My Race, Coast to Coast: Part 1

I designed this series as a forum where we could honor race and culture—our own and one another’s—and speak safely about our biases and personal struggles. But I found myself feeling almost apologetic writing my story; I didn’t consider my tale really worth telling.

1) How do you define yourself racially or ethnically and why is it important to you? Please tell us about the racial makeup of your family if you were adopted or come from a colorful family.

I prefer Asian-American or Korean-American. I grew into the American part with time so in looking back on my childhood, I speak of myself as a Korean kid but it bugs me to have to check “Asian” on forms. Tip-toeing on politically correct ground, we don’t call black people Africans in the States but acknowledge their American status. I don’t know why Asian-Americans are not accorded the same respect. Actually, I do know. We are not vocal about it.

2) Where do you live? If you have ever moved, whether to another city or the other side of the world, please tell us when and where, and the ways the cultural differences between the places shaped or made you think about your identity.

I live in California. My family joined the biggest tide of emigration that brought South Koreans to America in the 70s. After the formative years in New York City, I went to Pennsylvania for college. I ended up nesting there until the move across the country 13 years ago. Given the diversity in major American cities I didn’t notice significant cultural differences between them, at least ethnically.

3) How diverse was the neighborhood and school you grew up in?

My childhood in NYC was your unoriginal melting pot. From neighborhood to school and city, we had white, Hispanic, Black, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, and of course many Koreans. Out of my motley neighborhood, I entered the most homogenous class at P.S. 89 when I started my school career in first grade; only as an adult did I realize how unusual the roomful of Korean kids was, under the tutelage of the only Korean teacher in all of NYC at the time. (I won’t get into whether she would’ve insisted on the -American.) Mrs. Cho was Korean and “Americanized”, one fully immersed in her culture but comfortable and proficient with the mores of this country. Because I was still clinging to my native language at seven, Mrs. Cho sent me out for a season of English as a Second Language services.

I was at ease with fellow Korean immigrants but as you’d expect, there was plenty of race consciousness on everyone’s part. I didn’t escape being called chink in elementary and walking home one time, was slurred with a kick for good measure. This, by two white girls I saw all the time whose parents, I now remember, were European immigrants. It was older black or Hispanic kids who wrested your bike from you and made off with it on our street – not older Asian kids. The Mexicans didn’t blare mariachi with the Chinese. Life was what it was. It would’ve been weird for the neighborhood to go all white. I wouldn’t call what we lived with tension so much as it was subtle racial abrasion. But for the most part there was peace. We had subcommunities in high school too, though there were the kids who mingled. The magnet school I went to was over 50% Asian-American, the majority being Korean. So I obviously didn’t have much occasion to feel left out the first two decades of my life.

4) When did you first become conscious of your race or ethnicity? Please describe the context or a moment when you noticed you were different in color or language. It could be a scene with strangers, the park, school, work. Could have been subtle feelings you recognized or a blatant attack of bigotry. If it was a season or chapter in your life, tell us the impact it had on your sense of self, confidence, or emotional development. Can you share a bit about the fear, loneliness, longing for acceptance?

Straight out of college, I ended up one of three Korean-American teachers in a Philadelphia school. But the diversity of the city represented in staff and students kept me from thinking twice about myself as a minority. On a field trip one day with my class, I was struck seeing a line of golden-haired children from another school. It was the first time I really noticed I was Asian – and this, in my early 20s. It vaguely crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be as comfortable teaching that class.

Two years later I transfered to a neighboring district where I felt the keen finger of self-consciousness as never before. White upper-middle class suburb, old money. In the meetings that prefaced the start of school, I found myself one of two Korean-American teachers among the 100 in the entire district. My African-American principal was a colored minority. Ten percent of the students in my school were Asian and as few black. In other words, I felt very Asian surrounded by staff, parents, and students. The Korean kids lit up and greeted me when I passed by even if they were not on my roll. As the Gifted and Talented Education instructor, I was a status symbol and my principal said it was important that those children see themselves in me. Despite the politeness of many teachers, I did feel awkwardly different among them. When a group of us went out to try some Korean food, I saw for the first time the profound, basic relationship of food to culture. Those who passed nervously on the invitation gave away their indifference to the Korean culture, and to me.

Others were outright mean (on things not having to do with food), even conspired to get me, with things eventually coming to a dramatic head. Though it’s hard to say, the malice didn’t seem fueled by racism as it was by the position I held. Suffice it to say I was a walking omen of more paperwork for the classroom teachers. Anyone who stepped into my position was doomed because, servicing the high achievers in the whole school, I worked with everyone and no one. As a specialist, I had no colleagues by grade to team with. The cultural distinction felt sharper for the rejection.

My sense of self remained unshaken. It never has been. I enjoyed deep friendships with teachers who shared my faith and also knew the kindness of those who didn’t – some black, some white. I’m not sure how I handled that sense of separation from the masses. I kept my head high, even managed to break through some walls and feel accepted by some cliques though I refrained from trying too hard. I also refused to stoop to the level of my enemies. Not one retort, confrontation, or curse escaped my lips though I can’t count the times I came hairline close. I had dirt on them, too. But this way, I had won. No one could accuse me of a bad word. And in time, they were served their due. I have never looked back on those few years with anything but a dull negativity. As trying as it was, I now feel it was good for me to have experienced the cold heat of exclusion. The real world isn’t a bubble and if you insist on staying in one, it’ll burst on you. I’d say it’s important for those who usually sit among the white majority to have to work through this sense of isolation at some point, too. Of course I don’t mean we should perpetuate hatefulness across racial lines. But some discomfort out of complacency challenges us to grow.

Continued in Part 2.

130 thoughts on “My Race, Coast to Coast: Part 1

  1. Absolutely brilliant. So thoughtful and well written. I applaud your writing and how you conducted yourself. To retain your individuality and not lash out when provoked is something to be proud of, and yet, your tone is very matter-of-fact, self-effacing, which enhances its power. I get the sense, and I think you even say, that you are not bitter from the experience of being an outsider. You made the best of it, and appreciated the challenge. Bravo! Find some way to publish this, aside from your blog. Article, contest submission, book, something.

    In awe,

    • You’re something, Elizabeth! Really. Your feedback is precious for a number of reasons. No way I would’ve seen my write-up in any such way. As I will mention at the close of Part 2, this was very difficult to write. I half-didn’t enjoy it. I hated taking up your (pl.) time with stories of my life. HA ha. I am so grateful for your input bc you’re reminding me more deeply of something I said last year, that we’re so IN IT when we’re writing it’s hard to distance ourself. I put this out just hoping somebody would get something out of it and was taken aback by the rate of likes coming in. Just you wait your turn! You’re next at bat.

      The race is on!

  2. a challenging story!! Many of us don’t understand what it is like to be either in a minority whether by race, culture or belief. Excellent read, so unbiased in conclusions and enlightening.

    • I really value your feedback, DM. The other side is so interesting: “Many of us don’t understand what it is like to be either in a minority whether by race, culture or belief. ”

      And I would never know someone would see this post that way:

      “so unbiased in conclusions and enlightening.”

      Thanks so much.


  3. Diana…I have been looking forward to this series since I first heard of it. It is perfectly fitting that you went first. You did not ‘take up’ our time with your stories….you filled our time with the gift and beauty of your lived experience. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to reading more of these.

  4. Love this post – it shows us so much of you without it being a ‘rant’. You have been through so much and I agree with you wholeheartedly about the race issues. Can’t wait to read more.

  5. My children were raised in India so light brown to black was the norm for them. They for some reason didn’t consider themselves white and when we had our first vacation in Australia after several years in India they were puzzled at all the “pink” people there. We had a good laugh over that.

  6. I can’t wait to see how this progresses. It was wonderful to get that little glimpse into a slice of your life when you were still young enough to be defining who you were and where you stood in the world. I imagine your students were very sorry to see you leave as I can see you would put much into your work. Thank you so much for sharing. Jenni xx

    • BAH, you guys prove yourself an awesome bunch each time. I was sure I wouldn’t get a lot of likes on this one! LOL Thanks for the deep interest and cheerleading, Jenni. Mean a lot.


  7. Diana, I read this with great interest as I have been thinking long and hard since you invited me to take part in your ‘Race’ as to whether or not I should take part. I don’t feel that I can because for me race has never been and never will be an issue, although of course I know it is for so many. I am white English (with an Irish grandmother) and my children are half American and British (with Mexican, Spanish, French and Greek thrown into the mix, so lovely little mutts they be).

    I’ve got friends from several different cultures, including a lovely African-American lady (who helped me so much through my divorce many years ago) and a very good friend who is Korean-American married to an English guy living over here! She has shared with me how her children for the most part have been accepted at school but then English schools are much more cosmopolitan than in my day. I have shared with her how my daughter was bullied when she started school here because she was American and at the time (2003) everyone detested George Bush. Sounds ridiculous I know, but that’s a whole other story…

    Growing up in ‘white middle-class’ England brought it’s own prejudices based on the way we speak. Here, prejudice also comes from our ‘class’. When my parents split up I was 10 years old and transported to a different part of the UK and sent to a small village school where the kids didn’t talk as ‘poshly’ as my brother and I. We weren’t post btw, just taught to speak correctly. But we were treated as very different and we just wanted to fit in so my brother got into lots of fights and I started talking like the other kids to my mother’s indignation. We found our way eventually 😉

    I also felt ‘out of the loop’ because back then in the late 60’s early 70’s I didn’t know anybody else whose parents were divorced. So my sense of separation came in a very different way. I am as white as they come but I have experienced the ‘cold heat of exclusion’ as you so eloquently put it for different reasons and this isn’t what your ‘Coast to Coast Race’ is about. I haven’t experienced the kind of prejudices you write about here based purely on the colour of someone’s skin and their culture (which I have trouble understanding).

    I’m looking forward to reading your ‘Race’ posts with eager anticipation but I hope you understand my reasons for not taking part. And you can be so proud of yourself that you held your head high and came out of that awful school situation with your integrity intact. That speaks louder than any prejudice.

    Blessings and love to you my friend – Sherri x (and I apologise for the ‘essay’, 😉 )

    • Sherri, I’m smiling bc you essentially participated in the series LOL. Thanks so much for your time (don’t ever feel you have to explain yourself to me, at least so thoughtfully *wink*), and that was so sweet and conscientious of you as a writer and blogger to consider contributing so deeply. I’ve been getting in a nice wave of contributions but I would’ve accepted this comment (minipost) to enable you to speak to my readers bc you bring up the sister issues I myself am about to in Part 2: language, class. Dang, had wanted to surprise. To keep the series focused, I isolated race but it’s really not possible to speak solely on that aspect of relationships and identity. What this project is about is a look at how we locate our anchor where we don’t feel we belong. I plan to extend this simple thesis into the year, in related projects.

      Your rich story, which I am grateful you took the time to share, is safe in our treasury. Maybe you’ll want to bring it out to the light later in the year here. =)

      I feel your heart. In many ways. Thank you for the love and support, S. I did say I support your book! Hope it’s going well.


      • Oh no, sorry for spoiling the surprise! But yes, I did sort of participate didn’t I? Ha Ha! Well, I’m so glad that to be a part of this even if in this way and yes, let’s see how things go later in the year. I’m sure this will be a great success.

        Thanks so much for asking about my book, it’s going, but v e r y slowly. But, progress is being made..letter by letter 🙂

        Blessings to you Diana, have a beautiful day 😉

  8. Could it be that Afro-americans are considered as Americans(albeit unequal), because they have been part of the history/culture for a longer period of time…whereas Asians( from far east to south east!) are more recent additions…after all, if Indians are any evidence…we don’t lack the ability to be vocal! 🙂

    • Point well taken. This very land, therefore, has been their battleground. But the racial “temperament” is a huge part of it. More on that in Part 2. By Indian do you mean Native Amer or those from India?

      • Well…i wait for the 2nd part with eager anticipation! 🙂 And for me Indian means from India…I learned to refer to American Indians as Red Indians( is that term considered racist at present?)…I believe now they are referred to as Native Indians…

      • Sweet of you.
        I think red does sound racist. LOL! Have not heard that.

        I met Cheyenne Indians in Montana in the 90s. Wanted to include that in Part 1 but didn’t want the post running so long. I forget if they wanted to be called Native Indians or just Indians. NOT Native Americans. Yeah, interesting. We do gymnastics on PC ground only to irritate people.

  9. Wheneve I relate a story of any kind, if there is a difference in skin color other than white, I find myself adding that piece of information. And…you know what…I hate myself for saying it. What in the hell does the color of the skin have to do with anything? And yet I still do it. Lord, forgive me and change me.

  10. Well, you said it in your post, “We are not vocal about it.” I had not thought of that idea that Korean Americans are called Koreans, wow, that is interesting and insightful to be made aware of that. And yes, Koreans Americans are just called Koreans, now that I think about. So it was a very enlightening post and I can see why it’s popular. I also love the teacher perspective. Thanks for this series D. Blessings, S.

    • It’s helpful knowing which parts struck a reader. Often, they are things that are not new or interesting to the storyteller simply bc we were immersed. And there is a whOLe lotta politics in the schools. Esp bc it’s largely women at the lower grades and they backbite. Yes, really ugly. It actually affects the quality of services students receive, bc when teachers cooperate they can give the kids so much more – than the minimum. Thanks for the feedback, S. Looking fwd to how things unfold for you on the podium. =)

  11. I love the vulnerability, fluency and articulation of speech. The depth of each experience is impactful because it mirrors mine own in one way or another. It is almost as if another story is captured in the one being told and as a result, each element fires itself into the heart of a reader in some way-whether small or big. Masterful work, Diana. Masterful.

    • I’m telling you, you leave me in wonder at such a response. I can only be grateful – if not relieved – it spoke to you. I’ve replied to readers that I just did not (I think could not) see the value of this post to the extent you all have. This was a powerful reexperience of something I said last year, how as writers we are SO IN IT. It is hard to distance ourself from…ourself. Thanks so very much for the generous feedback. You seriously keep me going on WP.

      I’d love to know something of just what it is I mirrored. That’s for you to share at your discretion, if you choose.

      *Pat hand. Squeeze. Smile*

  12. I always enjoy getting to know about you. I loved, btw- the title of your story- and your journey that has clearly made you stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate. Thank you for making yourself vulnerable to us by sharing… i feel like the immigrant experience has so many layers to it that are complex to articulate- the different feelings that can bubble up because of what sometimes must be faced. No one tells you that when you come to America.. that it isn’t going to be all about Disneyland.

    • Thanks for yet another rich, thoughtful response, my friend. In part for the layers you point out so beautifully, my story has been very difficult to write. Not easy teasing them apart.

      Appreciate the loving read.


  13. Running out of time, but my childhood and youth included New Orleans, Louisiana; St. Louis, Missouri; Jackson, Mississippi; Houston, Texas. Then I married and lived in Nashville, Tennessee. Mostly, it was easy to move from one to the other. Culture shock came when we moved to a rural small town outside Nashville with our five children. We bought 100 acres on the “wrong” side of the county because land was cheap and to me a 100 acres was a kingdom. Wrong….in the country you are interdependent in ways you never were in the city.
    And we were the first “outsiders” to move into that “holler” since before the Civil War. I’ve wanted to write a book about it. It would be funny, sad, and amazing to city dwellers, but I would have to move or write it under a closely guarded pseudonym! Must go, but if I manage to write a blog or two about the experience, I’ll let you know.

    I love all that you write. It is always meaningful, thought provoking, and revelatory. You have so much talent, experience,wisdom, and honesty. Thank you once again for sharing it.

    • I’m grateful for this precious bit of your history as well as the gracious encouragement, Eileen. Readers like you keep me going. DO let me know if you write up those amazing posts.


    • Eileen, it is interesting to find out many things about you for the first time on Diana’s blog. As a W.A.S P. (female as opposed to male) my experience is a reverse take on white privilege.

  14. So very interesting. And you see..? I never once considered the African American title versus the Asian title in the US. You really made me think. Sometimes we don’t understand the most obvious things until they are painstakingly explained to us (or maybe it’s just me!) so thank you for doing that. I would venture to say at some point that every person on the planet has experienced some form of discrimination based on their skin/race even rich white people…even if it’s just a comment such as “Ew, your freckles look like dirt! 🙂 Your series is enlightening and thought provoking.

    • “Ew, your freckles look like dirt!”
      Err….a bit of a stretch, no?

      ‘S okay. You were writing on the fly. I’m so glad I managed to shed even a bit of light on something you may have missed, Jackie. I appreciate the support and feedback. When you put yourself out there like this, it is very helpful to hear of its redemptive value.


      • I just meant that we humans are quick to pounce on any detail that we think will hurt another, not that I was equating having freckles with racism regarding skin color. See? Can I just go on record as saying that political correctness is a fecking mine field!

  15. I applaud you for doing this series, Diana. Race discrimination is one of the most disabling issues for our country. Hopefully, through more communication, and greater understanding of our experiences, it will become less so. As a white person, growing up and living in New Jersey, I am aware of being discriminated against for skin color twice. The first was in the 1950’s in the early days of the civil rights movement when a small group of African-American children walking behind me and my younger girlfriend pushed and kicked us down the street until we reached a store where we entered to wait until they were out of sight. The other time was in the last ten years when I did not receive a political appointment because I was not African-American and the former director of this agency had been. I could say more, but will not, and to quote you, ” I also refused to stoop to the level of my enemies.”

    It’s also really nice to get to know more about you, Diana!

    • Wow, Shirley. Getting chills, esp from the snippet of your childhood. Paul’s rich comments under Part 4 really say it. That many come to the table angry. I appreciate your sharing those difficult experiences. And the willing read. =)


  16. … you have created something so unbelievably amazing here… I know you feel it, but I hope you REALLY feel it. If this were a book I had had the privlege of sampling, I don’t doubt I would buy it. It feels so GLOBALLY impactful… thank you for taking this on!

  17. Diana, this series, with your story at the forefront, is going to be enlightening and truly educational. Like Sherri, I considered contributing, but decided to give it a pass to more appropriately allow others the space for expressing their experiences. While I encountered some isolation/ longing for acceptance because I was raised middle class Jewish in a largely Christian city / school district (although I am Christian now), I prefer to read and learn about the thoughts and feelings of your other readers in the hopes of growing my own understanding and compassion. My expectation was realized in your own contribution, and I look forward to part 2, and the rest of your readers’ responses to your thoughtful questions.

    • Susan, you warm me deeply. Really appreciate hearing from you on this series. It’s been pretty amazing on many grounds, esp for the active vested feedback. Glad to know something of your own journey along these lines.

      “My expectation was realized in your own contribution, and I look forward to part 2” Would you mind sharing briefly exactly which part spoke to you? I would be honored to know.

      I am really pleased you have joined us – in any way is just fine. There are many who are reading quietly but intently, coffee in hand. I can try to bring you an organic cup….


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  19. Thanks for sending me your link. Now, it’s my turn to say I feel I know you a little better. Oh, the similarities! Oh, and the differences! Love your opening observations, btw, it’s true, why are we called Asian Americans???

  20. I am so glad I found your blog… As a white mutt (English ..Irish ..German …Dutch )living in the Hawaiian islands.. I have been made to feel out of sorts many times… Yet due to the cultural challenge …I have expanded my compassion for minority living… and no longer live in a box… My daughter who is 1/2 Portuguese from father …last name Cabral …went to school in Atlanta Georgia one year (old money all white school) was teased that she should be speaking her own language.. Continually on her bus… She was not as eloquent as you …turned around and told the boy ” do you realize how ignorant you are” she was also a gifted and talented student at that time… She could not believe not one black or Asian or Hispanic student in her school…she felt … This was sad for them…to have no reality around a diverse culture (this was 8th grade) …fast forward …college where whites were a minority at UC Merced California…and she introduced 150 High School and Middle School underrepresented and financially challenged students to the possibility of engineering.. As she would say… All of her experiences had her be much more compassionate and understanding of all cultures… Glad she was challenged culturally to see her world .. Which will benefit her .moving into her future corporate life as well… The joke at her school …here in Hawaii was that NO Portuguese was ever brilliant in Math…boy were they surprised… !,Thank you also for liking angel vibration…come visit angel frequency where I do my posting at…. For some reason my first post is what earth angel goes to …so check this out to further follow my current posts… Heart to heart Robyn Looking forward to following you in the future!!

    • What a story. Did you get to the last Race contribution “At the Finish Line: Asian American in Thailand”? Lani grew up in Hawaii and talked of how whites felt like outsiders.

      “she was also a gifted and talented student at that time… She could not believe not one black or Asian or Hispanic student in her school…she felt …

      Are you saying no black or Asian student was in the GATE program? And you actually took the words from an upcoming post in my drafts “This was sad for them…to have no reality around a diverse culture (this was 8th grade) “. I taught GATE in PA, by the way.

      Your daughter sounds awesome. I know the rough road toughened her. But it’s wonderful that it also softened her with compassion. Sounds like you both have been through a lot.

      Thanks for the follow and earnest feedback. I appreciate your presence. My visit was a pleasure.


      • Diana I just want to tell you…you are an amazing writer… Yes no Black or Asian Student in her 8th grade school at ALL! Hispanic for that matter.. I will go back and read about Lani….When my daughter was at Seabury “a private school here in Hawaii” was very diverse.. she had another challenge.. she did not want to be smarter than the boys…yet it was an excellent choice for me to spend my entire savings income on her attending that she would have been seriously isolated in the public system here…Her father told me…he would help for college ..yet it was my choice to live in no real help financially there.. All seemed to turn out.. as I remarried and we squeak by financially..after the enormous education expenses…all worth it to me! I look forward to reading more from you! Heart to heart Robyn

      • Thanks for sharing your heart along with your precious story, Robyn. A woman who will not think twice about going against the grain, esp for her child. A kindred spirit. =) That is something, that she didn’t want to excel over the boys. I really don’t mean to keep you mired here but you just reminded me indirectly of the Smarts, Praise, and the Myth of Self-Esteem post that parents and teachers really took to. It’s on my Top 10 in the sidebar. Why we shouldn’t tell our kids they’re smart. I suspect you’ll have things to say.

        Talk again, sooner or later.


  21. Thanks Diana… I feel privileged to know a kindred spirit… We connect on so many levels… I have read many of your posts…and will go into the top 10 posts… I am hooked as a blogger after only 2 months …yet will remember your line in one of them “it’s not about myself”.. I can only pray that I continue to stay focused on my readers and give them food for thought…as you have so eloquently done…Thank you Heart to Heart Robyn

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  25. It was in Honolulu. I was 21 and in the Navy, and wandering around Waikiki, when I realized for the first time that I was Asian – everyone looked like me. The strangest epiphany. For the first time ever I blended in with the crowd!

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  28. Quite a story. My granddaughter quit a job because of constant undermining by the eighteen caretakers who were under her authority. Most of them were older, she was but 21 and due to her college credentials, placed in a position over them. I know most would say she should have stuck out, but sometimes when the heart breaks it is difficult. But you are very resilient. Thanks for sharing.

  29. So glad that you shared your story! Was interesting to read and way to go in not retorting when faced with mean words and actions towards you. Way to take the high road! And yes you are right, we need to learn that life isn’t about sheltered in a bubble. We need to learn how we will face hard times when they for they do come! Thanks again for opening up more of yourself for us to see.

  30. Oh, I loved everything about this! I usually call myself Latina, because I hate being tied to a place. I remember growing up and being too white to be accepted as Mexican/Latin and being too tan to be White. I’m Irish/French/Spanish, in a fairly large measure undiluted. I live in California, too, but I went to college in Washington and made peace with my identity inside and out in Seattle, a good place to rescue your soul.

    • Oh, given your response, I’m glad you caught this, Cindy. It was the first time I opened the window into my history, my childhood apartment in NYC. I’d wanted to give you guys better than that. =) But oh well, here we are really getting to know one another!

  31. It was interesting to see your responses to the same questions you asked us, D. I agree that it is valuable for people to get out of their comfort zone, to have to function within another community as a minority. I did a presentation yesterday on my Peace Corps’ service. Living intensively in another culture was one of the most valuable experiences in my life. Thanks for sharing. –Curt

  32. Very well-written Diana.

    I’m glad your sense of self remained strong. I agree that:
    The real world isn’t a bubble … it’s important for those who usually sit among the white majority to have to work through this sense of isolation at some point, too.

    I would have suggested they come to my native country, Nigeria, with circa 170M black population. But here, they are protected in their ‘expat’ bubble *sigh* and those who are not, fall victim to a messiah complex. Did I digress? That’s where your writing took me… Maybe volunteering in some of the predominantly Asian- or African- American communities is a start. I hope I found my way back 🙂

    • “protected in their ‘expat’ bubble”

      EXACTLY what I wrote last night for the next post. Messiah complex? Interesting. The volunteering is a marvelous idea. Unfortunately, I just don’t see anyone who is comfortable in their white greenhouse going out of his, her way like that.

  33. You always write such poignant pieces Diana, but often you keep much about your personal self hidden. It was a pleasure to get to know more about you, your heritage, and your personal struggles finding your place in a new world where you were a minority. Look how much you’ve accomplished in your life. You should be very proud from a student, to a teacher, to a nurturing mother. You’ve left your mark in many people’s lives without realizing it I’m sure. ❤

    • Profound thanks for the encouragement, Deb. The funny thing is that despite such feedback I still don’t get what was neat about my story. =) For real. I’m just glad it enriched perspectives and expanded awareness for those who took the time. You have a gift of seeing people and it begins where you care to look.

      • Thanks for your compliment Diana. Everyone has a story. And as a memoir writer and person who adores documentaries, I’m always fascinated by the beginnings from where people are today – hardships, growth, societal changes, and who we become. 🙂

  34. Diana enjoyed reading about your life, I have never felt like a minority in my country due to being of Irish ancestors. But travel can teach you many things and I remember the feelings of being alone when I travelled through many different countries. It was good for me to feel this way so it reminded me to treat newcomers to this land with respect and a welcoming smile. Australia has such an awesome diverse mix of cultures. I especially love the food experience, which would be kind of bland if people from all over this globe had not made the journey to live here.

    • I appreciate the time and the glimpse into your experiences, Kath. I learned just how diverse it is over there through this race series a few yrs ago. And food, I’ve come to think more and more, is the heart of culture. We eat throughout the day!

      • When I went to the city of Sydney recently I was so excited about the choice of wonderful food on offer. I agree food brings people together Diana. It is funny moving to a small rural town after being an inner city chick. Choices of different foods are getting slowly better and now we have not one, but two venues that sell sushi……and one of the best Thai restaurants around. Slowly people are moving out into rural areas but good paying jobs are harder to find. The rural life does not look all that attractive to most city dwellers.

  35. There are many who care. They may need your story to think of another area of life which was disenfranchised.
    I am wishing you had not had such negative experiences. My Mom, by the way, was a high school teacher who chose people in her classes who seemed to need help in some way. We called her habit of bringing students home with her, Guess who’s coming to dinner? I have pictures of our attending weddings of people from various backgrounds as well as remembering the three summers we loaded up our station wagon with a kitchen playset, puzzles, books and trucks. Our place was in a basement every summer of a church where children needed extra help. I remember a color blind child needing to learn which circle on the stoplight was red, to be able to cross a busy inner city street to go to school. We would bring sandwiches, cookies and koolaid to serve daily lunches. This was pre- Head Start days, unpaid volunteer “work” but we (3 children) always felt like it was play. So, yes! Suggesting to people to try understand and participate in ways that one would never imagine is a way to cross barriers and build bridges, Diana.

    • You’re out for Reader of the Year Award early – it’s only January. You just expanded my awareness twicefold, R. Your first two sentences said it all. But I am so glad for the glimpse into your extraordinary mother’s heart. And that is just wonderful, how she enlisted her kids to help make a difference. You remind us how easy it can be – it was play! – if only we’d take a moment to get creative and give some of our time. You’ve planted some food for thought for me as a mother. Thank you so much…for YOUR time today. And if you hear noise, it’s the plaque being cut for your award.

  36. When I was young I saw everybody through race goggles. Now that I am approaching 40..those goggles have been thrown away. We are all individuals first with families and friends who feel the same emotions about life, love, and work. I look at people as individuals first, and I try not to put them in boxes. When you put people in boxes–you are not seeing them for what they are—you see the box first whether that be the color of their skin, religion, ethnicity. How about we see the person without a box—the box you think they are in may not be the one you imagined!

    • This is something I’ve addressed on other posts. We assume others’ narratives to make ourselves feel better and keep them in boxes to assure ourselves of control. Thank you so much for your wisdom.

  37. Interesting how we carry our personal stories around for so long and assume it’s just wallpaper.

    Great post, me to Part 2 which I wasn’t aware of either.

  38. Growing up a Canadian of Anglo-Irish descent I suppose I was in the privileged class of society, although from a working class family. Fortunately I have a Dad who is a decent man and who worked with Native people in northern British Columbia. His approach is that he judges people based on their actions and merits, not their skin colour or ethnicity, and that’s the lesson I grew up with. Although in a position of authority with the provincial government as a forest ranger, he was always fair to Native people (northern Dene nation mostly). Because I was a bookish kid with glasses I was bullied mercilessly so my best friend growing up was Native; I had very few white friends in school.
    So it’s strange to say so but I can empathize with those suffering racist discrimination because I grew up an outsider among my own culture. I also remember my parents making friends with a couple from India and we thought it nothing unusual. Keep in mind that at the time in Canadian culture, Native peoples were routinely denigrated as “dirty Indians,” “drunk Indians” (whether they were or not), etc. That kind of talk was not allowed in our household.
    That said, I do feel Canadian culture is generally more accepting of different races and cultures. During the Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau years I grew up in, the metaphor was the cultural “mosaic” rather than the “melting pot” of the U.S. I think the idea was that, like a literal mosaic, each piece is different and unique but all are parts of the whole picture. No one was expected to give up their culture to fit in or “become Canadian.” We did have a fight over allowing Sikhs to wear their ceremonial daggers and turbans in the police force (RCMP) but that was eventually allowed.
    In fairness to our Native peoples, our history is not great. We stole their children from their families and put them into Catholic-run residential schools, literally beating their cultures and languages out of them. However there has been a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission and an official apology with restitution beginning to finally be made to the victims. About the best I can say about that is that at least we didn’t sanction a bounty on killing them as happened in the U.S. during white settlement.
    In that respect Canada’s history differs profoundly from America’s. While far from innocent, the British rule of law prevented some of the worst abuses, even in remote wilderness areas. In part that has to do with our longstanding gun laws, which speak for themselves, with gun deaths in Canada probably ten times lower than the U.S. Like the U.S. though, we did put the Japanese into internment camps during WWII and my community hosts the remnants of one such camp, now a national museum.
    If history teaches us anything it’s that NO nation is free of guilt. Still, I feel incredibly lucky to have grown up Canadian, especially with such an amazing father for a role model in race relations.

    • Wow. I appreciate the condensed history lesson on Canada! How rich, and yes, thankfully less stained than America’s.

      “Sikhs to wear their ceremonial daggers and turbans in the police force (RCMP) but that was eventually allowed.” Fascinating. Thanks so much for your time.

  39. Being Korean myself, I get bugged when folks ask me where I’m from, but then ask again, when I say I’m from Guam. Cuz they just wanna know whether I’m Chinese, Filipina, Japanese, etc.

    Very informative and lovely post. You always write…deeply, I guess is what I’m tryin’ to say. Your writing draws me in and tells a full story – even if it’s in parts! Always lovin’ a stop-by to here, dear.

  40. I loved learning these bits about you. Gives me more perspective on your strong voice and where it came from. I really didn’t have much experience with diversity until I married a Hispanic man and had kids with him. And then I saw the oh-so-many ways white privilege exerts itself. Ways I’d just never really thought about. If diversity could hit the areas that have themselves somewhat ring-fenced, it would work wonders.

    • Very sweet, and I appreciate the humble acquiescence on white privilege. It’s a glaring beast in some of the communities we’re part of, one that saddens me in how blind (and unwittingly smug) it renders the white Americans. The director high up in the school district I’ve been working with didn’t feel I could share (at an upcoming event) a (passionate) poem of mine that calls this out. And he himself a minority, he shared my poem perspective on white privilege, the elephant in the room.

      • It’s funny bc it’s for an equity conference. And everything I wrote was unarguable. I wasn’t upset – he’s a great guy and it’s what I expected. I also don’t want to stir trouble as a guest in the district.

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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