This post is inspired by a Facebook post that I saw from my brother this week and I must say that while it disturbed me, it brought me back to a moment that I am convinced that all black children experience. That moment when you realize that you are black. That you are of those people that America seems to hate….and it catches you off guard. I think that this is a phenomenon that is an ‘America Only’ type phenomenon, but I only grew up in one country so I can never be sure. (Feel free to chime in if you were raised somewhere else and had the same experience.) Anyway, I remember the day so vividly that you would think it happened yesterday…it was truly a pivotal moment in my life, but before I go forward here is a portion of the post from my brother:
Today at school, my 13 yr old daughter (14 next Tuesday), during school lunch today was pushed from behind and called “N-G-G-E-R”. She was frightened to turn around to see who said it (because she doesn’t know many kids yet) and sat down and cried.
Obviously when I read that and thought about what my niece could have been feeling, my heart broke. No child really knows how to handle that situation and being from California (the valley), I would imagine that it is probably the first time something so serious has happened to her regarding her race. I see her pictures on Facebook and usually she is the only African-American face in the group and I applaud her for not knowing the difference, but if she is anything like me….this experience would change all of that. These experiences have a way of keeping you prepared and guarded for the next experience OR of making you choose to spend most of your time with people that look like you.
So not to leave you hanging on the experience that I had…and as I write this all I’m thinking is that my poor parents are gonna be so upset that this happened right under their noses and I never shared it. Well, there were these two white girls that lived up the street from me and they were my buddies, if I’m not mistaken their names were Heather and Ashley, they were not related to each other, they were actually next door neighbors. My friend was Heather and Ashley was her friend….so it was kind of a situation where I would hang out with Ashley because she was with Heather, not because she was my friend. Anyway, just painting a scene for you…lol. So one day Heather and I went to Ashley’s house to play outside, I think I may have been around 10 or so. I can’t remember why, but for whatever reason we had to go inside of Ashley’s house and I remember that it was the first time I had ever seen the inside of her house. All of our playing, up to that point, had taken place outside so it was a weird experience.
While we were in the house it was beginning to get dark and it was around the time that people’s parents began to get off work and arrive home. I remember feeling like it was about time for me to say goodbye to them and head home, but not two seconds before the thought left my mind did Ashley say ‘We’ve gotta get out of my house before my parents get home, I can’t have black people in the house’. *GASP* If I were white, my face would’ve turned red at that exact moment. I was so embarrassed and confused. Why would she say that? Why can’t black people be in her house? I’m a good person! I make good grades! I speak well! I am smart (flashback of the help…’You iz kind…You iz pretty…’ lol). But yes…I just didn’t understand what my being black had to do with anything concerning who I was. I. WAS. SO. CONFUSED! Afterall, HEATHER was the bad one. She would steal, curse, fight and do everything EXCEPT try to be a child of God. So imagine the insult that I felt when it was because of ME that we had to leave the house.
After she said that, I swiftly walked out the house barely said a goodbye and went home. I walked straight to my room, still perplexed, and carried on with my life as if nothing had happened. I ate dinner and went on my merry way. The thing is, that experience haunted me then and it still haunts me now. After that, the majority of my close friends have been black or non-white…mainly because of the level of trust that I am able to have with people of color. When I share this story with my black friends, they all have their own story to tell about when they found out that they were black. Unlike white children in America, I believe that we are robbed very early of the experience of just being comfortable in our skin and being children. We are made painfully aware that all that is wrong with America is because of us…we are robbers, murderers, uneducated and everything else negative that needs to be pinned somewhere. Do you think that is a drastic statement? Then where do you live? Because my niece was just called a Nigger for simply being at school. She is only 13 so I am assuming that the child that did it learned it from his/her parents. Because I am from a country where in 2012, individuals at the Republican National Convention thought it was ok to throw PEANUTS at a BLACK camerawoman…because thats how they ‘feed the animals’. Do I sound angry? Would you be?
If you are white/non-black and you think that I am being dramatic….think to yourself about what you have heard your own parents and grandparents say and imagine what it feels like to be called those names to your face. Think about the last time you were called a racist, derogatory statement. Think of the last time you had to play with black barbies because they just didnt make white ones. Think of the last time that you ever had to consider or think about the color of your skin before taking certain actions. Don’t worry….I’ll wait……
Trust me when I say it changes a person. It changes your faith in humanity….how you view the world….how you view yourself. And much of the lives of strong, educated black folks everywhere is spent trying to re-gain what was robbed…trying to show you that YES, I can speak as well as you can….trying to be seen as a human and not as an outlier of our race (bc we have all heard from one of our white friends….’you arent like other black people…you are different’)…..trying to do the job 10x better than your white counterpart because it IS still necessary in America…trying not to choke the white friend that insists on speaking in ebonics to you because lord knows thats the only English we speak. The fact that I had to go through it means little to me, but the idea that my own children will experience it makes me very nervous. If you think America is post-racial….read the comment sections of ANY article…trust me…it all goes back to black people being the problem with society. Something is wrong with this picture! Something is wrong with another child pushing and calling another child the most vile word in the book! Parents….lets do better….and lets start that now. Watch what you say because your children are listening and repeating.
I pray that this moment will not be imprinted in my niece’s brain, but for some reason I think it will be. Do you remember your ‘moment’? Disagree with me? Please share your thoughts…..