Woman Narrates her Initial Encounter with Racism for being Biracial
As a five year old, Gina Florio (pictured) had no idea she was ‘biracial’. Her family had just moved to Georgia. At the time she couldn’t conceptualize race, ethnicity or culture.
Florio was born in San Diego, CA. Her birthplace was surrounded by people from different parts of the world – Filipino neighbors, Latino playmates, Black family friends. But how racially diverse the place was, is something she had no idea what it meant at the time. They were all human beings to her; until moving to Georgia happened…
Her view of the world and people around her changed drastically after enrolling in Richmond Hill school. From the word go, it made clear that she was meant to stick with her own. Here you were either black or white.
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She noticed that people were always starring at her during her first months at school. At the time, she had no idea what the stares meant. She chose to believe it was because she was fresh in town. But her naivety didn’t last long because of the bouts of racism she faced from her neighbors.
"Does that Chinese girl speak English?" was her first incidence with racism. Well, Florio had to look back to see if there really was a Chinese girl behind her because she at least didn’t know she was Chinese. “But then, her eyes bore into mine with an urgency I didn't recognize, as if she needed to know what the hell I was doing here, in her school, in her space. There was no mistake. I was the "Chinese girl," and she wanted me to explain my existence”, Florio recollects.
Then came the comments and questions over the next months. “Where do you come from?” “Your eyes look funny”. That is when it hit her: She looks different and no one around looked like her.
In fourth grade she experienced real racism when they were preparing to play kickball. They were choosing teams but Florio was picked last. And when the captain pointed at her, one blue-eyed girl shouted: "The Chinese girl?! No way!" As if the humiliation wasn’t enough already, she then yelled at Florio saying: "What do you know?! You probably can't even speak English!" The rest burst into laughter.
Florio would cry in the bathroom for a minute and also tried to hide her humiliation with eerie grins. Over time she toughened up and became indifferent. Although painful at times, the racism hurt less and less.
Later she realized that black individuals in her town had it rougher. Her darker-skinned peers had to endure much worse. But much as that was so, she somehow envied them because they had family and friends they could identify with and share the suffering. Florio had no one. She was the only biracial kid. And for years to come, she had to deal with the racism and the loneliness.
Much her hometown has become more diverse, every time she visits, she is haunted by the kickball incident. But at least she knows for a fact: she is not alone.
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