For most people racism is a topic that is avoided, but for me it is something that I am completely unafraid to bring up in any conversation. My confidence in talking about this sensitive subject is not because I don’t feel uncomfortable about it, but because I have had to deal with it almost all my life. It is my experiences with racism and racist people growing up that have helped to make me the way I am today.
I am an avid supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and all the previous civil rights movements in American history. For me, Black Lives Matter is the movement that shows no compassion for white supremacy, police brutality, or any other racism and discrimination. I love the way they have empowered people to speak out proudly with confidence against others who have treated them unfairly. This movement makes me proud to be black in America, and has helped me to become more woke about a lot of the sociological issues taking place in our current American society.
For those who know me, they know that I do not shy away from conversations about racism, discrimination, police brutality, or cultural appropriation. I also don’t just stand up for black folks, I try to be someone who speaks up for other minorities that are under attack, including women. I grew up in the area of Pope County Arkansas, my biological father is black and my mother is white, who left each other when I was 3-years-old. Most
people consider me bi-racial, but I identify as black, because of the treatment I received from the white people that i grew up around.
The first time I remember being picked on for being different was at a school in Hector, Arkansas. There were fights on the playground, fights on the school bus, and the first time I heard the n-word used by a white person as an insult. The insult happened as we were looking at a globe in our classroom, where the kid looked at the country of Niger (ni-jair). The kid then smiled, looked me in the eye, and said the n-word.
While I didn’t understand the full meaning of the word, I knew it was an insult towards me, because I was the only black student in the school at the time. I was immediately hurt by this word, and angry, and I felt isolated from the rest of my white classmates.
The next time I would experience racism would be when I was about 7 or 8-years-old, in Pottsville, Arkansas. My mother and stepfather knew a family in Pottsville, and their son became my childhood friend for a while. Although I loved to spend the weekends playing at his house indoors or outdoors, he had an evil cousin, named Jared. Jared was older than us both, and was mean spirited. Sometimes he would come over to his house during the weekend, and he would normally bully me. For a while I didn’t understand why he did it, but I became and I didn’t know why.
Eventually, one day as I was leaving my friend’s house for the weekend, I heard Jared’s father using the n-word in a derogatory manner. By this time, I was able to understand what it meant, and that it was a horrible term to use, and that it was in reference to people who looked like me and my family. I told my mother, but there was little to be done.
Fast forwarding to the fourth grade, the year of 1992, I was now attending elementary school in Clarksville, Arkansas. Attending school in Clarksville was supposed to be easier for me, since the majority of the black half of my family attended this school for generations. However, I was still forced to deal with students who hated me for having darker skin than them, and showing interest in being friends the white girls. These students often felt brave enough to physically fight me over these issues, and normally lost them, if they were not broken up by teachers.
I was not a violent child but, my mother taught me to defend myself if I was bullied. And so that is what I became good at. By this time in my life, I had become confident enough in my fighting, that I would not stand down to anyone who bullied me. It became such a regular occurrence, that I began to look forward to kids calling me racist names or to try and push me around. Some of the names that I was referred to as besides the n-word, were oreo and zebra.
These names are silly, but the tone and derogatory usage was more annoying than insulting, but after a while, even the slightest comments became something that hurt my feelings. Sadly enough, by the end of the fourth grade, I was told I needed glasses, and so came another reason for kids to make fun of me in school.
To be continued…….