Who is Cindy Arizmendi?
Cindy Arizmendi was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then moved to Marshall, Michigan, where she and her sister were raised by her mom and dad. Cindy graduated from Marshall High School in 1984 and earned degrees from Michigan State University and Aquinas College. She now works at Kellogg Community College as the Faculty Coordinator for First Year Seminar. Her previous positions include adjunct science instructor, substitute teacher as well as social work jobs in early childhood education, literacy, foster care and adoption. She lives in Ceresco, Michigan, with her husband, dog, and cat. She has 6 adult children (5 step and 1 biological), and 10 grandchildren. She enjoys scuba diving, reading spiritual texts, yoga and meditation. Cindy was introduced and encouraged to participate in the Facing Whiteness Project by a local Battle Creek bookstore owner on one of her frequent visits. .
Excerpt from interview with Cindy Arizmendi by Whitney Dow, 2017
Q: Was there any sort of precipitating event that sort of set you on this particular journey about race?
Arizmendi: [37:24:44] Well, I think that it most likely started with my upbringing and that I was raised in an environment where everyone was the same color. And I was curious about that from the very beginning when I saw different colors on television or when we went and visited places. And then I would come back to where I grew up, and I didn’t see that. It made me really curious, and that’s where it started. And then I had opportunities to go different places. I lived in West Texas for a while and experienced that culture with different colors of people there and different ways of living. And I just was fascinated by it, different ways of living their lives.
And then when I was in college, I was really in a place where—my suitemate was/is black. And I asked her all kinds of questions because she was okay with me asking those questions, you know. I didn’t go about it—well, at least I tried not to go about it in a way to separate, but just out of curiosity because I really—I didn’t know. I didn’t understand, and I wanted to. I wanted to get a bigger picture. That’s probably a theme in my life. I’ve tried to look at things from a big picture, and that started when I was a kid. I didn’t have a big picture growing up, so I’ve kind of always been looking for a bigger picture. And so, yeah, I think that’s where it started, was when I was growing up.
Q: Do you remember the first time you had a personal interaction or experience with a person who wasn’t white?
Arizmendi: [38:29:01] I think the first time I had interaction with someone who wasn’t white would have been—personal interaction would have been when I was in college with my suitemate. Her name was Adi [phonetic]. We called her Adi. Not that I probably didn’t have casual interactions with people before that, but that was probably the first time. She really opened up my world, she really did. I don’t know if she knows that or not, but she really did. She took me to her house in Pontiac. I got to meet her family and her friends. It was really neat to be included in a way of living that I’d never experienced before.
Q: How did that change the way you saw yourself?
Arizmendi: [38:58:22] It made me recognize how limited and small I had been and then, gosh, how big the world is and the variety in it. So how I saw myself? I had a lot to learn. I had a lot to learn, yes.