Illinois (GREED) – Back in February of this year, CNN started the #realizediwasblack social media movement. A video was posted on Facebook with several notable Black celebrities and public figures, each of them describing the moment they realized they were Black. All of the stories varied from one another, by age or location or by the level of cruelty. But as different as each story was from the rest, they were also very much the same. Each person could recall the traumatizing moment in which their Blackness was used to try and break them. After watching the video, I started thinking back to when I realized some things about myself.
I realized I was different in 2nd grade. Our teacher was introducing us to pictographs and had each student make a paper doll representation of themselves. We then got to place our doll under the column that best matched. Some children put their dolls under the white child with blue eyes. Some put theirs under the white child with brown eyes. A few put their doll under the white child with green eyes. When it came time for me to put my doll somewhere, I was lost. My teacher told me to just stick my doll on the side of the board, since there was no column for me. I asked to go to the bathroom and I cried in the stall. I wished I had green eyes.
I realized I was fat in 3rd grade. At lunch, a boy named Noah walked up to my table and called me fat, right in front of everyone. Some children laughed out loud, others giggled quietly. My brother had called me fat before, but it didn’t feel the same as it did when this boy said it. I asked the lunch lady, who gave me an extra peanut butter and honey sandwich every morning (because she said I was so sweet), if I could go to the bathroom and I cried in the stall. Noah was my first crush and I had been his, up until that day.
I realized I was Black in 7th grade. A new friend had invited me to her house after school one day. I didn’t have many friends, so I was pretty excited to have been invited. While we were walking to her house, she told me that her dad didn’t like Black people. I felt a rush of panic. She must have noticed, because said that it was really just Black men that he didn’t like, so I would be fine. I felt instant relief, so much so, that I nearly cried. I really wanted that friendship to work out. I also felt sad for my dad, because he is Black and he’s really nice.
The first time I realized my skin color mattered was when I was in the fourth grade. As kids, we would play this game of ‘house’ on the playground, and we would drive our pretend cars, and go to pretend work, and have our pretend families. I spent several weeks playing the daughter and I wanted to change and be the Mother. So I asked the next time we were outside, and I’ll never forget it. There were these two twin boys, Matthew and Mark, blonde and blue-eyed. And one of them yelled in front of the whole group… “You can’t be the Mom, because you’re black.” And then they laughed. Apparently we could imagine that we were driving cars… but it was too much of a stretch to imagine a black mother. And yeah, I cried. #RealizedIWasBlack #BlackGirlMagic #BlackLivesMatter
When I elementary school i was the teachers pet. Literally i could do no wrong in my teachers eyes. Unfortunately that put other people off and behind the scenes some of the not so great students started talking bad about me. When i heard about it i went to confront the leader of the group. He was a lighter skinned person and i went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. He turned around and when he saw it was me before i could say anything to him he got in my face and said “keep your dirty hands off me i don’t want the mud you bathe in to rub off on me”. Naturally i was in such shock i couldn’t say anything and he walked off. It wasn’t until recess where i finally understood why he said that. So i sat in the classroom and cried. I never felt so ashamed of my skin color or disgusted by myself. And that was when i first encountered the deafening reality that despite being human like everyone else my skin color put me in a category deemed dirty, unclean, and disgusting in the eyes of others. I am proud of my skin color and i have even embraced my natural hair texture and became interested in my culture, but that one incident still to this day stands out in my mind and i’ll never forget it. #realizediwasblack