Making race an issue

May 7, 2021

I originally grew up in foster care, and I only bring that up because when I was younger, my mom never really told me my race. It was just something we never had a conversation about, and then when she passed on and I was put into foster care, I was in this really weird predicament where my skin color never really gave away what kind of person I was. So, I think for about, since I was nearly in fifth grade all the way to when I was a senior in high school I didn't know what race I was. The joke between me and other people is that I was just like this anonymous race that no one knew about, because my mom told me I was White, but by the color of my skin it's clear I'm just not just that, or I can barely pass as that. But for the most time, it was like everyone asked me what race I was, and I would have to fill out some random identity. But, so I never really had that experience of like growing up with this idea of 'oh this is the kind of race that I am and this is the pride I have,’ or if there was a culture I have, there wasn't anyone there who's with me from the start to tell me how much of an importance it had in their life and their grandparents family. It was rather me just kind of growing up in, you know, just like in foster homes and a foster family just kind of telling me, you know, this is just how to live life in general because foster kids have a kind of life where other things are a lot more difficult so race just wasn't one of those things that originally mattered. It was more of just I'm living my own life, and then race started to really become important by the time I entered college.

And at Notre Dame, it's even worse because I started to realize how rare minority groups were on campus to such a degree. And that most of everyone else was just White, I would be shocked when I would have to say to my foster family, I'm the only minority in my class, which is weird, I would never consider myself something like that because it wasn't relevant in my life, but all of a sudden, it is now because when people were talking about minority issues and to a degree, I would get looked at in the class. I have no relevance in this, but it would become a discussion every time like what race are you? You know, it would be something like that, it was super weird because, as I continued to attend Notre Dame race became such a prevalent issue in how people saw me somehow when race was never even a big part of my life. It would be crazy.

I never forgot the time I was walking down to Chipotle getting some food, and this student walked up, I guess he was in a drunken slumber or something. It was like at night and he turns around and he says, 'what country are you from,' and I am not gonna lie sometimes I'm like a brick head where I don't take things as personally as I should, and his girlfriend was like, ‘you can't say that.’ And he's like, 'well, what country is he from I want to know,' and I'm like, 'I'm from New Orleans man what do you want?' and he's like 'are you from anywhere outside of the country?' it's like, 'If I did, I don't know.' I'm just saying the kid was being nice. I didn't take that as racially offensive. I tell the story to other people, they obviously see that that sounds kind of bad just randomly walking and asking, there was no pretext to this. He randomly asked this question.

Ian Marx

Ian Marx is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in public policy.