One woman's story dealing with racism

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2004

What is racism? Racism in my definition is the separation of people by a controlled thought that you're better than people of color, race and/or nationalities. There is a reason for separation - you need to feel better than them.

I have encountered racism as a student attending Haines High School in the late 1960s. I had spit wads thrown at me in study class, I was the brunt of all jokes made, and I couldn't do anything with out being made fun of.

I went to school and didn't feel safe as I was yelled at from cars and called names. After school, I had snowballs thrown at me as I walked home!

Why was I made fun of? I have dark skin. Now, everyone bathes in the sun to get as dark as I am. I'm this way year round! I like it!

During PE, when I showered, I was gawked at and made fun of. Did this make me a successful student? No it didn't; I failed to graduate. I hid in the library and read a lot and hid in bathroom stalls if I didn't want to be made fun of.

One year, the students put a picture of me in the year book and made my nose look like a pig. That was the big joke of the year. I became a messed up young adult - today I can stand proud as I am a drummer, singer, dancer, a new basket weaver, button blanket maker and very proud to be a Tlingit!

I did not subject my son to this treatment. For all I know there is a young girl being treated the same today.

I have been involved with Re-evaluation Counseling since 1978. This has given me tools to be the person I am today! But believe me, it was a lot of tears. I now can look in the mirror and like the person looking back.

Leona Santiago


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