I had the most awesome visit to Sacramento City College to Sheryl D. Fairchild’s Intro to Women’s Studies class this November!
Sheryl’s class is reading my memoir, Hapa Girl (Temple University Press), so I came to visit, answer questions, discuss the writing process, and ask them questions about their own experiences with race in America today.
In my memoir, I describe a particularly painful period when my family and I lived in rural South Dakota in the 1980s. We were the first Chinese-White mixed-race family to move there, and people reacted with quite a bit of shock and dismay. People stared at my family on the street, men drove by our house and shouted slurs at us, men eventually shot six of our dogs over the years. Classmates and even adults told me to my face that mixed-race people were a sign of the Devil and the coming End Times. And worse. But that is past, thank goodness.
What I found most interesting to discuss with the class was the students’ own experiences and strategies for fighting oppression, racism, and discrimination.
One young woman recounted how in high school classmates had taunted her because she was half-Mexican and half-Italian. They told her to “Go back to Mexico!” and mocked her at every opportunity. Another student described going with her father to a gas station and how scary men shouted “White power!” out the window of their truck at them. Other students found family members rejected their parents or their own choice of a spouse because they were different races. I thought, How sad this is still happening in this day and age!
While it was alarming to hear that such racism is, unfortunately, alive and well even in diverse California, I was quite honored to meet these students, who are so articulate and capable of speaking up about the discrimination they’d faced or witnessed. They could discuss strategies for dealing with racism. First and foremost, they could describe the acts and their own pain. They had learned not to deny and internalize the oppression, but could openly discuss these acts. They could also articulate the societal forces in the media, in history, and in politics that were used to promote racism in policy and in action. They could situate their personal experiences in a broader context and reject the stereotypes and assumptions underlying racism.
They are truly beautiful people!
(Aubrey Brenner, Shamontay Brady, Regina Montoya, Sheryl Fairchild, and me)
Sheryl D. Fairchild is one of those passionate, hard-working teachers who really inspire me and give me hope for our nation. She is doing such a wonderful job, working to empower and give voice to a new generation of students so that they can work to dismantle prejudice. I’m so happy someone is teaching feminist values to fight oppression.
It was quite an honor to visit her class!