January 25, 1978 was when I was born, An African American girl not knowing what was to be for her years down the road. Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, I was around plenty of people that are like me. My name is Kimberly Wyche and this paper will provide an overview of my experiences within my community and focus on ethnicity and the way race and ethnicity has shaped my own personal life view, as well as the way I am perceived by others. Growing up in Detroit I never knew what being an African American really was or what African Americans went through to become free and equal in the United States.
Detroit is a big city in Michigan and according to (2010) Nielsen Demographics “ the 2000 census states African Americans made up 81. 6 pct of the 5,456,400 people living in Detroit, MI, which is 445,242,240 total. ” From my childhood, I remember my parents always talking about how we had to struggle for everything. My parents are older so my dad told stories of how his mother used to clean houses and work for the white american people. I didn’t see anybody that wasn’t like me growing up until elementary school.
When my mom took us to grocery stores, it was people like me, even the playgrounds, beauty supplies, and restaurants we ate at was mostly African American. I do remember this gas station my dad like to go to and the guy behind the counter was not African American, but was very light skinned and spoke in a different language. He was always friendly and often gave me some candy when I went with my dad. Years later I found out he was an Arab American and spoke Arabic. By the time I reached elementary school, I realized African American people came in all shades from very light to very dark.
I was one of those kids that were very dark skinned. This was my first time experiencing some form of racial slurs, and it was from people that were like me. The kids in school that was lighter than me made lots of jokes about my color such as calling me skillet, and blackie. Around 1992 the neighborhood I was living in my parents felt like was getting out of control and there was too many gangs, drugs, and kids were dropping out of school all the time. So I moved to Livonia, Michigan with my aunt and uncle. This was a huge drastic change from the neighborhood I was used to. The estimated White population in the Livonia community is 95,975, which is 95. 5 percent of the total population. ” While the estimated Black/African American population is 951, which is 0. 9 percent of the total population in town. (2010) http://www. americantowns. com/mi/livonia-information#data Moving to a surburban city I never thought I would endure the things I did. I was the only African American girl in the whole school and one African American guy. No African American teacher’s, or office staff worked in the school.
I dressed differently, talked differently, and the students were not used to this. Because of the family I grew up in, I was taught that god created all of us equal and no race or religion was better than the next one. According to (1998) Journal of Comparative Family Studies African Americans deal with discrimination differently. “Black families seek support from their relatives and families. Most others sometimes sought and received support from kinfolk or a spouse. The overwhelming majority found that discussing incidents with the family helps in coping with White racism. ”
After four years I graduated with honors, but I also dealt with people who did not like African Americans and they made sure I knew it by calling me the “N” word, posting things on my locker, talking and sneering behind my back. It is now 2010 and you would think that racism and prejudices would no longer exist but that’s so far from the truth. I now reside in Mount Pleasant, Michigan where its known this is where Saginaw Chippewa Tribal is located. The population of people is very limited to ethnic groups. The racial makeup of the city was 89. 12% White, 3. 67% African American, 1. 4% Native American, 2. 85% Asian, 0. 07% Pacific Islander, 0. 93% from other races, and 1. 83% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2. 49% of the population. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Mount_Pleasant,_Michigan In this community, I do not see many people like me, if I had to count I would say I will see three to four individuals a day that looks like me. I live close to tribal land, so I see many native americans. The only difference I see in me and them is the color of our skin, and also most native americans I come into contact with have long hair.
The leaders of my community suffers from racism, they look at all african americans as people who may rob, steal and often are aggressive. I notice when I walk by a person may grab their purse tight, or pull their kids close to them. When I first moved here, I got pulled over a lot, I felt that they were racial profiling, everytime I got pulled over, they would search me, my car and any passengers and come up empty handed, apologize for their wrongdoing and send me on my way. I asked some friends of mine why they do this, and was told “Black people are always trying to bring drugs here from detroit,” I was appalled.
I have also noticed the white and native americans get treated different than me. I was in a car with a native friend who had no drivers licensce, and didn’t stop at a stop sign. The native american cop instantly pulled me out the car, searched me, emptied my purse and basically made me sit on the ground while him and the driver chuckled and laughed to themselves. Later that day, I asked my friend did she get a ticket or anything, and she replied “no, its good to be native”. I often visit the library here in town and can never find a book that’s written by a African American Person.
I have requested certain books and the librarian will tell me that’s not one of the books they carry. When I vist doctors offices and governmental buildings, theres no pictures or magazines or books that I am used to, such as the Ebony or Jet magazine. In the local media, we have no african american individuals, Mount pleasant is home to Central Michigan University, and there is one African American Teacher, He is actually the mens basketball coach, Ernie Zeigler has been the coach for many years and I had a chance to ask him about how he felt about resolving any inequalities within our community.
Ernie Ziegler is a good leader to the city, Centrals Michigans Basketball team is ranked one of the highest in the state, and its because he makes his team work as a team, no matter what race or prejudices one may have, in order to play as a team, you have to leave all that negative energy at home. Ernie said to me that if he could have more stores cater to ethnic people, it will help the community expand. We usually have to travel to Saginaw, which is like an hour and half away. There is one walmart, and a Meijers and they have one small aisle, they consider the ethnic aisle.
During Christmas time, trying to find an african american doll for my neice also was a problem. There is not one store in mount pleasant, that sells African American dolls, they have White, Mexican, Indian but no african americans, to me that’s a problem. If I could change anything, it would be to better educate people not to group everyone together. Not all african american people are robbing, and stealing and on welfare. I would let people know that no matter what race you are, you can have hangs ups, I would tell people to not judge a person by the outside but by getting to know them for them and not because of the color of their skin.
Most people don’t realize that they are being racist or pre judging someone, when you are being raised to see people differently than yourself, its gets embedded into your head. I think until a person experiences some form of racial slur or racial experience, they can never understand how one feels. I have experienced racism from a very young age and I realize everyone is not the same. I have friends from all races and we love each other for who we are, it has nothing to do with the color of our skin or the religion we may choose.