How Moving To A White Community Shaped Me
I grew up in a congested city on the outskirt of Los Angeles county. The residents of the community were predominantly hispanic, black, and asian. The city was cluttered with budget-friendly stores and fast food chain restaurants. There was one main park in the middle of the city. Most of my friends and neighbors were Mexican. We usually knew each others entire family because we had all been together through grade school. When we’re young, we don’t ever pay mind to what the color of our friend’s skin is or where their parents come from.
I was in middle school when I started to pay attention to the crimes that were happening around town. Every so often, we would see cop cars parked outside our neighbors house down the cul-de-sac I lived in. Someone was always getting arrested, but I never knew why. One day in broad day light, a gang member barged into our front neighbors home and shot him, right in front of his parents. Jesse was 16. He was in a gang, and he was also my brother’s friend.
High school came around and I was becoming a better flirt and a sneakier kid. After school, I started hanging out at the skate park where apparently all the cute boys were. Thats where I met a boy. He wasn’t the kind of boy who would make a good first impression on mom. I remember the night he came to my house and told me that his brother had just killed someone. A couple of days later, I found out that one of my friends had been killed, and I made the connection. A friend of 6 years had been shot to death by the brother of my boyfriend.
My mom decided it was time to move, and so the summer before my sophomore year, we moved 20 miles south to a predominantly white community. Oh, La Verne! I thought this was the whitest town I’d ever seen! Where were all my brown people? Let me tell ya, this was a big adjustment for me. The first day of school was a bizarre experience. I felt like a complete outcast. I mean I definitely wasn’t the most popular kid in school back in LA, but I was not short of friends. The first few days at this new school, I felt incredibly lonely. And there was this other feeling, an ugly feeling — I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be there. These kids had amazing clothes, the latest gadgets and cool cars! They had cars! Like, nice cars.
It has to be one of the worst feelings to be surround by people, yet feel completely alone. I didn’t blend in, and in fact, I stood out. Brown girl, “punk rock” style, dirty converse, and an obvious accent. For a while, I rode it out and I embraced being different. But sometimes, all I wanted to do was to be accepted, and be liked, and blend in. I was gradually finding ways to make people like me.
I met this girl in P.E. — she was a cheerleader and played soccer. She was loud, funny, and pretty. She had a contagious laugh and could start a conversation with anyone. I envied her but also desperately wanted to be her friend. One day, she started talking to me and invited me to hang out with her. I learned that she liked to smoke weed and asked me if I did too. I so badly wanted a new friend, so I said yes. And this is when I started smoking weed.
High school in La Verne was a three year blur of stupid decisions, rebellion, drugs and arguments with mom. And although I made choices that almost got me kicked out of school (twice), I learned a few important lessons that have shaped me:
- The children from my hometown and cities alike, do not have the same opportunities as those in middle to upper class communities. We have a ton of work to do to make sure these communities gain more resources and adapt programs that provide low income families the same opportunities to thrive and be successful.
- Hanging out with white people gave me a ton more confidence to talk to persons of any background. White (wealthy) people use to be so intimidating to me, but being forced to live in a completely different setting helped me embrace acceptance of people with different backgrounds.
- Where you come from, where you grew up doesn’t make you who you are. How you treat others and how you spend your time is what defines you.
- You will not be remembered for your outfits, or what car you drive. People will remember you for how you made them feel. So treat others as you would like to be treated. You are no better or less than anyone else.