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Racism: A Life History Project

By Rebecca Secor

Most people think that white women never have to deal with racism. Myself, being a white woman, who had a six year relationship with a man who is Puerto Rican, can say otherwise. At the age of eighteen, I never really thought racism existed until I started dating Joe. Before Joe, I only dated a few people and only for a very short period of time. I did not really like any of them and they did not treat me the way I wanted to be treated. Then, I met Joe, who just so happened to be Puerto Rican. He was wonderful and treated me with kindness and respect. My father, on the other hand, felt the exact opposite, which created a lot of problems for my relationships with my boyfriend and between my father and I.

During the six year period that Joe and I were in a relationship together, I learned how racist my father really was because I was dating a Latino man and more aware of the racial remarks. Now, my mother is not a racist, but she would prefer me to marry someone from my own race. I would assume it is because she wants to prevent any racial problems that might occur toward my family and I. Back to my father, He would not allow Joe, my boyfriend, in our house. I would have to lie to see him or go out in the middle of the night, while my parents were sleeping to see Joe. As word got around that I was involved in a relationship with Joe, I heard more and more racial comments and jokes from my father. At first, the jokes or comments did not bother me, but as I grew closer to my boyfriend, the jokes and comments angered me deeply.

I found myself getting into many heated arguments with my parents but mostly my father. To my surprise, I was also getting into many arguments with my friends because I was dating a Latino man. I thought they were my friends but I realized that they weren’t because I saw them for who they really were as people. After many fights with my dad about my boyfriend, I found myself storming out of the house crying and running over to Joe’s house. He would eventually calm me down, and he was the only one able to help me out when I was upset. He always dealt with the situation better than I did because he was very laid back an I was very reserved.

Joe is very optimistic and always wanted the chance to make my father like him. Toward the end of our relationship, I finally got in touch with some of my first cousins, who are part Mexican. We met once or twice at a couple of funerals a very long time ago but I was able to get to know them this time around. I instantly became very close to my cousin, Juanita and we would go out quite often. I did not think our difference in race mattered when we net but it did to a point. Sometimes, Juanita and I would get into heated discussions about coming from the same family and feeling differently because our aunts and uncles treated her and her brother and sisters differently. I always tell her “But you are white too!” and she always tells me “But our family does not see it that way and other people do not see it that way either.” Then, she would tell me that is why she denies being white because she gets hassled about it either way. I met Juanita about five years ago at funeral for one of our cousins and the gap between the time I first met her is about 15 years. I know she lived a very different lifestyle than I did because of the stories she tells me about her up bringing. She tells me how her dad would yell at her brothers and sisters and her and call them “dirty Mexicans,” or “spics” and it bothers me to know that they were treated in that demeaning manner. She also does not like our aunts or uncles because they do not like the fact they are Mexican, along with other reasons and ti really bothers her.

In our family, my cousins are not liked by most of our aunts and uncles and I honestly do not know if it is because they are Mexican or because of family issues that plague our entire family. I do not like talking about it because to me it is not an issue. Maybe I do not fully understand what she has been through in her life or with my relatives that is why I have a hard time comprehending the whole race thing. Our closeness is not based on race, it is based on things that have nothing to do with what our ethnic backgrounds.

With me getting to know Juanita and my other cousins, I think my father started to realize that I only like other people for what is on the inside and he started to trust my judgment more. I felt he was starting to change for the better. My relationships with Joe finally did end but the reasons were not racially based, it was because we grew apart from one another. To this day, my friends come from all different backgrounds and I would not change that for anything. I have never based value on my friends because they were African American, Latino, or Caucisan, I base it on what type of person they are and that is most important to me.

I think that my relationship with Joe was a learning lesson too because I saw other people differently and I saw my father in a different perspective. It changes you in a way because you thing that the things that mean nothing to you end up becoming very important due to the views of others. I have never been the type of person to pay attention to politics or news or anything to get views on how racism is handled either, I get it by who I came across and base all judgments on that individual because it is unfair to base racism on outside influences. This will never change who I am as a person but it have me a chance to go back to this situation and realize that race plays some importance in my life as I live.

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