8 Women on When They Became Aware of Their Race
"I wore a hijab on my first day of high school in Mobile, Alabama, and spent the day being battered by questions. I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, thinking, It's just a simple piece of cloth; I'm the same person. So why do I feel so alienated?"
Lacey Caldwell Senko, 40, Cary, North Carolina
"When we were 17, my African American best friend and I went to a roller rink where I was the only white person; the other skaters glared and even pushed us. I asked, 'Is this how you feel every day?' When she said yes, it was an epiphany."
Gwenn Hall, 61, Austell, Georgia
"I knew who I was the second I heard James Brown sing, Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud! That was actually my campaign slogan when I ran for office in elementary school. Of course I won."
Amelia Blanquera, 47, Brooklyn
"In first grade, a Latino classmate and I were singled out for English language instruction. We were both fluent in English."
Latasha Kennedy, 37, Brooklyn
"At my small liberal arts college in Ohio, my professor insisted on calling me by the wrong name: Latisha. When I finally corrected him, he shrugged and said, ‘Same difference.'"
Nicole Lee, 40, Oakland
"I'm constantly asked where I'm from. When I reply, ‘Oakland,' the person usually says, ‘No, where are you really from?' It's a subtle message that if you're Asian, you won't ever truly be American. But this is the only country I've ever lived in—my grandmother was born here."
Beverly Sargent Noble, 66, Loveland, Colorado
"Often being white in America means being oblivious to the color of your skin. I always understood what I was not, more so than what I was."
Angela Menchaca, 33, Uvalde, Texas
"In fourth grade, a friend turned to me and said, ‘You know you're a wetback, right?'"