My mom sent us to come play because she felt bad that no one else wants to play with you since you're black...
It was at this moment, I realized I was black.
Now, it’s not as if I walked through life not knowing the color of my skin up until this point, this was just the first time that I had realized that the color of my skin mattered to other people. Being only a 3rd grader at the time, I believed that the color of my skin just meant that I had to use a brown crayon when completing a self-portrait in art class.That is really all it meant to me; no more, no less. I never would’ve imagined that my lovely brown complexion would prevent others from wanting to play with me or cause others to pity me. Of course, we would learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (VERY briefly at my predominately white school) and how he had a “dream” that the little black kids and little white kids could live in perfect harmony, but I was pretty much living in that “dream”, so the lesson didn’t really reach me at that age. Sure, I was one of the few black kids in a class of mostly white kids, but we all seemed to get along just fine. There was no way I could wrap my 9-year-old mind around the fact that someone could be judged/mistreated solely because of the color of their skin (now 18, I still seem to have trouble wrapping my mind around it). If me and my friend Jennilee Burton played together on the playground, it was because she wanted to be my friend and not because she felt sorry for me because I was black. That would be ridiculous… right?
…no one else wants to play with you since you’re black…
I remember this day vividly. My twin brother and I were having the time of our lives after our neighbors invited us over to their house to play on their trampoline. It was the first time we had been on a trampoline and we were so excited that we had just made new friends who had one because that meant that this wouldn’t be our last time on one(Spoiler Alert: It was). I remember thinking, “Oh, these people are so nice.” They came to our door and introduced themselves before inviting us over. They gave us popcorn, we played with their dog and ran around like little kids do. At the end of our little play date, I was already mentally planning our next adventure when I was hit with:My mom sent us to come play because she felt bad that no one else wants to play with you since you're black.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to that.
Oh Ok… thanks?
I walked home with my brother feeling confused and a little ashamed because up until that point, I had no idea that I there was any reason for someone to feel sorry for me due to the color of my skin. That was the beginning of my constant awareness of my skin color. It caused me to wonder if all of my white friends were my friends because they really liked me or if they just felt sorry for me too. It was as if the lights had been turned on and all of a sudden, the racism issue that we briefly discussed in school started to become real for me. That was a very tough pill for me to swallow as a 3rd grader, but it was bound to happen eventually.
Although that was many years ago and I am now very proud to be black, I never quite let go of my double consciousness.