Hear a Story

These are stories submitted anonomyously by people on the Internet who chose to contribute to our project. You can submit your own story from our submission page.

"Best Leave"

I was born in 1992. I have lived all over the U.S. but was raised mostly in the south in the Georgia/Florida area. I identify myself as African-American.

My first encounter with race came when I was around 5 years old. I lived the first five years of my life in Virginia and never really thought about my skin color. I was a girl who was tall and I had fun with everybody. It wasn't until my family moved to Florida that I started to realize some differences. My first and most profound moment was when my family and I were traveling to Georgia to visit family members. I had been drinking a lot of water on the trip and had to use the bathroom so bad. We were pretty much on a back country highway in the middle of nowhere and peeing on the side of the road was not an option from me. Even at that age I was very very shy to do some thing like that.

We drove on until we found a small convenience store. My Father held my hand as we walked inside. There was an elderly white woman working the counter and a white man and his white son inside the store purchasing items. We walked in and the room fell silent and I was oblivious in knowing what would happen next. My father asked the woman if I could use the restroom in the store? The woman said no and I couldn't figure out why when there was a sign for the restroom. She told us we "best leave" before any trouble started. My father gripped my hand tightly as we walked out that store and in the moment I saw my skin color. I saw that something I had never noticed until that moment. Something I always thought as beautiful and meaningful because it was mine was nothing more than fear and disgust in some. That moment defined my childhood and made me mature faster than I probably would have. I love my skin color now, but to grow up knowing the hatred people have for me just because of my skin pigmentation was sometimes unbearable. I would never go back to that moment and it is definitely something that will always stick with me.

They Had No Idea They Were Offending Me

1974
Florida
Cuban/Spanish

When I went to visit my ex-husband's extended family. There was a conversation from them about how Latin people where moving yo their town and how discussing Latin people were and etc. I don't look typically Hispanic so they had no idea they were offending me.

First Beat Down

1968
Chicago Illinois
I identify with my race through language,religion, heritage,history and family.

The first time I got beating down just because I was with a friend who happens to be black. That was an eye opener for me in this new country I just moved to. I was 13 at the time.

The Only White Person In the Room

Born: 1966
State: The Netherlands
Race: White

1st encounter: not until I moved to the US (Atlanta, GA) at age 25 did I first encounter racism. Most notable was when I visited the immigration office in downtown Atlanta to collect my visa papers. I was dressed in a suit as I would go to the office immediately following and entered the waiting room early in the morning. There I was disappointed to find some 200 people already there waiting their turn as only 5 service windows were present on the far end of the room. However, a lady behind the service window gestured me to come forward and I did. She then helped me right away, keeping all the others waiting. I was too surprised to make a fuss, but being the only white person in the room and the black lady behind the window helping me directly while some 200 folks from what appeared to be a Latino background was such a blatant act of discrimination which was shocking to me.

"What Are You Staring At?"

1967 -- Southern California -- Caucasian, redhead

I grew up around Caucasian, Japanese, African American, Irish, German, Jewish, Christian people. I had never considered one being different from another, except that they had cool skin colors and neat family traditions.

When I was 12, I was in line at Magic Mountain (Six Flags Theme Park), watching the Revolution's loop (it was a new thing for roller coasters), and was quite intent and staring at it as the cars went around. Suddenly, a large African American woman grabbed me and yelled, "What do you think you're staring at??!!" It seems that she thought I was staring at her. I was shocked that anyone would ever 1) stare at someone over skin color and 2) be so aggressive, assuming that I, a white person, would be automatically classified in this way.

My friends were appalled, and an older sibling had to tell me about the social (racial/racist) reasons she thought I'd be doing that. I felt that she attacked me because of my race. (After she yelled at me, I pointed at the coaster, and said, "the roller coaster." She spun around, turning her back to me, and didn't even apologize.)

It's OK to Be Friends, But Not to Date

I was born in 1990 and raised in northwest Florida. I am a white female.

My first encounter with racism was in middle school when a black boy in my class made it known at school that he "liked me." I liked him too and would kind of flirt with him at school. Parents from the school contacted my parents who immediately had a serious talk with me about the fact that it was OK to be friends with this boy, but not to "date" him (whatever "dating" meant in middle school). I was very shocked by this because up until this point my parents and family had never talked about race in any way -- either bad or good. They have friends that are different races and I would not consider them "racist," but from that point on, I knew where they stood on the issue of dating outside of our race. I have only ever had white boyfriends.

Grown Men Throwing Spitballs

I was born February, 12, 1972 in Youngstown, Ohio, but moved to California 4 years later.

I self-identify as a Palestinian American because both my parents were born and raised as Palestinians in Israel. They immigrated to the United States shortly before I was born.

I grew up mainly in Southern California but lived in Florida one year before moving back to California. I also lived in Israel for almost for a total of 5 years (3 years in the late 70’s and 2 years in the late 80’s), but moved back to the United States before the Infada in 1987.

My first encounter with racism in the United States was when I was 15 years old. My family and I were driving back to California and we stopped in Louisiana for lunch. While we were eating, a couple of grown, older men started throwing spitballs at us. As they were leaving, one man bumped into my mother and in the meanest voice, says, “go back to your country."

We don’t look Middle Eastern (i.e. Muslim coverings), and we spoke English the majority of the time. For the most part, I don’t really experience discrimination until it is known that I am Middle Eastern.

"White Girl"

1992, Florida, Caucasian

A black kid in 1st grade made fun of me all the time. He called me white girl and pulled my hair. This was the first time I remember noticing a difference. In middle school there was a black girl that didn't like me because I was friends with a black boy that she liked.

To Just Be With Their Own Race

1974, raised in Lagos Nigeria and London England. I personally believe that every person should be treated as he is in terms of personality, behavior, principles etc. . . and not according to which race he comes from. I have first encountered racism here in the USA. I feel there is quite a percent of people who like to just be with their own race, religion and political preferences. Anybody different from their equation is not welcomed. Maybe on the surface there are smiles and friendliness, but deep down there is rejection and lack of interest.

Because I Am Muslim

1989, Florida, Against racism.

First encounter in Israel, wasn't allowed in a certain store because I am Muslim.

7 Miles

I was born in 1950. I was raised in a small town in western Oklahoma. I am caucasian. I have two brief stories.

Growing up I made friends with school-mates, Lonnie and Emmit. They came to my house. Occasionally I went to their house 7 miles away in another town. It took several years before I understood that all of the black kids who attended my school lived 7 miles away because they were black. I was confused.

In college I volunteered for a program in the Roxbury section of Boston that served children with developmental disabilities. I used to take the subway system and walk the final 6 blocks to the program. I did this for several weeks without incident and without ever feeling uncomfortable before my black class mate and fellow volunteer told me that what I was doing was very unsafe because I was white. I was no longer comfortable.

Don't Sell Your Home to Negros

I was born in 1945. San Diego, California is where I was raised. Caucasian from mostly northern latitude countries; a human being on this earth is who I really am.

I was in college and my boyfriends parents wanted to sell their home to move to L.A. and their neighbors told them not to sell to Negroes. My boyfriend's father had been in the Navy in South Africa before apartheid when everyone seemed to live peacefully together. We attended a city-wide forum to help whites become aware of institutional racism in San Diego. We shared what we learned with his parents; we had no idea all these things were going on around us. They delayed selling the home until years later. When they did it was to a wonderful family with kids who happened to be Black.

What Are You Doing in This Neighborhood?

Born in 1969 -- State of Illinois -- self identify as a Mexican American.

My first encounter with racism was grammar school. I grew up in a mostly Polish neighborhood and, of course, a slightly dark haired Mexican stands out in a mostly blond-ish neighborhood.

The Police would often stop to ask what we (me and my brothers) were doing in the neighborhood and if we lived in the neighborhood. We never actually got into trouble, but the police would never stop and ask a bunch of blond-haired, blue-eyed kids in the same neighborhood.

Counting Race

I was born in 1995. I lived in South Burlington, Vermont until I was 10 and then moved to Jacksonville, Florida. I identify myself as white.

My first real encounter with racism was when I was 11. The middle school I attended was part of the magnet program. My parents were reading off statistics of what percent of the school was white, what percent of the school was black, what percent was Asian and other. I didn't understand the significance of dividing the student population into percentages by race. I still don't fully understand the relevance of those statistics for a classroom setting.

Black Students Grouping Together

1971 - Indiana/West Lafayette – college town - White

My first recollection of racism was in college and related to Black students grouping together apart from White students as well as there being Black only fraternities and sororities. I thought everyone would just mix together. I did feel that all Black groups were much louder. However, in my grade school and high school there were very few races other than White, but of those there they were more likely to be Asian and Asian Indians. Of my class mates that were Black, the ones I think of now were adopted.