PLATFORMS : SPECIAL REPORT: Race and Black America : Racism: Have You Ever Seen or Experienced It?
JOE SANCHEZ: Businessman whose family owns and operates several grocery stores in the Los Angeles area.
What I see is not racism. I don’t think that blacks or Latinos are racist against each other because of the color of their skin. What they’re arguing about, or what they’re negotiating for, is jobs. There’s a strong discussion of who’s getting the jobs and who’s getting the appointments. It’s economic competition that has the anger going through the communities. In this recession, I see more of it.
I’ve been spending time in South-Central Los Angeles because we’re trying to buy a location out there. I haven’t had anybody tell me we shouldn’t be opening up a store because of racism or color. What they’ve said is, are you going to hire X amount of Afro-Americans and X amount of Latinos? And when we get that straightened out, everything’s OK. But the pressure’s there.
Right in East L.A. Sears is closing up. jobs. This is going to put 5,000 people out there, and they’re going to be competing against other minorities. It’s not going to be a problem of racism, it’s going to be a problem of economics.
SABRINA Y. HOLMES: A secretary at a research institution based in Santa Monica, who lives in the Los Angeles area.
I have a 9-year-old son. By law we can have our kids in schools close to us. Since I work in Santa Monica, I wanted my son in school in Santa Monica. He was allowed to come to the Santa Monica school district, but they made him go to one particular school, in a rich section, because of his color. They wanted more minorities in that school.
I had a lot of problems with that school. My son experienced a lot of prejudice, but what shocked me most was that the teachers were very prejudiced. I had a hard time communicating with them.
Kids at that age act out their frustration, and my son acted out his frustration. There were problems every day with some of the students. One kid referred to him as a monkey. (My son asked) why his skin was so dark, or why his lips were larger, so I knew comments were being made to him. His self-esteem was really low, very low.
He had confrontations with the same two little boys but was always the one sent to the office. At first, I didn’t realize what was going on and I’d get upset with him. Then one day he just cried and said, “You really don’t understand. Even if I tell (the teacher) that they hit me first or they said things, she sends me to the office.”
I was surprised in that this is Santa Monica, this is 1991. I knew he would face insensitivities, but I didn’t think it would be that severe. We’re from Texas and I know all about prejudice. It just seemed much worse here.
CHUCK MORGAN: He has owned and operated a service station in the Pico-Westwood area for more than 30 years.
I’ve seen it the other way around. I had (a black mechanic) from my church work for me and he was very good. And then he had his brother come and he was prejudiced. He quit and said I was prejudiced. I was never prejudiced against anybody. Then I had another (mechanic) work for me, and he was very prejudiced against white people. He wanted me to get in a fight, he wanted me to hit him, so I had to let him go. He called me every name in the book, of course.
I think you can find (prejudice) in white, black, yellow or anything. It’s ignorance. That’s what it is, strictly ignorance.
ALLISON BURCH: She has begun her senior year at Venice High School. Burch was raised in the Los Angeles area.
There is a bit (of prejudice against blacks at school). . . . People not having as much respect for them as they should, or thinking they’re not as bright as they are.
For most people, it’s not a big deal. But for some, I’d guess a minority, they’re not comfortable with integration.
(My black friends) haven’t said anything to me, though I’m sure things happen. Maybe they don’t feel as comfortable discussing it with me as they do among themselves.
I’ve heard that Palisades High School has a big racial problem--the whites don’t like the blacks being there, and the blacks don’t like being bused. Whereas Venice is one community. Everyone lives in (the community) and it’s not as big of a problem.
DAMION WILLIAMS: A student at Dominguez High School in Compton, he is active in community youth and sports programs.
I was in the 10th grade at Lynwood High School. (In one class) there were three Chinese, five or six Hispanic kids, and the rest were black Americans. Some of the blacks were treated right, but not most of them. I felt that the Asians and Hispanics were treated more fairly because they all passed with As and Bs, and the rest of the class got Ds and Fs. It was known all over the school that the teacher was a prejudiced man.
I experienced racism at Magic Mountain. We were on our way to eat, and there was a white couple there eating. I sat down right next to them, and they deliberately got up and moved, moved all their food and everything. They must’ve thought I was someone who’d try to take something from them. I would never do anything like that. They were prejudiced. It made me feel embarrassed and bad. I didn’t know what to say. I just left.
People have got to learn to be together. (Racism) is decreasing. But it’s still there.
KENNETH E. PHILLIPS: Aerospace curator at the Museum of Science and Industry in Exposition Park in Los Angeles.
People who perceive themselves as lower on the social ladder are going to get angrier if I, or any person of color, happens to come along at the right time. I can be sort of a valve for venting that anger. I suspect that a lot of racial misunderstanding is because people are correlating the wrong things.
The effects of slavery as an institution are nowhere near dead. There seems to be this mentality that’s surviving from one generation to the next, very much intact among a certain element in the black population. It manifests itself in what blacks will conclude if, for example, they come under attack in a professional environment. That happens to everybody. Some people conclude that it’s racist, others conclude that it’s just a general political problem that goes with the territory.
There was a real history of oppression relatively recently in this country. There’s been an awful lot of genuine change, but the point is, people’s experiences are anchored in the past. I grew up in the 1950s and I can clearly remember being unable to go to certain places. If something happens to me today, probably enough time has passed for me to separate the reasons and recognize that they’re not the same reasons that were plaguing me years ago. But I don’t think everyone can do that.
Today, the issues and incentives for discrimination have faded a lot. But it’s hard to get people who’ve experienced discrimination to recognize that. Society has worked very hard to create a group of people who thought poorly about themselves. Now a lot is going into creating a more open society. But the first activity was very successful. Now you’ve got to convince that group of people not only that their involvement is actively sought, but that they’re capable.
WARREN SHU: Shu, a senior and biochemistry major at UCLA, has lived in the Los Angeles area for most of his life.
When I was a freshman, it actually did surprise me that there was still a little bit of racism at college. In high school, people divided into cliques, but they never talked about racism or anything like that. Things were really fairly polite.
In college, there were still a few people who used the word “nigger” occasionally. That really surprised me. People still made racial, stereotyped jokes. It kind of surprised me that people still do that.
A lot of the people that were doing it, I thought, were from primarily white (high) schools. Just from talking with my friends, it seems to me that if you haven’t been exposed to blacks you tend to have more racial stereotypes. Most of the people that were (making the jokes) did not come from a major black school.
I don’t think anyone was really blatantly racist. It wasn’t excessive or anything like that. But it did surprise me that it was still going on.