My Journey From Farmworker Boy To Pediatrician

Book Excerpt from the Inspiring Story of Ramon Resa, MD:
Excerpt #5 of 17


Most of the students in our school are Anglos and Mexicans except for two families who are black. The majority of the Anglo kids are poor compared to the ones in Visalia, the bit city to the east where we’ll attend high school. Still, the white kids are far better off than we are, and they never let us forget it. All the teachers are Anglo, and not one of them speaks any Spanish except for Mrs. Barrios, who was my kindergarten teacher.

I’m in awe of the white kids when they talk back to the teachers. They don’t seem the least bit afraid, even if the teachers tell them to stand in a corner or go to the principal’s office. I, on the other hand, feel intimidated by anybody white.

I notice that the teachers treat us differently. They seem mildly surprised when a white kid doesn’t know an answer but they’re obviously astonished when a Mexican kid does. Plus, they don’t give us any second chances, but the Anglo kids get two or three.

After school, I go home and do my chores. Then I watch Superman and the Mickey Mouse show on TV. All the characters are white. The adults, the kids, even the characters in the cartoons are white. But I don’t think about this very much because I don’t realize what it means until I’m much older.

In the evenings, we gather around the TV and watch our favorite sitcoms. Again, almost all the characters are white. When I do see blacks or Mexicans, they’re always a bad guy, or the maid, gardener, or janitor. They come up to the “boss” hat in hand and eyes lowered, and ask permission to do some kind of job for them. A lot like my grandfather, because Apa and all the other grownups I know seem to bow and lower their eyes when the white patron speaks to them. So I assume that everyone with light skin must be superior to us.

Also, I was brought up to not to talk unless spoken to, and even then I mumble and speak toward the floor. My teachers are always telling me, “Look at me when you’re speaking.” I try, but it takes me a long time to get used to looking them in the eye.

When I’m in third grade, we move into our new house. It’s right across from the school. We’ve never had anything new, and this house has a yard and a bathroom with a toilet and hot and cold running water. We have three bedrooms and a living room and kitchen. Compared to our old house, it’s gigantic.

I brag about it to all the kids, and for once I’m not shy. “Our house is so big!” I tell them. “It has an indoor toilet and hot water and it cost a lot of money, almost ten thousand dollars!”

Then Mrs. Wheeler takes me aside and tells me, “Raymond, most houses have toilets and running water, and cost a lot more than ten thousand dollars.”

I don’t know why she had to tell me that. I didn’t know that everyone else takes those things for granted because they’re new to me.

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