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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Brenda Tapia, February 2, 2001. Interview K-0476. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Anger becomes understanding

Tapia did not enjoy her graduation night; it was more a time for relief than for celebration. Her treatment at North Mecklenburg had made her hate white people; but soon she hated black people, too, as she experienced discrimination from those with lighter skin than her. After a period of intense frustration, she finally realized that she disliked hateful individuals, rather than entire races.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Brenda Tapia, February 2, 2001. Interview K-0476. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Were you happy with your choice? Well did you really make the choice - the teachers gave you an option.
The teachers gave me an option, and the way I looked at it, I had looked forward all my life, because all my aunts and uncles graduated from that high school, of when I would be a senior at Torrence-Lytle. And so I was very disappointed and very hurt after that first year. But there was nowhere else I could go at that point. So anywhere else was going to be a new school, even a black school, and so I finished North. And I can remember again, one of the saddest times was graduation night, and the guy that was in my history class and I we were waiting outside of the auditorium to march in and we were standing there talking to each other. And people we all excited, a lot of them had their bathing suits and things under their graduation gowns. They had been looking forward to graduation night and all the parties and things just as we had. For them it was a happy occasion and for us it was like: "Thank you Jesus this shit is over and we can get out of here." There was none of the excitement that we had looked forward to as ninth graders and tenth graders in terms of thinking about your senior year. We were just ready to get the heck out of Dodge and were glad to get out of there. As a result of my experience at North, I came away from there, my attitude towards whites, and I graduated in 1967, height of the civil rights movement, was like: "Give me a gun and I'll kill as many white people as I can before they kill me." I mean I really hated white people, and because of the way they treated me. And my father at that time, of all places wanted me to go to an all-white, all-girls' school, U.N.C.-G[reensboro] was Greensboro College, and it was all white, all female. And it was like: "Look man, you want me to go to college, you best let me go where I want to go." And so I ended up thinking that: "I'm getting as far away from that type of treatment as I could," and went to Howard in Washington and discovered that Black people treat each other the same way, but based on the shade of black. So, I went from North, were I was treated like crap because I was Black, to Howard, where I was treated like crap by teachers and some students because I was the wrong shade of black. I wasn't light, bright, pretty in white, sitting on my hair. So, by the end of first semester, freshman year, I hated black folk. So I'm like walking around: "I hate Black folks, I hate White people, ain't got time for foreigners because I grew up in Davidson and there weren't no foreigners," and just became very isolated. And came back home that summer and took a job here at the college, and met a White woman that went out of her way to be friends with me. And I ignored he for as long as I could, and after I decided she was too dumb to give up, I decided: "Well let me test this bitch and see if she for real." And I did, and she passed every test, and she made me stop and realize that I had met, if I really was honest, some really good White people and some really good Black people. Had met some really asinine Black folk and some really asinine White folks. It had nothing to do with skin color, you know, asses come in all colors. So it's not about judging somebody, as King would say, by their skin color, but by the content of their character. And that was a turning point in how I dealt with human beings. I didn't stop seeing color, cause I think that that's an oxymoron when people say that, but I did stop judging people by their color, and started being open. If you treat me like a child of God, I don't care what race, sex, you know, life style, or whatever you are, I'll accept you.