Who is Christine Johnson?
Christine was born in 1966 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and given to the care of her grandparents until she was two or three years old. She never had a father figure. She was alone often as a latch key kid and became an entrepreneurial thief at ten years old, selling stolen items for things she wanted or needed. Christine barely graduated high school and went straight into trade school working in electronics during her marriage and becoming a mother of four Children. A divorce in 1996 brought her to Wyoming, working in corporate America many years and raising kids as a single parent. She would finally meet her match in marrying her husband Steve and settling into a life in Wyoming. She quit the corporate world to start a business with Steve as a concrete designer. Christine also now runs an Airbnb as a “superhost” with a campground settled on the ranch, allowing her to showcase their lush flower and vegetable gardens that give the homes beauty and fresh meals. Christine's grandmother was a hoot and passed to her many stories of the family tree, the Catholic religion and instilled in her the love of old Irish songs. Christine was just sixteen when her grandmother passed away - her major role model. As her own children grew and moved out, Christine became more involved in politics as a middle class, blue collar white woman. She always voted on the right based on her strong work ethic and in having a disdain for welfare failures. As she grows older, she finds herself agreeing more with Libertarians in wanting to just be left alone with her own views. The Whiteness Project has given her a voice to share in stating that people are exactly what they tell themselves daily. Change your voice to a positive one and be kind, for you cannot determine a person's journey based on their skin color.
Excerpt from interview with Christine Johnson by Whitney Dow, 2018
Johnson: [01:06:27] Oh. Okay. So I was raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in a place called Tamarac [Florida] and we lived in a four-plex, like a four-plex and each one of—there was about, I don’t know, a quarter of a mile of them. And my mom was a single mom and so she went to work every day. She had to drive to Boca [Raton, Florida], which was, I don’t know, like sixty, seventy miles. So she was gone all day long, all day, and into the evening. And when she got home she expected dinner to be made and the house to be cleaned and our homework to be done. We lived a very strict upbringing. I went to school in a neighborhood that was a little poorer than ours was and so it was mixed with blacks and white and it didn’t feel hard back then. You just went to school and everybody pretty much got along and you hung out with everybody. It really wasn’t an issue until 1979. That impacted my life a lot because that’s when the first riot happened in Miami [Florida] and then now all of a sudden the black kids didn’t like the white kids and there was so much racial division. It was tough going to school. So much so, I mean, with having a mother that was never home and then dealing with that at school. I’m being slammed up against the wall and things like that because they didn’t like us anymore. It made it kind of hard and so I didn’t get straight A’s.
I got pretty bad grades at that point and had to go to summer school because I failed math and English. I failed two subjects. My grades just went phfup [phonetic], down. My brother also. And so we had to go to the all-black—it was all black. I was the only white girl in the school. The entire eight weeks or however long summer school is, I can’t really remember. But every day was a challenge. Every day was hard. Every day I was bullied, targeted. I had my math book stolen and all’s I can remember about that was sitting there thinking, “Oh, my goodness. I have to steal my math book back. Because my mom, she’ll whup me.” She was mean. And I don’t even remember how I got that book back. I don’t recall. This was when the desks were slanted like this and you had the little rack underneath your seat. I was so stressed on how I was going to get that math book back because it was like thirty dollars, which was a lot of money to tell your mom, especially back then, “You’re going to have to buy me a new book.” So I just remember sitting in that class thinking, “Wow, how am I going to get that book back? Because I have to steal it back. I have to steal it back.” And it was all I could think about. It like consumed me for days. And so I don’t know how I got it but I did get one finally. I got the book and I passed the class and I got through all of that.
But I really feel like that was a changing point in my life. Like three to seven girls would gang up on me in the hallway. They’d take my books and they’d hide them. They’d play jokes on me. They thought it was hilarious. They would take my brown lunch bag, my little bag of lunch that I had to bring because they didn’t feed us lunch. They would take that and they would slam me up against the wall and say, “Stay away from so-and-so,” and they’d say a boy’s name. “Don’t even look at him and stuff like that.” And so that’s when it occurred to me that, “Wow, I am white and they’re black.” That’s when it really just like—and they don’t like me. So we lived like that. I got through summer school. We went back to school, to our mixed school the next following year. And it was never the same after that Miami riot. It was never the same. All of a sudden there was all this division everywhere and dirty looks and snide remarks. And so I just learned to be kinder.
Q: It’s interesting that you talk about this now. You say it’s never the same. Did that change your view both of yourself as a white person and of them as black people? How does that still like live inside you?
Johnson: [01:12:30] Oh, it still lives inside me. Definitely. The way that it affected me was just to like be more careful around them. Be a little bit kinder to them in hopes that they will accept me for who I am and right away know that I’m not against you. I don’t see you like you see me maybe, you know. And I might have a few more things than you have but we’re supposed to be like one universe and one tribe. That’s the way I feel.
Q: So it didn’t make you resentful or angry ever [unclear]?
Johnson: [01:13:15] No. So I was an in abusive house anyway with my mother being so strict. So I was like kind of a wallflower child, you know. I just tried to stay out of the fire. I didn’t really find my voice probably until I married Steve. I was pretty much always just go with the flow, make people happy, and just try to get along. Like why are you treating me like that? [Cries] I don’t need to be treated like that. I didn’t do this to you. Don’t treat me like that.