black and white photo of little boy in a hooded sweatshirt

Heather Bussing curates a rather amazing collection of stories about discrimination, told from first-hand experience across all walks of life.


What is it like to feel less than? To be other?
How do you walk through the world when people are scared of you before they ever see You?
What is it like to be dismissed as unimportant because you are a woman, or gay, or dark skinned?
I know something of this. But only a little.
So I rely on the voices of those who know more.
I chose words that speak to me.

I have left out far too many.
Forgive me.
I would be honored to know yours.

I think of my Grandma and remember that old feeling of being so in love that nothing matters except seeing and being seen by her. I drop the gun to my chest. I’m so sad and I can’t really see a way out of what I’m feeling but I’m leaning on memory for help. Faster. Slower. I think I want to hurt myself more than I’m already hurting. I’m not the smartest boy in the world by a long shot, but even in my funk I know that easy remedies like eating your way out of sad, or fucking your way out of sad, or lying your way out of sad, or slanging your way out of sad, or robbing your way out of sad, or gambling your way out of sad, or shooting your way out of sad, are just slower, more acceptable ways for desperate folks, and especially paroled black boys in our country, to kill ourselves and others close to us in America.”
Kiese Laymon, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America

In early 1970, Newsweek’s editors decided that the new women’s liberation movement deserved a cover story. There was one problem, however: there were no women to write the piece.
Lynn Povich The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace

When I was 6, I got beat up and called dirty Jew boy because they thought I looked Jewish.
Philip Zimbardo

I’ve run into more discrimination as a woman than as an Indian.
Wilma Mankiller

I had to endure the worst time of all in terms of racial discrimination in Hollywood when I first started out. It was inconceivable to American directors and producers that a Mexican woman could have a lead role.
Salma Hayek

Unwed white girls who became pregnant in the postwar years were considered psychologically disturbed but treatable, whereas their black counterparts were presumed to be biologically hypersexual and deviant. Politicians regarded unwed pregnant black girls as a societal problem, declaring–as they continue to declare today–that they did not want taxpayers to support black illegitimate babies, and sought to control black female sexuality through sterilization legislation.
Leora Tanenbaum, Slut: Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation

Gather the wheelchairs in a circle, and then summon the cripples. Would anybody care for a glass of discrimination?
Jarod Kintz Seriously delirious, but not at all serious

Drying her eyes, Mother said to Totto-chan very slowly, “You’re Japanese and Masao-chan comes from a country called Korea. But he’s a child, just like you. So, Totto-chan, dear, don’t ever think of people as different. Don’t think, ‘That person’s a Japanese, or this person’s a Korean.’ Be nice to Masao-chan. It’s so sad that some people think other people aren’t nice just because they’re Koreans.Tetsuko Kuroyanagi Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window

I think about race and racism every day of my life. How can any American not? (James Baldwin once proffered the idea that “the Negro-in-America is increasingly the central problem in American life.”) I anticipate that I’ll always write about race and racism in some professional capacity. Still, wouldn’t it be wonderful if writers and creatives on the periphery were welcomed in from anonymity, not thanks to their accounts of woe, but simply because they have things to share—tales of love, joy, happiness, and basic humanity—that have nothing to do with their race and also everything to do with their race.
Cord Jefferson The Racism Beat: What it’s like to write about hate over and over and over

I have been locked up just for asking someone to help me. A police officer heard me ask and arrested me for Loitering for the Purpose of Begging. I have been arrested many times for this, given a fine I cannot pay, and then locked up again for non-payment of fines. The last time I did 90 days in Gander Hill. This is serious stuff we deal with daily.
 Anonymous #3 is chronically homeless in Delaware Due to a knee injury he lost his bed at the shelter he had been staying in because he could no longer climb up to the top bunk.

During all those years, I have been without the hijab, with the hijab, wearing a very long hijab (called a khimar), wearing a face veil (called a niqab), back to wearing a shorter hijab and finally, now, no hijab at all. I’ve done it all. I’ve seen all the reactions. The way I have dressed over the years may have been accepted by some in my inner circles and criticized by others; this is true. How a woman dresses is a highly contentious subject no matter where you are in the world. When I donned the face veil, my own father was against it. When I took off my hijab, I lost at least one good friend and was tsk tsked by many others. These are normal reactions and they are to be expected. I do not categorize these reactions as discrimination. Friends and family have definite ideas of how they expect me to live my life. They believe they know what is best for me.
Nadia El Awady, Jijab and Western Discrimination

To be raped is to be sexually violated. For society to force someone, through shame and ostracism, to comply with love and sex that it defines, is nothing but organized rape. That is what homophobia is all about. Organized rape.
Lee Maracle I am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism

And then it occurs to me. They are frightened. In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English. They see that joy and luck do not mean the same to their daughters, that to these closed American-born minds “joy luck” is not a word, it does not exist. They see daughters who will bear grandchildren born without any connecting hope passed from generation to generation.
Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

I had a sense of being different than those people in class with me. Certainly my parents didn’t speak English, and I knew there was something back there that was kind of a dark pit. I remember my parents waking up having nightmares when I was a kid and sensing that was different. Life before the war was always centered around the family. After the war, we lived with my cousins. There were two or three families in the same apartment for a while in Germany and actually for a while here too. If you were going to be alive that was a very important part of being alive. Irv Piotrkowski

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Maya Angelou

Whence all this passion towards conformity anyway? Diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you will have no tyrant states. Why, if they follow this conformity business, they’ll end up by forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one. Must I strive towards colorlessness? But seriously and without snobbery, think of what the world would lose if that should happen. America is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain.
Ralph Ellison,Invisible Man

Atticus, he was real nice.
Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird



 
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