From South to North

discrimination-word-cloud

Discrimination is not discriminating, it knows no boundaries.  Discrimination can be found in the workplace, a community, an organization, a dinner party, etc.  I’ve experienced discrimination for being a woman, for being from a bad city, for being a stay at home mom, for being divorced, for being new to town and other reasons I can’t recall.

The oldest count of discrimination I remember is for not being white.  My father served the United States Navy for twenty-five years and we moved often.  I was born in the Philippines a half white and half Filipino child.  My father’s tour in the PI ended and we came to the United States of America when I was three years old.

I lived in San Diego for five years and then my dad was assigned to Charleston, South Carolina.  Most of his work was sea duty and he was gone for 6 -9 months at a time.  My mother was used to having some type of family support and did not know anyone in our new housing community.

I did not have many friends and we did not have much money.  My father was not high ranking and my mother was not adapted to American culture.  The children I met thought I dressed funny and my mom’s accent was weird.

I befriended some neighbor girls, Linda and Nicole, after living in the housing community for a year.  After school sometimes I went to their houses to play.  Their homes were nicer and filled with things mine was not.  They had toys I didn’t have, television and even radios in their rooms.  One day I was playing outside with them and Nicole and I got into a disagreement, she got physical with me.  I was little and easy to push around, Linda stood by as Nicole hit me.

My grandmother was visiting, saw the tussle and pulled me in the house.  As my grandmother was pulling me out of harm’s way Nicole yelled, “Your mama is a black bitch.”  I started crying, I was being hit by someone I thought was my friend, she sounded very mean, and my mom wasn’t African American.

My grandmother put a steak on my black eye and told me those girls were not good friends.  Looking back, the situation was ironic due to the fact the Navy consists of integrated cultures.  To experience discrimination in a military housing community to me is ridiculous.  My experience proves discrimination can be found anyplace.

I don’t know if Nicole was exposed to derogatory racial language from southern culture or if her parents spoke of my mother that way.  We were in the South and my mother was most definitely not white.  It was my first taste of being singled out for not being white.  We lived in South Carolina for two years and then my father was assigned to Great Lakes, Illinois.

My father bought us a home in Waukegan, Illinois and commuted 30 minutes to work every day. I was enrolled in Greenwood Elementary School for 6th grade.  There were two African American boys, Fernandez King and Nigel Patrick, who were in my class.

Nigel and Fernandez would jeer at me “Jap!”  I hated having to stand by them in line or pass them in the hallway.  They used their fingers to make their eyes slanted, they laughed and made comments behind my back. I couldn’t understand why they did this, it made me feel ugly and ashamed.

I wasn’t embarrassed to be called Japanese, I felt bad because their words and actions made me feel like an outsider.  As the year went on I made friends, grew confident and told Nigel and Fernandez to basically shut up.  I learned to stand up for myself and not treat others badly because they were different.

I don’t know why Nigel and Fernandez treated me the way they did.  Maybe they singled me out because the school consisted of mostly white children and I was obviously not white? Maybe they singled me out because I was small? Maybe they singled me out because their parents talked negatively of Asian people at home?

Nigel and Fernandez were minorities at Greenwood Elementary the era I attended yet they were racist towards me.  My experience with Nigel and Fernandez taught me discrimination not only can occur anywhere it can be done by anyone.  The funny thing is both those boys ended up having crushes on me in high school.  I guess they got over my race by then!