Growing up White in Santa Cruz

I was raised in Santa Cruz as a working/middle class hippy/yuppie child. My grandma and grandpa’s house was and still is a few blocks from the Live Oak Supermarket, yet our family did not shop there. I went to elementary school across the street, even helped plant the now soaring Oak trees when I was a little girl. I learned in silence that us white folks do not shop in the same local grocery stores as my Latino classmates and community members.  I grew up shopping at Staff of Life and New Leaf, surrounded by familiar looking white folks who only spoke in English. I learned that “our” stores had superior produce and meat, yet did not think about access to money for organic foods and about the people of color whose job it was to grow and bring these items to Staff of Life for white people like me.  I now have the language to name the racial smog I was surrounded in as a child, that called seperation between the white and Latino communities natural.  I mourn my lack of authentic relationships with children and adults of color while growing up; neighbors, classmates, community members, service workers.  Poetry is a healing tool for me to explore the smog of racism and white privilege and my conditioning in this dehumanizing mess.  Poetry is also an essential tool in my journey in unlearning racism and transforming shame into creative resistance. 

Saturday Night Privilege (May 2008)
9:30pm sobriety check point working class Live Oak area 
lined up police cars with flashing lights,
Live Oak Supermarket parking lot, grey toyota truck, two Latino men walking the sober line
heart racing I roll down window
white cop sees two beautiful white ladies, leans in and says, “you don’t smell like alcohol”
Lets me go
my heart sinks
I am white, presumed innocent

By Dana Kaiser-Davidson






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