Rosa Ramirez was in basic training in the Army, when she came across a girl in her barracks with red hair and blue eyes. “What kind of blood do you have?” Ramirez asked her. “Do you see the world blue?”
Ramirez had gone to high school in Texas and spent time picking fruit in the fields of California. But when it came to race, she was clueless.
Ramirez tells her daughter, Judy, in this week’s StoryCorps, “In my hometown, it was Mexicans and whites. We didn’t have any idea about blacks or Germans or Italians.”
Rosa Ramirez served four years in the military before moving to Virginia, where she met her future husband. Her daughter asked what it was like when Rosa told her parents she wanted to marry a black man?
Rosa says her father was going to disown her. But then Rosa’s mom stepped in and changed his mind. By the time the wedding day arrived, he agreed to walk Rosa down the aisle.
Rosa and her husband lived with their kids in Richmond, Virginia, in a mostly black neighborhood.
“I didn’t realize how prejudiced it was towards biracial children until I started hearing it from you guys in middle school” Rosa recalled, “It was either you’re going to be black or you’re going to be white. If you were hanging with your white girlfriends they wanted your hair straight. If you were hanging with your black sisters, they wanted you to have curly hair.”
Rosa says she never stopped to think about the repercussions of marrying outside of her race. But she was able to teach her kids about both sides of their family’s cultural heritage.
The message she wants Judy to pass down to her own son now is: “You can have degrees and money, but without love and familia, you’re nothing.”
Alicia Williams helped produce this story.