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Race and Identity

            Janice Wilkinson is a 30-year-old African American female, born on May 18, 1982 in Los Angeles, California. Janice and I have been friends for about 5 years and had the pleasure of meeting each other during an internship program in Pasadena. Janice feels like she has had to deal with her race and the impact of prejudice and racism since the day she was born. She was raised in a single parent African American household. Her maternal grandfather lived with her most of her life and acted as a surrogate father. She saw her father pretty frequently and he gave her an allowance and took her shopping; however, she always got the feeling he only did it to please her mother. She viewed her father as being very distant and she never looked forward to his constant put downs and negative comments. Janice defines her ethnic background as a strong independent African American woman with strong ties to the church. This was not always the case for Janice; in her adolescent years she tried very hard to be white. As a young girl, she searched for affirmations of her beauty and intellect. Janice's community was poor and black. Some of her schoolteachers were white, but for the most part she didn't interact with whites until she went to the store with her family outside of her community. .
             Janice has very thick, nappy hair, and it was the topic of many discussions. She describes her hair as difficult and hard to manage and she was often teased about cutting it off. Growing up, Janice didn't have many friends and remembers wanting to be white. She recalls getting mad at her mother on a few occasions and asked her why daddy couldn't have been white so her hair could be good. Janice lived with her mother in a single room apartment and her grandfather was never far behind. Janice has no brother and sisters and the majority of her extended family lives in Michigan. Her family was separated when her mother accepted a job as a sales rep in marketing in Los Angeles when she was 2 years old.

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