Rachael Heemstra / by Michael Falco

Who is Rachael Heemstra?

Rachael Heemstra grew up in Holland, MI. She was raised by her mother and step father in a diverse neighborhood and nearby school. Rachael received her bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College. During the time this was filmed, Rachael had been living in Battle Creek for four years. She has since moved away and now resides a couple hours away with her son. Currently she is a manager at a bookstore and he attends a private school nearby. Rachael agreed to participate is this project as she has always had an interest in the social sciences.

Excerpt from interview with Rachael Heemstra by Whitney Dow, 2017

Yes, everyone should have their own, I guess, sense of background and sense of beliefs, but we should all be bringing them together, and I know that’s not realistic, and it’s not ideal in today’s world, and that’s the hippy mother of mine has ingrained this peace, love, happiness. To me I live—let me give you an example. I live in a neighborhood where there is white. There is black. There is Asian. There is a lot of Burmese immigration. I like living in a neighborhood like that where only two of my apartment neighbors are white. It brings together so much conversation, so much culture, and if you live in a predominantly—if you live in what you call white culture, you would be surrounded by white beliefs whether that be agnostic, Christian reformed, Catholic. You’re going to find a generalization whether they be Republican, Democrat. It doesn’t matter. There’s going to be this overall glaze of well, that’s like a white people thing. I didn’t see it so much until I moved to Battle Creek. I believe my first experience was walking downtown at nighttime and going into a local bar and seeing the segregation firsthand. When you looked around the bar, you didn’t see groups of people who were intermixed race. You saw all white, all black, and it was apparently segregated, and I stepped outside for fresh air, and I’m a social person.

I just strike up conversation with anyone, and someone looked at me, and they said, “You’re not from here, are you?” And I was just like, “What are you talking about?” And he says, “The way you carry yourself and the way you speak to me like you would speak to anyone else, that’s not known around here.” And now I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if that’s just his point of view, but he was a black man, and I didn’t think anything different of speaking to him.

Interview Transcript