I thought I'd share a personal story I wrote for another class I am in. The assignment was to talk about a time when your ethnicity was revealed to you or you had some kind of revelation about ethnicity or race. I chose to write a story about an event that happened when I was younger. I found it somewhat applicable so thought I might as well share and see what you guys think.
Slip of the Tongue
My youth, a handful of memories evaporate into just one for the purposes of this story, a vivid image of the spray painted words: “Ashley-- Bitch you better watch your white ass!” scrawled across the glass walls of the Santee teen center. As I stood there, in front of what had been my home away from home every day after school for the last three years, mouth agape and in utter shock, driven so firmly into the ground as my insides began to boil to the surface and my face began to bloom red hot, it suddenly didn’t feel like home anymore. I stood there, almost forgetting how to move entirely, with my sense of self so clouded that all I could see was something very obtuse to the contradiction of the way I had previously acted and I suddenly recalled a moment from the previous day.
Brittney, my best friend for the last three years of my life, had approached me with a mischievous look on her face. We had one of those friendships that was constantly teetering between two extremes, best friend and worst enemy, which is why I should have guessed nothing said that day would remain between the two of us. Back stabbing bouts of jealousy and broken secrets paved our friendship’s past.
We were thirteen and she had recently become obsessed with the idea of boys. She whispered in my ear, so loudly that you couldn’t call it a whisper at all, “So, are you going to kiss Michael Halcon?” with that whiny thirteen-year-old condescending tone trailing along the ends of each word. I turned bright red, “No! He is a dirty Mexican!” I spat out, before I could even think. The ability to pass things from my mind to my mouth that quickly was so astonishing I scarcely understood the words as they made there way to fruition. I didn’t like Mike that way, but not because he was Mexican, it just seemed like the right thing to say.
My hometown, Santee California was most popularly nick named "Klantee," population: ninety percent white. This dry and somewhat secluded place was home to people who were most commonly lower to middle class white folks and enjoyed spending their time doing things like hanging out at the Parkway Plaza mall, smoking blunts, driving lifted trucks with confederate flag decals on the back window, and going off roading on weekend trips to the desert. These people were my friends growing up, and it was the only culture I knew. I didn’t have an understanding of what words like “dirty Mexican” could mean to someone, as they were thrown around so casually.
When I said, what I said, I didn’t stop to think that Brittney may tell Michael. Suddenly the words had taken on an entirely different meaning to me. They were ugly, loaded, infested and were not “just” words. At thirteen, words were things I said, inputs and outputs. I felt that I had nothing against Mexican people, but I didn’t understand that words were not isolated sets of letters. They communicated more than immediate ideas and held a history that gave me a communicative power that was far beyond the mental capacity of a thirteen-year-old girl. “Dirty Mexican”, “Dirty Mexican”, “Dirty Mexican” cut through my mind for weeks.