#3. Interviews!

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The topic of racism is a challenging opponent to wrestle since it can go wrong in many ways rather quickly, but I did my best to play the role as wrestler and tackle the topic head on. I have never been a reporter before and interacting with different people can be uncomfortable for me, so being able to report about family and friends was a big relief for me. However, not having been a reporter outside a classroom environment, it was still difficult. I decided to start with my mother, take the next step and talk with my dad over the phone about this, and last, but certainly not least, talk with a close family friend named Steph.
For this assignment, I came up with a few questions of my own to keep the conversations flowing, which helped quite a bit, even though I didn’t get to all of my questions with everyone I interviewed. Even so, I think I got everything that I needed. I also had each person define what racism meant to them. Some of the questions included:

  • How would you define racism in your own words?
  • Has racism ever effected you personally?
  • What kinds of experiences have you had with racism?
  • Do you feel it is an important topic to talk about?

~Mom~

This conversation was probably one of the most comfortable and informative conversation out of everyone I interviewed. She and I have very similar views on the subject but she has more knowledge and different experiences than I.

Definition- Degrading a group of people based on a bias

Since my mom is a lovely hairdresser, she typically has a close relationship with most of her clients. She works in a hair studio in Wallingford and hangs pictures on her mirror of her two biracial children. When she talks to people over the phone, they’re friendly and good to her until they see her mirror and notice that she has two biracial children. Some people refuse to accept her service and take their business elsewhere while others stay and get their hair done so they can torment her while she is servicing them. People have even asked if we were adopted before. Others call us ‘the colored children’ in front of my mom. Even so, she believes that most of the racism is based off of ignorance.

She also believes that racism is out of my control. She believes that you can control what you do and how you react to people, but you cannot control how other people react to you and do to you. When we were talking about this we compared our sphere of influence to a boiled egg. The yolk was what we can control, the white was what we can control with a little bit of help and/or extra steps, and the shell was what was completely out of our control. My mother was the only one who thought of something for each category. The yolk would be who I surround myself with. People who aren’t racist and don’t see color. The whites would be racism in our community. With a few steps and help, we could put a major dent in racism in our towns. The shell would be racism as a whole. As I’ve stated before, racism will always be there. Unless there was only one single race, there will be one person who doesn’t like it.

 

~Dad~

Definition- being prejudice against someone who isn’t the same as you

I had to do this interview on my phone because my dad lives in New Mexico and our service wasn’t the best, so I didn’t get a lot from him. As a black man in New Mexico, he gets a lot of hate because of his skin tone. I’ve mentioned before that racism can happen to anyone by anyone, and this is only one instance where it happened.

My dad used to dislike the Asian race and said very bad things about them and had prejudice against them. He wouldn’t want them in his house for a long time, until he put it into perspective. He remembered the time he was spray painted white by a white kid in his school and how he almost died from the toxins in the paint and it changed his view on everything. Of course, prejudice doesn’t go away overnight, but he made a huge change in how he thought and acted towards Asians, and over time he became a lot more accepting.

That lead us into the topic of how change starts with you and we ended up listening to Man in the Mirror by Micheal Jackson and Mirror by Bruno Mars ft. Lil Wayne. Both are very good songs and related to the topic. I also spoke with his girlfriend, Krystal, who is Native American. As a woman, she gets a lot of negative attention, but being Native American made it worse for her. She recently had a child, my baby sister, and when she went to the hospital they put her breast milk into a bio-hazard bag. She has PTSD and a marijuana card, but because she’s Native American, people assume she’s a drug dealer.

They both feel that racism is a very important topic to talk about and that there is so much that goes with it. So many experiences with different perspectives can really change how you think.

 

~Steph~

Steph is a lovely young woman with three young children, the eldest being her five year old girl. Said five year old girl is biracial as well while her brothers are white. Steph has had some similar experiences as my mom, having people look at her different and sometimes disliking her because of her child’s skin color. Others assume her child isn’t hers.

Definition- Negative feelings, thoughts, and suspicions based on someone’s looks or race

She feels it’s something that won’t ever go away, but with group help, to a certain extent, you can put a huge dent in the racism and ignorance in communities, especially the very small one we live in.

 

All in all, my eyes were opened about what goes on even when I’m not around with my mother, and I was mortified that it happens to her as well.

Melaina Bassette

4 Responses to “#3. Interviews!

  • Emma Reynolds
    2 years ago

    Melaina,
    I really enjoyed the structure of this post. I thought you did a great job reflecting on your process and the difficulty of the topic of racism. I think it is one of the most important issues to talk about, and I am proud of you for tackling it. I loved the personal details that you included about all of the people you interviewed. It sounds like your first three interviews went well! I look forward to watching your interviews and thoughts progress as you continue to explore this issue.

    -Emma

  • Hi Melaina,
    Good job planning ahead with your questions but having a real conversation instead of just sticking to your script. Preparing topics but being adapting is crucial to any and all interviews you’ll do in the future.
    I’m sure I mentioned this before, but with any topic, especially one as pervasive yet sensitive as racism, conversations are essential. Simply blaming does not accomplish anything. I really enjoyed reading the anecdote your dad had about his feelings towards Asians and how he learned from that experience. I encourage you to take a step back and think about stereotypes in general. What are stereotypes?, What stereotypes do you have? –not necessarily about race–, Where do stereotypes come from?
    Very excited to see your mind map next week!
    Emily

  • Melaina, I love your metaphor of a wrestler because racism is a challenge that is so hard to solve. I hope that maybe someday we could work together since we have similar topics. You a very strong writer.

  • Abby Wald
    2 years ago

    Melaina,
    I was brought nearly to tears by the story of your father being painted white. This type of powerful story should be told, as many of us — myself included — can be lulled into believing this type of action is a thing of the distant past. I bet your father is about my age, so this wasn’t a story from Jim Crow days.
    Thank you for sharing and opening all of our eyes.

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