The Orange County Register is launching a series of occasional contributions from county residents who want to share their experience and contribute to the dialog in an evolving region. If you would like to be considered, please email reporter Theresa Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org and put Dear OC in the subject line. Submissions should be 700-1,000 words.
Dear Orange County,
I am an African American resident who was born in Newport Beach, to immigrant parents. I have lived in South OC my entire life. I went to school in the Capo district, attended college here and now work for a financial institution in my same neighborhood.
I have always been too white for the Black kids, but too Black for the white kids. Being caught in the middle has given me a very different perspective.
I am writing this to provide a new outlook and call for a change, all with the hope that it brings light to a serious problem that our country has been dealing with for many, many years. Orange County, you are not exempt, and I hope my voice and story will not fall on deaf ears.
I was one of five African American people in my grade, and often the only one in my classes. The schools did the bare minimum to educate on Black history. Black history month always felt so uncomfortable and was something I hated. It was one of the only times I felt as though I was different from my peers.
They sat us down and made us watch videos about Ruby Bridges and Martin Luther King, but no other African Americans. This was never followed by discussion of what we had watched, what it meant or how it made us feel. The whole truth of Black history is not being given in our schools. We are still living with these injustices but are taught they are just a thing of the past.
A classmate of mine once called me the N-word, and when I told an adult, this kid just had to sit on a bench for 10 minutes. There was no official school or parental involvement. The indirect message for that boy was that blatant racism is accepted with no consequence. As a child, I did not think that I should have told my parents or someone else, I just did not know what to do.
I had “friends” compare me to the black crows that would fly up to our classroom window, parents who made comments to me about my parents’ origins, and again I did nothing. There were adults who would not allow their kids to play with me or had me walk places, while they drove the rest of the neighborhood kids. I did not know what was going on; but now being more educated, I understand that these things were racially motivated.
Orange County has been a safe, nonviolent place to live and I am fortunate to have grown up here. I believe it is one of the reasons my parents decided to raise kids here. However, it truly is a sheltered bubble. It is a place where there is more uproar about social distancing and the inconvenience of wearing face masks than fighting for lives. South O.C., especially, is a place where kids believe anything past Irvine is considered the “ghetto.”
I sit here and wonder how residents can go about their daily lives, knowing that fellow residents and neighbors have so much hatred in them. How can you truly hate someone you know nothing about? If I can afford to live in the same neighborhoods as you and drive the same cars, what really makes me different? It makes me ashamed.
I often have concerns about my safety in this community. Whenever my brothers leave the house I fear that they may be accused of something or hurt, due to the color of their skin. With so much public outrage for Black Lives Matter, I am seeing that this bubble is just a safe haven for racists and I cannot and will not just stand by. I see the stares as I walk in grocery stores; I hear the comments from customers at work. I don’t feel I should be made uncomfortable in a city I have lived in my whole life.
I should not have to attend a protest advocating for civil rights and only see children or young people. Where are the parents? Do you really not care? I think that says a lot about the future generations in this county. It is also telling of the older residents here. Residents should be encouraged to get out and speak up.
Why are businesses the priority over the lives of people? That is exactly the problem here – material things hold more value than life. In a community filled with young children, you would think parents would want to set an example and put an end to the cycle of prejudice and discrimination.
I did not meet the majority of my African American friends until I began attending college. It was like entering a new world. They opened my eyes to what was happening in the world, and to people who look like me. I have learned more about myself and life from my friends of color than I did in the years leading to high school. For that, I am grateful.
I hope to use my sociology degree to educate and reform Orange County schools – the same schools I attended and hopefully, my future children will attend.
I would like for our schools to provide a safer environment for minorities. I would like for our county to stop turning a blind eye on real societal problems outside of our “bubble.” If we can’t change the past, we can change the future generations.
I suggest implementing sociology classes in schools. It is important for students to learn about prejudice, discrimination, and understand what those things look like at a young age, so they can begin to speak up.
To the residents of Orange County, your silence speaks volumes. And it has not gone unnoticed.
We have many minorities here that are not being heard. Allow me to be your voice and mediator between two communities. Black Lives Matter.
Source: Orange County Register