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"But I'm not trying to be racist.

"I used to live in City Heights, where all the ghetto people live. So we had lots of racism all the time. Like the blacks and the whites. And the Mexicans and the Asians. There's lots of fights. They're, like, 'Aren't you Vietnamese and Mexican? Which side are you on? Who are you going to beat up?' And I'd be, like, 'Just do your thing. I'm not going to be in it. Just because my dad's Vietnamese, and my mom's Mexican.'"


Daniela, 15, is Mexican.

"This is America. Everything is multicultural. Everything comes into style. Like, one day you'll go to the mall, like, and white girls'll be wearing the little kimono shirts. But it's not racial. Everything can become the style."


Jane, 15, white, was wearing a baseball cap turned sideways, sneakers with no socks, and lots of necklaces, and watching while her friend got a henna tattoo.

"My dad's a racist," Jane said. "I have black friends, Mexican friends. He hates when I bring them over. My dad says, 'If they're your friends, then I'm not your friend.' But I think he's immature. People are people. I don't see color. My friends are my friends because I like them.

"I'm not being rebellious. Not in my friends. Not in my clothes. Hats just look better sideways. That way I don't look stupid, or like a baseball player or something. And hip-hop is just the best music. It isn't a black thing."


Mark, 16, is Filipino. I found him shopping in a hip-hop clothing store in Mission Valley.

"I grew up around black people. I guess I got adapted to the lifestyle. I like rap music and hip-hop style. My parents think it's pretty weird. But most of the people at my school do the same thing. There's, like, different groups and stuff, and we all dress the same way. I think I dress pretty much like everyone else my age.

"Folks might call you a 'wannabe' or a 'poser.' But I grew up like this. I am who I am. I'm proud I'm Filipino, but how do Filipinos dress? I don't want to wear Gothic stuff, and if I dressed preppy then people might say I want to be white. So what am I supposed to wear?"


Carlos, 19, is dark-skinned Mexican.

"They used to call me 'coconut' sometimes, growing up. They were joking, but I'd take it personally. I'd be, like, 'Yeah, just because I don't play handball and slick my hair back and listen to that stupid Spanish music, you think I'm a 'coconut.' But I'm still Mexican.' "


I witnessed a fight between two girls -- one white and one Mexican -- in the warm summer evening, downtown in the Gaslamp.

The white girl had put on a street-tough accent, saying, "Yo, bitch," and, "Puta," and "What up with that?"

The Mexican girl kept repeating one thing back at her, no matter what the white girl said, one provocative statement, in a low voice, over and over. "You're white," she kept saying. "You're white. You're white."


Tanesha, 16, is dark-skinned black, but she lives with, and was raised by, an all-white foster family.

"I see both sides," she said. "People say I act white, but I just think I am who I am. I guess they mean I act proper, I don't know.

"So I just always crack jokes. I make jokes about being black, about black things. I never let racial stuff get to me.

"Like just now, in the wave pool, I introduced my little brother [who is white] to this kid, and the kid was, like, 'How come your sister's brown?' And I overheard him and I made a joke. I said, 'Too much sun! I'm really tan!' "


Eric, 14, is light-skinned, with unusual features. He'd win a carnival bet to guess his racial makeup. Later, he tells me he's "1/4 Japanese, 1/4 white, and 1/2 black."

"I don't hear any of that racial stuff. I never do. Sorry to disappoint you. Other people might, but I don't hear any of it."


Dante, 19, white, grew up with many black friends.

"They call each other nigger, my black friends do, but I can't get away with that. Except with my best friend James. I call him nigger all the time, and he calls me honky, and we know we're friends, so it's okay."


At the beach, five young girls played together in the waves, laughing and yelling, riding Boogie boards. One was white, one black, and the other three were varying shades in between.

They'd all grown up together in Clairemont, and they'd come to the beach with their parents to enjoy the sunny weather.

Jennica, 12, is "1/2 black, 1/6 white, 1/6 Filipino, 1/6 Lithuanian." Andrea, 12, is "100 percent Filipino." Kamellah, 12, is "1/2 black, 1/4 white, and 1/4 Mexican." Maricella, 14, is "1/4 Mexican, 1/4 Filipino, and 1/2 Italian." Daniella, 13, is "light-skinned white."

Had any of these girls ever had racially motivated problems in school?

"There was this girl, Olivia, who is full black," said Jennica. "And she doesn't like me because she thinks I try to act white. Like, she thinks I'm all preppy and stuff. Like, I'm like, 'Omigod!' And because I have friends who aren't black."

And how does someone act black?

"Um," Jennica said, "I think acting black would be more like, 'Hey, homie, whassup?' Like, it's how you walk, how you dress, and how you talk. All ghetto."

And how do white people dress?

"White people shop at Abercrombie...Billabong...Hollister," the girls sang out, in chorus.

And black people?

"Echo Red...Baby Fat...House of Flava..."

So the second a black person walks into Abercrombie & Fitch, they're acting white?

"Not really," said Kamellah.

"I just like the clothes," added Jennica.

And what about music? What about rap, and rock?

"I like rap, and R&B, and hip-hop," said Daniella, the white girl.

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