Friday, August 20, 2010

Discovering you were black

Yesterday, I was talking to a group of first-year black students at the university. We got in a discussion about how they learned about race. So I asked them to recall one of their earliest moments when they became aware that they were black and to briefly describe what happened on a notecard. Here's a sampling of some of their responses:
I first realized I was black when I attended a black history program at church.
I realized I was black when I was in 2nd grade. I had won a spelling bee, and when I looked at a picture my mom took, there were only 2 other black kids. Everybody else was white.
It occurred when I was in elementary school. I was one of a few black students in my class, and I noticed the white children were always together, and the black ones were in their own group.
In third grade, kids were calling me "white girl," and it made me angry at first because I was not the color white; I was brown. As I grew, it began to hurt me because I knew I was black; I just wasn't the stereotype.
I noticed I was black when my best friend in kindergarten was white.
The first time I realized I was black was in the 1st grade. I moved to the suburbs and went to a new school. The girl I sat by kept asking me if I was black, and I thought I was white with a tan.
Probably when I was about 10 years old, I realized one February what it meant to be black. Being black history month, it was the first time I really thought about it.
When my cousin told me I was black, because I used to think I was white because when I was younger I was very light skinned.
When I was 10, I took an art class on the Northside, and I was the only black person in the program.
I realized I was black by attending an Afrocentric grammar school.
When I was little and heard someone talking about black people when I considered myself brown.
When I was in grade school, I was winning at a game of tag, and one kid got mad and said it was because I was black. I looked around and was the only black kid on the field.
The first time it really hit me was when I went to a fun park with one of my white friends. This was in elementary school, and I never really saw black or white. But then a girl made a comment about me being black.

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