I’m Not “Pulling the Race Card”
Growing up, I was called “half spic/half nigger.” I was threatened if I stepped on someone’s lawn. I’ve been followed around retail stores. This is real.
When I moved to Washington, D.C. in the late 1990s, I buried most of the trauma I suffered growing up as a young black girl in northwest Ohio. I generally don’t like sharing painful things from my past publicly, but I feel I owe it to my friends and community to share my personal experience with racism.
As a young child, I was bullied. I was spit on. I was called the “N” word. I was called “half spic/half nigger” because my dad is Mexican and my mom is black.
I had stones thrown at me as I rode my bike home from school. I was threatened if I accidentally stepped off the sidewalk and onto someone’s lawn while walking home.
In high school, white boys told me they wished they could ask me to homecoming or prom—or even just to the movies or the roller rink—but they couldn’t because of what their parents would say or what their friends would think.
A couple of years ago, during a visit to my hometown in Ohio, a cop pulled a gun on me as I sat in the passenger side of our car. My white husband was driving and had been pulled over after he accidentally ran a red light. Our kids were in the back seat. The officer said I looked “suspicious.” He didn’t even ask my husband for his driver’s license.
I’ve been followed around retail stores. I’ve had people cross the street to avoid passing me as I walked my dog while pushing a baby stroller.
Yes, racism still exists. And now all of a sudden many of you are finally “woke.”
The events after George Floyd’s death really triggered my PTSD. I have found solace living in this area because of its diversity. I’ve felt safe here in Arlington, mainly because I see so many people caring about each other—regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, creed, sexual orientation—in a way that I didn’t see growing up in Ohio.
I have tried to find the quiet I need to heal, just enough so that I can gently and carefully explain what is going on to my mixed-race children, who fortunately have not experienced racism the way I did as a child. I also find myself explaining a lot to my white husband, who doesn’t seem to understand that our kids won’t have the same privilege he does.
I want to protect my kids. I want you to help protect them. I never want them to feel this pain. I never want them to suffer.
Black people aren’t “pulling the race card” when we share our experiences with you. These events are real. They leave deep, hurtful scars.
I have forgiven. I have moved on. I don’t hold any grudges. However, the wounds from my childhood have been reopened and heavily salted this week, just when I thought I had escaped from all that trauma so very long ago. I share this not because I want pity or to make others feel guilty or ashamed. I share it for the sake of understanding.
Let’s eradicate systemic racism. Start at home with your own family. Have those uncomfortable talks. They do make a difference.
Angelica Talan is a blogger and social media influencer. Follow her on Twitter @Clarendon_Moms and on Instagram @AngelicaTalan.
Arlington Magazine’s Race & Equity essay series is a community voices project, and all perspectives are welcome. To submit, send a 400-500 word essay or a 3-4 minute spoken-word video, plus a photo of yourself, to editorial@