for everyone. What I don’t see is the need to hate, to hurt, to attack anyone for the way they chose to exercise their American right. I identify at this point of my life with the Rays of this world. With the people proud of their country and wanting to ensure its freedoms for their fellow-man. I never thought growing up that I would be on this side of the coin, but I am.
The same racism that I experienced growing up is the same racism being exercised on the streets of America today under the guise of Democracy. Except it is now the reverse. We are attacking the very people who have adamantly defended our own rights and freedoms. We have to somehow get our minds together and realize that we all want the same thing, freedom. We all want to live in a happy, prosperous, beautiful life and THAT starts with us. It is not up to our leaders to build our character and moral fortitude, it is up to US to do it. Right now, we are showing a lack of good character, a lack of respect for our fellow-man and a lack of moral fortitude by how we are choosing to disagree with each other. But when the dust settles, we ALL are what make up this great nation and WE ALL are charged to keep it adorned in its freedoms and liberties not only for ourselves but for our fellow-man. I hope that we can all come back to the common ground on which we stand, TOGETHER. That we can come back to the ideology that everyone’s life counts and matters. That if we continue to hate and attack others, we are forming a divide so strong it will set us back a hundred years as a people. UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL.