My views about racism have been colored by my life. As most people know, I have had a very usual life living in 8 different countries. We left the States when I was four years old. When we left, I had no idea there was such a thing as race or racism. We went to England.
In England, I was overawed by the blonde hair and blue eyes. I thought the people with blond hair and blue eyes looked like angels. Everyone didn’t have quite the same response to me. You see, I have light black hair, brown eyes, and yellowish skin full of freckles. One little boy went home and told his mother that he didn’t want to play with me because I never washed my face. He thought my freckles were mud. Kids just don’t understand, and I thought he was funny.
When we moved to Morocco, I went to an international school with kids from every background. They were all ambassador’s children and children of people who worked at the embassy. I was an American who spoke with a British accent, and my dad didn’t like it. I didn’t know how to speak with an American accent, but I began trying to make my dad happy. There was a little boy from England in my class, and I loved playing with him because he was the kind of people I was used to. I understood him. We played checkers, and I let him win because I wanted him to keep playing with me. The Korean ambassador’s daughter came to the school, and they wouldn’t let her play with the other kids until she learned to speak English. We played checkers, and I let him win because I wanted him to keep playing with me. The Korean ambassador’s daughter came to the school, and they wouldn’t let her play with the other kids until she learned to speak English. I couldn’t wait to play with her. She was the first oriental I ever met, and we hit it off and enjoyed being together. I left school once with her in her limousine, and when my parents heard, they went crazy telling me that Korea had lots of crazy cults, and they could have drugged me and kidnapped me. I didn’t let them change my views of my friend because I knew she was good. While we were in the playground at school, there was a part of the playground we couldn’t go because Arab children used to come there and scream and throw rocks at the students in my school. I couldn’t understand them at all. Why would they want to treat people bad they didn’t even know? I played with the Arab children in my neighborhood, so I knew all Arabs children weren’t bad.
After we left Morocco, we lived in California. I was in junior high, and the students were beginning to get boyfriends and girlfriends. There were even black/white couples running around holding hands, and it didn’t bother me. I had a crush on an oriental guy, but he never knew it. I had heard about racism in America, but I thought it was ancient history. However, I was soon to find out it wasn’t.
We lived on a military base. The Black Panthers were causing trouble. My neighbors were a black/white family. The husband was an American black man, and the wife was a Polish white woman. They were receiving death threats from the Black Panthers because they didn’t think they should be together. Their kids had to go to a private school on base because they would be hurt if they went off base. I was the only person allowed to play with their kids because they weren’t scared of me.
From California, we moved to Oklahoma while I was still in junior high. In my junior high, they were talking about bussing. Evidently, there were white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods in Oklahoma, and they were wanting to mix the neighborhoods together. Fine with me. However, I was surprised when a girl in my class said that her parents told her that if they mixed the schools, she could quit school so she wouldn’t have to go to school with black kids. —What? People were crazy!
When I visited my grandparents in south eastern Oklahoma, I learned my grandfather used the “n” word. My parents heard him using it and said to me to never repeat him, to never use that word, as if it was a cuss word. They said that people who used it put themselves in line to be treated badly.
After that, we moved back to California. There were kids from every race in my school again. I had a crush on a Mexican guy. There were no militant blacks or whites. Everyone got along fine. However, I remember a black guy that I thought was completely off his rocker. He showed up at school wearing a bright purple sparkly suit from head to toe. He had high heeled shoes. He also had a big purple hat with a big purple plume. I knew all blacks didn’t dress like that, but I thought he looked like a clown. It had nothing to do with his color, but I remember that he was black.
Again, we headed back for Oklahoma where I finished high school. They had been trying to integrate the schools. There were already whites and American Indians in the school, but they wanted blacks too. They talked a black girl and a black guy into coming to school there. The black girl was too put off by all the white people and quit after one day. The black guy did great! He tried out for the basketball team and was one of our star basketball players. He ran around with my cousin. He seemed to be a really nice guy.
I went to college for a year, and then I had to drop out. I lived with my grandmother in S. eastern Oklahoma so I could work. One of my uncles came to stay there too. He came in one day bragging on beating up a black guy, and he was using the “n” word. I stood up to him even though he scared me and told me that no one should be beat up because of the color of their skin.
When I graduated, I went to Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City. The campus was full of Christians. We never made any difference in anyone’s skin color. We all hung out with one another, and we all loved God. I actually dated a black guy for a while, but then I realized the world outside of the Christian university would be hard to deal with, and I tried to tell him, and he didn’t want to accept it, but I remembered the black/white couple who had death threats. I knew there were people in my family who were prejudiced. I wasn’t ready just trash my family. I also went out with a guy who was 100% American Indian, but he decided he liked my friend better. I went out with white guys too. I really didn’t care what color a person was. I went to Japan as an exchange student, and I got really close to a Japanese guy. There was a black/white couple at Oklahoma Christian University who decided to get married. I was afraid for them. I was inspired by them and proud of them, but I knew they were just asking for a life of havock.
After I graduated and was married, we went to Texas, and we ran into some old friends from Oklahoma Christian University. The husband of the family was black, and the wife was white. We hung out with them. When we went to Nigeria as missionaries, they followed us. They stayed in our house. I was actually closer to the husband than the wife because we had been in an acting troupe together in school and had a lot of long talks together when we went on our trips. He had never seemed prejudiced at all to me, but his wife, a white woman, seemed prejudiced against whites to me. She was radical and crazy. She had blond hair and blue eyes, but she hated white people, but he didn’t. They eventually ended in divorce.
In Nigeria, we hung out with our neighbor a lot. She was from Pakistan, and we enjoyed being together. The Nigerians at times asked me if I was from Pakistan, and it seemed a really strange question to me. Our house was constantly full of Nigerian students who came to teach me Hausa, came to eat dinner with us, or came to study the Bible with us. We had both Nigerian and white American missionary friends who stayed with us when they traveled.
Since that time, I have been a missionary to Japan, Romania, and S. Korea. I have spent time in Texas where I taught Spanish was well as English to Mexican children. I spent time in Ohio where I was the one professor that all the international students of every country and race hung out at my house. A couple of Korean girls stayed with us, but every Sunday afternoon, all the international students were there for lunch. Making a difference between any of them never entered my mind.
At one point, while we were in Texas, there were blacks, whites, and American Indians on our street. All the children played together except the kids of one of the black families. That black family didn’t like the other black family because they associated with the others on the street. They thought they should only associate with blacks. When someone in the house of the blacks who didn’t think we should all associate with one another was arrested for being a drug pusher, I realized it was there were real problems in that house.
When I was growing up, I was confused. My dad was always telling us about our American Indian ancestry and to be proud of it. I knew I was part white and part American Indian. The American schools would send forms home for me to fill out with my parents. They always asked me to check a box as to which ethnicity I was. I was confused because there was no place for mixed race. I asked my dad what to do, and his response was, “Well, you look white, so check white.” However, as I have traveled around the world, people have mistaken me for Romanian, English, Pakistani, Japanese, and Korean. I couldn’t look all that white, but there is no doubt I am part white, but people notice the dark in me too.
When I was in Ohio, I ran into a fourth cousin who was a vocational missionary to the north. He told me that we were also part black, not just white and American Indian. When I tried to tell my mother, she didn’t accept it. However, since coming back to the states this time, my first cousins in Oklahoma told me they had a DNA test made, and they were amazed to learn we were also part black. Some have tried to say that my parents lied to me and that we aren’t Indian, but we carry the Cherokee culture. I have learned to recognize it.
In S. Korea, when I went to the all English speaking church, the blacks from the American military base were a bit strange. There were also American Indians, Filipinos, black people from Ghana, white people from Europe, and Koreans along with the whites in that church. Most of the congregation sat together, but the blacks separated themselves from the others. I tried hard to reach out to them because they weren’t going to reach out to me or any of the others who weren’t black. I didn’t understand why they were so standoffish.
One of my daughters is now married to a Japanese guy, and the other is married to a Korean guy. My oldest son married a white girl from Ohio. I have two half Japanese grandkids. The Orientals have always really liked me and my family. One of my best friends in Korea is from Romania. Another of my best friends is from Bangladesh. I have some really good black friends from America and from Africa. I have friends around the world. When we moved to America, we moved to a place purposefully that was a very integrated neighborhood because we like people from different countries and different backgrounds. I have spent my life learning from people of different backgrounds. I don’t care what color of skin I have. I don’t care what color of skin they have. I love people. I try to protect everyone. When people gang up on me on Facebook and try to call me racist, they do so because they have no idea who I am. They are judging me without knowing me. Here in Oklahoma, I enjoy my neighborhood that is full of whites, blacks, Mexicans, and American Indians.