Last summer, because I was bored and felt like listening to someone talk, I asked my 13 year old sister a series of questions I was sure she wasn’t used to answering. At first I was only going to ask her a few questions, but then we ended up talking for half an hour about race, history, poverty, and education. Her answers shocked, amused, and surprised me. At one point I couldn’t believe I was talking to my baby sis.
I left the conversation with a new found respect for her but also with the understanding that there was a lot more she’d have to learn. Below are some of the questions and answers from our conversation. I haven’t edited her responses so please be aware that this is her 13-year-old understanding of the abstract concepts we talked about.
What is race?
Race????? Hold..up…hold up… Different cultures…like different cultures. Like if you’re from Jamaica you’re African American and if you’re from Japan then you’re Japanese, China, Chinese. It’s all from where you live.
I fell like I suck at this…because I didn’t answer the questions how it’s supposed to be answered but then again it’s like…different people are gonna answer differently so I know I shouldn’t say I suck at this but I I feel like I’m not answering it right.
What is nationality?
Everyone all coming together and…ya….like nationality I think of national I think of like everyone all over the world like all together.
What is humanity?
Us as a human. I heard it on TV that’s why I said it. “Us as humans are one.” Quote it, that’s not from myself. I saw it on TV, quote it or else its plagiarism.
What race are you?
I am Mexican American, a little bit Asian but mostly Mexican. My baby pictures told me I’m a little bit Asian because I looked really Asian because I looked really white and my eyes looked really small and skinny. I looked like a cute Asian baby.
What is racism?
Isn’t racism when you’re being racist.
What does it mean to be racist?
To be cruel to another race. Like in the movie Help when she’s being mean to like her servants and she’s being pretty racist. Racism is when you’re being racist to the opposite race of yourself. Okay scratch that. It can be any other race that you are not that you can be racist.
Do you know anyone that is racist?
I don’t know, I try to keep away from those types of people. Like I’ve had teachers before that are racist and that have been mean to their kids. Like they’d act differently towards them, they were mostly black kids, and they were mean.
Why were they mean to the black kids?
I don’t know. This is making me really uncomfortable. Like I don’t like talking about different races right now, I feel like I’m judging people.
What do you think is culture?
Culture is like what you do in different races, it’s like a tradition.
Give me some examples of Mexican American culture
Tamales, okay so food, vegetables, family. Some things that you do.
What is history?
What has happened in the past and even in the present. History is important because you wouldn’t know what is like now. You wouldn’t know how the things happened, how everything is right now. That’s why you learn about the past to learn about the present.
What is poverty?
Isn’t poverty like poor people, like when you’re really poor. When you don’t have a place to live, when you don’t have enough to eat, when you don’t have enough money to do anything. You probably don’t even have a house.
What does being rich mean?
When you have a lot of money, when you have a house that’s too big for you. When you have a mansion for just one person. Being rich is when you have too much, when you have things that you don’t need.
In school do they teach you about poverty and race?
Yeah, in like vocabulary words. I’ve heard of the words before. I’m not really sure what they mean, I just took guesses and I think I’m correct. I’ve heard of poverty in Spanish class. Race that’s just what I thought. I haven’t heard of race. I think there was but I don’t remember. I just took a guess of what I think is race.