Ana Dougherty

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Ana discusses her and her family’s experiences across various countries including: Argentina, Africa, and England to illustrate how her experiences have shaped her opinions on race, identity, and home. She shares information on several influential family members and how their insight and experiences have contributed towards her personal development. She discusses how her unique educational background has served a significant role in her personal connection to migration. She discusses how her personal relationships with friends from Africa, Latin America, and community members have shown her role as being a white women to be problematic in spaces occupied by persons of color, however she is always attempting to learn how she can use herself to search for solutions to this precarious situation dealing with race.




Terrell Brown: Hi, my name is Tae Brown. I am here interviewing Ana. Ana, would you mind providing uh maybe a short introduction?

Ana Dougherty: Sure. I’m Ana Dougherty and I’m a junior here at UNC. I am a double major in economic and global studies with a minor in philosophy, economics, and politics.

TB: [00:00:34] --Yea well where we can begin? So where are you from and possibly could you describe what makes this place home?

AD: --Where are you from is a question that causes me great anxiety. It did for a very long time and I think just recently I kind of arrived at a comfortable-- I am not from anywhere, which is really difficult thing to sort of come to terms with because I feel like sense of place is so important for so many different reasons--both like personally and for the world. But I never lived anywhere for more than 4 years so I was like just moving all the time growing up; six different states in the U.S. and then in England and South Africa and my mother is from South Africa, but our family is super spread out. The side of the family that I’m really close to is my mother’s side of the family and she has three siblings and the four of them who are like my sort of everything-- my rock, those four siblings, including my mother. They each live in different continents, so it’s just-- [00:01:42] I’ve always had this sense of everything being sort of spread out and disjointed. So I don’t really think of a physical place as home but definitely my home is my family, and also my extended family. And my siblings ( ) because there is no other set of people who understand sort of what I’ve gone through and the different places and times we’ve lived. Because every time that we leave somewhere, that place seems to sort of sues to exist the way we knew it because-- first of all, we were never from there and second, we left it. [00:02:16] And so I feel like we have little parcels of time in different places that are only sort of preserved among each other.

TB: [00:02:28] What do you consider to be your culture?

AD: Again my family culture is sort of very specific in that we have so many different influences that come together. My grandparents were from Argentina and England and my great parents are from Italy and I still have a ton of family living in Italy right now and family in Argentina and family in England and I’m a duel citizen with England and the U.S. And then of course like growing up partially in South Africa and having my mother and all of her siblings born and raised in South Africa and then in Argentina complicates things as well. So in terms of my actual culture-- I’ve always felt like I’ve had a lot of sort of partial claims to different cultures that mean absolutely the world to me but it is an interesting dynamic because in different settings-- different groups like British people, or Argentinians, or South Africans either like do allow me to have that claim or don’t. So I’ve had instances where I’ve sort of had to ya know dig my feet in the ground to be like--You know, I actually ( ) this place means so much to me and the people from this place mean so much to me. It is my here heritage and everything. And so really because of that, I think-- throughout my childhood, I spent many summers and times in that with my aunt, who is my madrina. And then also like going back and studying abroad there, I’ve always looked for every single excuse to go back to Argentina and so I really identify with Argentinian culture. I don’t feel like I have a claim that to say that I am from Argentina, I’m not. But I also found that Argentinians have been super welcoming and super open in allowing me to have that claim with no reservations whatsoever, like British people have not been and in some way Americans as well--being American is part of who I am. I’ve always had a very funny relationship with the U.S. because my mother kind of raised me and my siblings to reject it even when we were here and I still think she still really struggles to accept that she is living in the U.S. because her family would have never imagined that she would have married an American and settled here and everything. But I have grown to realize how much this country has given me and how much I love it and how I have an allegiance with it as well. [00:05:03] So yea, it is very mixed and confused but I am feeling more and more comfortable in that I think. And obviously speaking Spanish and having that connection to Argentina has been really important as well.
[00:05:18] TB: Can you tell me about how having Spanish speaking members in your family has affected your identity or life?

AD: Actually Spanish is my older brother’s first language. My mother really wanted to raise us speaking Spanish and so for a while there I was born when he was three and at that point he still only spoke Spanish and could only speak Spanish and actually not speak English. So my first language would have been Spanish but he was about four or five and starting in kindergarten, he ran up against this wall where like-- he was in--we were in Colorado, and when he went to school he did not understand what was going on and a lot of the a lot of the kids had a strange time interacting with him because he had very strong accent and he really couldn’t speak English. So he was ya know poor little kid and he was very confused. At some point, he actually just refused to speak Spanish anymore and my mother had a really hard time then trying to speak to me in Spanish when my brother just wouldn’t speak if she were speaking in Spanish. He has actually sort of lost his Spanish and has been working really hard to regain it now that he is older and realizes that he wishes that hadn’t happened. I was raised just speaking English and when I was around eleven, I started realizing that my parents would always at the dinner table we grew up like--they would be telling secrets in Spanish that we couldn’t understand. My mother would be on the phone with her sister in Spanish and I was really close with my aunt in Argentina and so I just had this fierce desire to learn Spanish. So I was like immediately sort of in high school Spanish classes as a middle schooler because I was so into it and picking it up quite fast because I had grown up hearing it. So I guess like what it is really meant is giving me the gift of feeling comfortable in Spanish and opening so many doors to different people in Latin America that I can’t imagine-- [00:07:16] I can’t imagine my life without it. It would be impossible. It would be a different life. I was incredibly lucky and yea, I don’t know how to describe what I was. I was incredibly lucky because when I was sixteen, I got a scholarship to go to a-- high school, two year program called Untied Will College in New Mexico, a boarding school, and more than a few people that go there are on full scholarships. It is a very different type of boarding school. It was a community of 200 people from eighty countries and I lived there for two years and it actually changed my life. It was fairy tale. When I first heard about it, this place with so many different people brought together and it was free. I couldn’t believe that. I thought it was an absolute joke and so most people who find about it do think that it is probably not real but it is. So at that place I grew very close to all the different people from Latin America. My closest friends were from Peru, and Venezuela and Colombia. So every single day I felt like at least a third of the words coming out of my mouth would be Spanish and we would be dancing at night and I ended up going to visiting one of my best friends in Venezuela for an entire summer once. I graduated and--[00:08:38] I guess I seem to say that Spanish has changed my whole life and really allowed me to get to know different people and absolutely fall in love with so many different people from Latin America.

[00:08:49] TB: What specific parts of your upbringing and cultural elements do you think contribute to the formation of who you are today?

AD: Well everyone in my-- pick some family on my mother’s side and then also both my parents--have worked always and either in non-profits or in the Episcopalian church. My uncle works for the United Nations with refugees in ( ) and so I guess some parts of my life--every single role model I had was living every single day in service to others in a very concrete way. And so there is kind no other way of thinking about things. And then also I guess as I mentioned having everyone so spread out and having some torn allegiances. I think it just forced me to have to just be extremely open to a lot of different things because there are so many different things coming my way all the time. And yea I mean my mother is probably the biggest influence in my life. She’s my absolute best friend and sort of has guided me in every possible way and so when I think of myself and like who I am now-- The things that are most important to me are necessarily things you would not think traditionally think would be identity markers. It would just be really having internalized this gentle approach to the world. I think that really just comes from my incredible family members and my mother and like being forced to be flexible, like adaptable--overcoming the sort of tendency to perhaps to not let people in because you know that when you are not staying somewhere for a long time that you are going to lose them. [00:10:55] I think that me and my siblings have sort of overcome that and we have almost rather become extreme in like creating really deep relationships even if it just happens overt the course of one month or something and learning that is worth it, even if you are going to lose.
[00:11:12] TB: Could you describe an image or scene that captures something special or important about your life?

AD: I guess one really invocative image of me or just idea is like the sound of suitcases wheels rolling over pebbles. There is a very particular kind of moment. Because the sound we would hear and I have never heard it anywhere else. When we roll our suitcases into my grandmother’s house in England. She lived in a tiny town of just two hundred people and she was in charge of like everything to do with the church and she had this thing up on the wall that said “God give me work until my life is done and life until my work is done.” And she is--every single day got up and was like, writing letters back to Argentina because she missed it so much. And like is still is working for the church in Argentina from England and like going to teach the church and going into the community and everybody knew her and everybody loved her. That was the really my only kind of physical home and it is sort of been tough in the past six years because she died. Because that place doesn’t exist for us anymore. [00:12:31] That was the only place-- the only constant place. We would always go back to her house in England and I think that is a really important place for our extended family to come together at one time. And my grandmother is just an absolute-- she was a force to be reckoned with and very incredible person; a major sort of important love and influence in my life.

[00:13:00] TB: What is your faith meant to you throughout your life?

AD: As I mentioned, a lot of my family members were in the church. My grandfather was a bishop and my aunt is a priest. My grandmother was a priest. My mother very much wanted us to grow up in the church too. I grew up going to church all the time and then I guess being pretty imbedded in the religious institution kind of changed over time my relationship with my faith. I have a lot of issues I guess with religious institutions and it’s difficult having to know so much to keep up with any church. But I like said, a lot of my close influences and family members are deeply religious. I guess throughout my life my faith has been a very strong guiding force but has been-- but is still taking shape I suppose. And I haven’t so much been a part of religious communities as much as just like within my family. And so yea I don’t know-- I guess it’s still forming.

TB: What experiences have you had relating to immigrants in the US and possibly elsewhere? And how have these impacted you?

AD: My mother, having been born in South Africa and growing up in Argentina--she is an immigrant to the US. As I mentioned before, she has a very difficult relationship because she has just had a hard time finding a community and like people who understand her. She misses her other homes very much. But then also because when I came back from South Africa to the US when I was ten, I had this really thick South African accent and I also just really didn’t relate to the culture of my peers in my school. So every single instance when I lived in Vermont, when I lived in New York. When I moved to New Mexico, all my friends were the immigrants. I was not friends with anybody else. I remember going to my Indonesian house in New York and we would be eating food that her mother made and her parents spoke in Indonesian. In New Mexico, my friends were the people whose families had just come from Mexico or Latin America or other places. It continued to be true now that like all of my closest friends at UNC are the international students and I guess those experiences have just reinforced and created my understanding my creation. Any of these ideas that people have about trying to build like walls-- I don’t even I think I believe in the borders of the nation state, ya know? It’s like deeply personal and deeply offensive to think that someone would try to keep anybody out who wanted to be somewhere else so. I guess like for me all those inventions are immediately my very closest friends.

[00:16:38] TB: How has the idea of race-- I guess you could say had an impact on the relationships you have had in the USA, inside the US, outside the US, etc.?

AD: It has been a really important factor in different ways more than anything I think I have just--Okay two examples comes to mind. Obviously spending four years in South Africa between the ages of six and ten was just really formative in understanding of race and my awareness of the serious problems. Like in the early 2000’S South Africa had only recently ended apartheid and I mean everything was just physically visible, ya know? We lived in a nice white part of Pretoria. And we had like massive walls and electric fences and my mother would always sort of stop the car to give people a ride that were walking on the streets and stuff. Our friends would be absolutely in shock. How could you do this to black people, to give rides to black people, or even to have just have friends that were black was very unheard of and so it was just extremely shocking and extremely noticeable. My parents--I’m so lucky that my parents were so conscious of everything and sort of working on exactly those issues--I was shocked that there were racist attitudes around me I didn’t inherit them, but at the same time, but were part of that racist structure, right? We were living well in South Africa as white people and there was no way you avoid understanding especially more and more as I get older just how deeply problematic that is from so many different levels. Then I went back to South Africa to work two summers ago and all of co-workers were black and completely from a side of South Africa I never even knew about before and so it is still something that I am trying to understand and I guess it is sort of just helps me now understand the problems that are going on right now in the US. I have a friend who is my very best friend that I went to school with and is from Trinidad. She is a beautiful, dark, black women and she like--A year after we graduated I saw her and she was a different person because she was so beat down by having lived in the actual US for a bit. Because our little bubble at that school in New Mexico at that school was not the US at all. It was crazy international space. She didn’t really-- She hadn’t known what the US was like and this was like, a different person I was talking to. She was so heavy of the burden of just walking in this environment. She’s been having a really hard time being my friend event though we were the closest friends of that ever existed because I am white and I understand that for her. [00:19:56] Yea I don’t know--I guess it is a constant understanding how I can use all of my experiences to be a force against racism and to try to like stop taking up space and whatever and where as I can as a white women to better understand what these issues are and what we can do about them.

TB: You said that you have two experiences...

AD: I was thinking of being from South Africa and my friend from Trinidad.

TB: Is there anything else you possibly had to share or wanted to share?

AD: I guess I kind of feel like something really important to me in general-- I would say that I’m kind of obsessed with people that society deems to be social deviants and I think that immigrants really fall into that category and our systems are kind of set up to cast those people off right? Like I work a lot with juvenile delinquents and with other people who have gone through the prison system. There is severe mental illness in my family and I mean also that back related to the like the race issues and even being just being a women. I feel like our society is not set up to treat anyone who deviates from the norm of what we expect, kindly. So I guess I’m sort of trying to understand that more and figure out more what to do. I’m not sure why I am so into that but--

TB: Anything else? No. Well thank you.