The Stain of Racial Memories and my Public Persona

I have been thinking a lot lately about my own agency in discussions about racism on Facebook. As most of you know, I have dedicated my research and teaching to racism and hope to base my career studying the rhetorics of race. I didn’t get to this moment on my own, though. My interest in racism slowly grew as I finished my MA in English literature. I published a paper on John Steinbeck’s views of race in East of Eden, and as I entered into my PhD program in Rhetoric and Composition, I began to realize my interest in race. New theories in legal and cultural studies, critical race theory and postcolonial theory, grabbed my attention during coursework. And as I moved into my third-year, I knew race was a subject I had to write about my entire life.

My studies were not the only thing that lead me to this point, though. My perception of the world began to change too. I was raised in a white household, in a white town, and was only brown because of my skin. I did not speak Spanish nor have an accent. I sounded like “normal” Americans and fit into this group as well. And as I moved to a larger city after my primary education, I really did not think race had affected my life at all.

But that was untrue. Race had been a major part of my education in my hometown; rather, I remember being racialized. My nicknames in high school were “Wetback” and “Beaner.” I remember coaches saying not to piss off the black kids because they were better athletes when angry. I remember taking part of chants after pep rallies, “We’re alright cuz we’re all white!” That never made sense to me because we had a large Latina/o population. But these words by peers, friends, and authoritative figures showed me how racial my childhood was. That wasn’t okay. People should not say these things to one another. Adults shouldn’t tell kids such things. This would not be acceptable in other communities, so why was is it acceptable in mine?

This pain affected me once I left the town and realized this climate was not the norm. People don’t grow up thinking they can openly say racist things to people. I harbor this pain daily, and I strive to better my environment and educate my friends who still think this sort of thing is okay.

So now we make a full circle. This pain in my formative years makes me who I am today. I use my social media feeds as a way to promote racial equality. I feel that if I can show the people around me the pain that other suffer through systemic racism, if I can show that daily, maybe, just maybe, people might start to see differently about race. So I explore how people talk about race to demonstrate how racism still pervades today.

However, I understand my persona can come off as combative at times, and that is not what I want to do. From now on, I will continue to post the racial pains of those suffering today, but I will no longer be combative. I will take part in honest conversation as best as I can, but I do not want to come off as a “know-it-all.” So I will refuse to. If any of you have any honest questions, please feel free to inquire.

No one can take my memories away from me. No one can take my experiences away from me. I have witnessed a racism that will continually persuade me to fight against it, and I believe this energy is what propels me to be so active in my scholarship and on social media. This energy, however, can become more inviting and less dickish. So I promise you readers and engagers, to promote the racialized pain in the world and to call for love at the same time. It is the least I can do.

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