African-American Oral Histories
Clip 2: Transcript
Racism In Her Life
Running Time: 8 min
JH: This is sort of a shift in gear, but do you think that race or racism is an issue on the UT campus?
AS: Definitely. Definitely.
JH: So is that like a yes or no answer?
AS: Yes it is.
JH: How so?
AS: It’s evident. I mean, it’s hard to talk about the racism because its like, you talk about it so much and nothing changes. So it’s kind of like okay it’s there but. (pause) I don’t know. I just know it’s a problem.
JH: The reason I’m continuing to look blank is that not, I think, I suspect that in some groups and circles it’s talked about all the time. Like you said, you talk about it all the time and nothing seems to change. I don’t hear about it very often at all. And so I was wondering if it’s a conversation that some people are having over and over even though nothing is changing and some people are never—
AS: I think—
JH: never have to face it.
AS: I think when you have what, and I’ll just be frank with you.
JH: You should.
AS: A lot of people, Caucasian-looking people have what we call White privilege.
AS: And White privilege means that you only talk about things that directly affect you and beyond that it doesn’t mean anything. I think for me racism exists because there is a perception attached. When people see my name Audra, they don’t know that I’m African American but I guarantee you when I walk through that door, the eyes are like: “Oh! So we’re going to have to treat her a little bit differently.” Not knowing they don’t have to. I know here in this office I’m the only person of color. And I think it was hard for me at first, but I think all my co-workers understand me now and they know that, you know, I’m a good person and I’m open. But there are just some things I’m not going to tolerate.
AS: I don’t know, it’s there. I always try to tell people you can’t, you can’t explain it. Its kind of like, I’ll never know what it’s like to, to have, to be a Caucasian and no one will really understand what it’s like to be a person of color. But it’s there.
JH: Is it there in the same way for someone who works on UT campus, like a staff member as it is for a student of color? Or is that different?
AS: Yes, but I think it’s two different locks. I mean, when I went to A & M I knew it was there. It’s uncomfortable when someone hangs out a monkey outside your door with a, with a, you know with a rope around it, you’re like: “Excuse me?!” You know what I’m saying? When people are just really insensitive. I think that’s what students deal with. Because, a lot of people are not at that age, they, they’re not, they don’t have any tact. But then as you get older, it becomes more of a sly way of doing things and you just know. Prime example: Dave Chappell. I mean, you know, he does a lot of skits and he was on the Oprah show and he said, “You know, I can tell when someone is laughing with me or laughing at me.” And I think that’s, that’s kind of the way that I would describe racism, so. You can just, you just know. It’s kind of like it’s been marked since you’ve been born so it’s like a second nature.
JH: Do you grow to recognize it?
AS: Oh yeah. Like I know if I go in Dillards, I know nine times out of ten someone’s, a cop is going to be following me.
AS: Um, hum. I know nine times out of ten I have to carry my receipt in Wal-Mart to let them know I paid for it. It’s just different things that you know.
[Fades out and a second segment begins.]
JH: So I really want to understand what your college experience was like. Tell me about the first day.
AS: Oh God! (laughs) The first day I’ll never forget. I had on some blue-jean shorts, a Manor Mustangs jersey from one of my boyfriends from high school. My hair was braided. I had on a visor, and I kept the visor low because I didn’t, I felt like: “Oh, I’m a goin’ this by myself. I’m a have to just, you know, make it by myself.” And--
JH: Why do you think you had that attitude Or that feeling?
AS: Because that’s how it’s always been. When you go into a classroom and you can’t, you don’t see anyone who looks like you, you know right then you got to do it by yourself.
JH: Do what by yourself?
AS: Succeed. Do your work by yourself. You know, it’s just not comfortable. I think being Black you have to do things twice as good and twice as hard all the time.
JH: What does that mean?
AS: That means if, you know, me and you were standing and we’re up for a job, if I don’t have stuff that exceeds what you have, you’ll get the job.
JH: Have you experienced that?
AS: Yeah, I have.
JH: Can you give an example?
AS: Wow. (laughs softly) When have I not? (pause) When, I won’t say where I was but, it was me and this other White lady and we were both doing the same thing. We were both overseeing a group of students, equal jobs. We did everything together. We all did everything. And this isn’t really an example, but it will let you understand what I’m saying. But, at the end when it was time for the kids to thank me and her, they didn’t even thank me. They went to her and gave her a gift: “Oh you’re the greatest and dah dah dah dah.” And we were equal. Like I had never done anything. And I don’t, it really, it hurt really, you know what I’m saying, because I’m like: “Hold up, we’re doing the same thing.” And it was like I didn’t exist.
JH: How old were those kids?
AS: They were in college.
JH: And what was the, I guess what was the interaction between you and …?
AS: We trained those students to be orientation advisors for the college.
JH: And it was hurtful?
AS: Yeah it was because you get tired of being invisible.
“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