An Encounter With Racism in Ladera

As the steaming hot and gooey pizza was placed on the table, five hands shot out to grab a piece in unison

We were celebrating my son’s fourteenth birthday before I dropped off his posse of freshmen football buddies at their first high school dance. The boys were giddy and amped up as only a potent mix of soda, pepperoni and hormones can do.

They chatted about hot cheerleaders, grueling practices and loads of homework while I secretly listened and delighted in their jibes and roasting.

“Hey mom, can we run over to the mini-mart to get some gum?” my son Kyle asked.

I snorted, “Sure boys, better pick up the minty fresh one for the ladies.” Kyle grinned and took off running with his friends at his heels.

As the boys hustled off, my husband and I smiled weakly at each other from across the table. It had been a big week for our son who started high school and suited up for his first varsity game. Kyle was now playing with athletes of an elite caliber and the stakes were getting higher and higher.

One of the boy’s was a new friend from LA , commuting to play football for J Serra High School. He was a shy kid, a phenomenal athlete and determined to carve out a different path than his gang-banger brothers. I admired the kid’s tenacity and dry sense of humor.

As they walked back in the door, I knew something was wrong.

Kyle burst out, “Mom, a group of older teenagers pulled up in their car next to us, pointed their finger at his friend and screamed, ‘I hate n—ers.’”

(You know, the worst word an African-American can be called)

My heart broke. I looked at the boy’s face as he shrugged it off, pretending not to care. Kyle and Nate didn’t press their friend, although I knew they were concerned and were struggling with how to respond and encourage him.

The awkward space between shock and discomfort hung in the air like the ashes of a wildfire lingering in the haze. We sat in the unease. There wasn’t much to say in the face of such ugliness.

The boy stood proud, not allowing himself to be sucked in by a group of racist white boys trying to intimidate and belittle. I struggled to hold back tears seeing his strength of character.

We changed the subject and moved on, but it affected each and every one of us.

There’s very little I dislike about Ladera Ranch, EXCEPT for the eerily skewed white-bread demographics. Few would deny that Ladera Ranch is a homogeneous Disneyland suburb with white picket fences and Stepford-wives abounding. And if there was a breeding ground for racism in southern California this might be it.

I don’t hate much, but I despise racism…

I hate that we took our young friend out and he was exposed to bigots. I hate that this young man –who is overcoming obstacles right and left to get an education and make a decent life for himself is subjected to idiots running around in daddy’s Mercedes with nothing better to do than make mischief and torment younger kids.

The next morning the boy and another friend from LA came to visit our church. I gulped and prayed they would feel accepted and loved by our congregation. Fortunately my husband, whom they smiled at and recognized, was on stage doing announcements.

A few minutes later a video played with a beautiful young lady from Kenya talking about getting connected and finding relationships here in our community. I turned and saw the boys relax and settle in.

And I knew God heard my heart’s cry to find a middle ground, even if it was just for a brief moment-where black and white didn’t matter and we all stood together side by side worshipping as one.


  1. Kaye Wolf says:

    Thank you for writing this. When I tell people of the racism I have encountered since moving to Orange County, in 1996 they think it’s just me. I thought I was handling it well, right up until the racism started hurting my son. We would greatly appreciate it if you would sign our petition.  Thank you. Petition | Boy Scouts of America: Award my son the National Medal of Heroism that he deserves. |

  2. Oh, no…This is what I was worried about. We are moving to OC from Encino and really love Ladera Ranch. I drove around yesterday and noticed that all the kids coming out of school were Caucasian. My kids are half Caucasian and half Filipino but definitely do not look Caucasian. Do you still find this pretty prevalent?

    • So the kids who harassed my son’s friend were Asian. Your kids will be fine

      • Sorry, I got cut off there. I don’t think its just a black white thing. I think it’s a class thing. Those with money vs those without. No one will get hurt physically here, but I do think we have a long way to go to get rid of racism in orange county.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this story. We are a young African American family who just moved to Lasers Ranch last summer. I’m out time here, i have not heard anything said to us personally but a truck parked near our neighborhood pool had a confederate flag flying high from the back of the cab. We are constantly stared at and the fact that we are different is very explicit but yet still undercover. Racism here most of the time can be very passive aggressive. Just this morning at our neighborhood park a child told my three year old son that she didn’t want to play with him because he looks scary. All the parents just stared off and pretended not to hear. I told him, “Baby, you are not scary and you don’t play with people that don’t have manners.” My heart was breaking for him. He is so innocent and had no idea. Even children here are taught very early on the ugliness of racism. It’s part of Ladera’s culture, though done in a way that you can’t overtly scream racism. We may not be here long. I want my children to be able to cope with this kind of world as it is in so many places, but I am torn about subjecting them to it so early on. LADERA IS DEFINITELY ONE OF THE MOST RACIST PLACES I HAVE EVER BEEN. Thank you for saying it because we have been secretly experiencing it for months now.

    • That’s heart breaking. I live in Tempe area by Phoenix and people are so open to diff races and cultures. That’s another reason why I DIDNT move to Calif. Im pray for yall.

  4. Praise God! Im black and have mixed children whom are very diversed! My husband is white and I don’t come across this with strangers that much, but I have encountered this with my own husband. He has hurt me and called me so many names and Niggers. Im astonished! I love your story! It’s incredible. God is a sovereign God and once again he sent someone to answer my prayer!!!
    You might not understand how you answered it but you did!!!
    Im sure that young man is No where near as troubled as you are by that hateful spirit, because unfortunately us black folks have heard it too many times.
    Im sure you were and are a light to him!!
    Keep on loving and let your light shine bright. A few bad grapes wont spoil the bunch!!!!!!
    As for me. Im removing myself from such a emotional verbal abusive man. Thank God we have No children together!!!

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