African-American Oral Histories
Clip 1: Transcript
How People See Her
Running Time: 4 min 21 sec
JH: Can you say a little bit more about that? I don’t, I’m from Sweden, I was born and raised in Sweden and came to the States for college. So, Austin is kind of a new town for me too and I don’t know necessarily the different reputations of different schools.
AS: Ok, well, we have a lot of schools that are in east, east of everything. Like the majority of African American and Hispanic schools are like Johnston, LBJ High School, Reagan. More of the, I guess White schools are Anderson, McNeil, Westlake, and Austin High. I remember growing up Westlake hated, Westlake hated Reagan and Reagan hated Westlake. It was like Black versus White, and it was just a big ‘ol, you know, it was ugly. But, I say that because my mom felt like she had to move me to a predominantly White school for me to get better schooling and just to make my life better. And so I guess in a sense that was smart because from there I went to Texas A & M, which is another predominantly White school and I’ve done well. I went ahead and got my master’s. So you know, I kind of understand but you kind of feel like you’re stuck in the middle. Because, if you look at me, I’m Black but when Black people look at me sometimes they think that I’m White. And then I know that I’m not White, but White people know that I’m Black, and so.
JH: When Black people look at you and say you’re White what is that, what do they base that on?
AS: They base that on my education and how I talk, where I live, how I dress, the places that I’ve been. Only White people go out of the state of Texas. Only White people go to Europe and stuff like that. Only White people have a degree and stuff like that. It was hard because I’ve always been smart but sometimes you’re afraid to actually be smart. Like when I went away to college, when I would come home a lot of my friends would be like, “Oh, you think you’re White now, ‘cause you go to Texas A & M!” And I’m like, “But I’m not.” And I always felt like I had to talk two languages. I had to learn to talk street when I was around them and then of course when I went to school I was okay, because to them I was just a student trying to get my degree. So, I’ve always kind of felt like, okay, I have my hands, both of my hands stuck in two worlds, a world of privilege and then a world of maybe, I wouldn’t say poverty/inner-city, but more cultural as far as like my community. Being African American you toy with those things, because in my heart, I’m Black. But it’s hard when you try to succeed, other Blacks perceive you to be a traitor or, “You think you’re better than me,” and that’s not what it’s about. It’s about trying to have a better life for yourself.
JH: Does that feel hurtful?
AS: Oh yeah, it’s hurtful. I mean, because that’s not my intent. My intent has always been, you know, my household my mom was like, “You’re going go to college. You’re going to do two things: you’re going to go to college or you’re going work and we’re not going be sitting around doing nothing.” My mom was the type she would drive us around Austin and say, “When you do drugs, you’re going look like that.” So a lot of things are put into that. So, yeah of course it’s hurtful because when I get up in the morning, I’m Black and I’m proud of that but it’s hurtful when your own community kind of makes you feel bad for the success that you’ve had.
“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”
Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.
Date of Interview:
February 22, March 3, April 3, 2006
University of Texas, College of Engineering, Austin, Texas
Digital video and micro cassette audio