Black Lives Matter and so does my Experience as a Black Woman

It took me years to realize that racism still exists. As a child, I was taught that sure racism existed in the past, but it’s long gone just like slavery. My elementary school was diverse and I had no problem embracing every type of person. It never occurred to me that someone could be hated because of where they came from. I remember around third grade my mother asked, “How many black and white friends do you have?” I replied, “I wasn’t keeping track of their race. I have many different types of friends.” She then said, “Lucky you.” It wasn’t until high school that I understood why she asked that. High school was one of the hardest and most challenging moments of life. I was a naïve child that wanted to challenge myself by getting into an expensive high school that was far from home and away from many of my friends. I thought the only challenge was associated with academics and didn’t realize that my skin color would bring many more challenges. Unlike elementary school, my high school was predominantly white. At first I just saw it as an interesting change of scenery. I thought that as long as I work hard like everybody else then it should be no different than elementary school. Boy, was I wrong… The very second I entered the school I felt as though many people were staring at me. I constantly checked my clothing to make sure that there was no malfunction or stain that would cause them to stare. I always felt as though I was being judged by the other students, but never understood the reason why. My first class required us to do a series of ice-breakers. For one of the ice-breakers we had to say an adjective that started with the same letter of our name, so when my turn came I said, “Energetic Ezi!” I thought it was cute and would surely allow people to see me as a kind and silly person. However, one white girl next to me whispered, “Ebola seems more appropriate.” Many besides me heard her and laughed, but I just smiled because I did not get the joke. It all just went downhill from there. I was bullied pretty much every day, called names such as “dirty” and “uncivilized,” and struggled to keep my grades up because of it. I thought that I was the problem. I constantly tried my best to fit in, but the bullies effortlessly made me feel really ugly inside. They made me feel like I wasn’t worthy because I did not look like any of them. All of this made a major impact on my self esteem and yet I sill refused to believe that it had anything to do with racism. I wanted to believe in a world that was no longer racist. In history class, I was again taught that there was racism in the past, but things are much better now. We never really dived deep into the history of African Americans, until Black History Month. Even then we would only hear about the most well known African Americans that changed history and not the ones that were kept hidden, for reasons I still don’t understand. One of the only good things that I got out of that high school was my one friend who was bullied for the same reason that I was. We were both two awkward black girls trying our best to overcome the adversity of high school and our painful experiences brought us closer together. I also made a few white friends, but many of their mentalities were that they did not see color, which is a problem in of itself. I managed to make it to college and eventually transferred to one of the best colleges in New Jersey. It was there that I realized that racism is still very alive. It was a subtle moment, but it was enough to change my perspective on race forever. My brother was helping me move my stuff into my dorm and we needed a bin to help us do the job. So I kindly asked the white police officer at the front desk if we could use one. Note the fact that we did not have to even ask since we were clearly students trying to move in. He glared at me and my brother and said, “Yeah, just make sure you don’t steal it, okay?” At first I thought to myself, “Hmm, must be a lot of people stealing these things.” Once we were done using the bin we immediately went back to return it and a white student came in looking for a bin use as well. I figured that he would also tell her to not steal, but instead he said, “Here you go. Take your time using it.” I looked over to my brother and asked, “Why didn’t he ask her not to steal it as well?” He chuckled and said, “Why do you think?” It was at that moment that I realized that racists still live among us. My sudden realization was similar to the moment when an adult realizes innuendos in shows and movies from their childhood. It’s shocking and makes you realize just how little you knew compared to now.  After that very moment, I was able to see the world for what it truly was and took classes that educated me about African Americans beyond the surface level. I learned about the tragic lives of African Americans like Emmett Till and the definition of implicit racism. I embraced my culture more and made myself more aware of the injustices that affect black people the most. America has come a long way from tragedies like slavery and segregation, but we still need to fight the racial injustices that go on behind closed doors. We need to educate people more about the history of African Americans so that people such as myself are not left in the dark. Less knowledge leads to more ignorance and awareness is the key to our freedom. Today, many are now speaking up for movements such as Black Lives Matter and I could not be prouder to be black at this very moment. Hopefully, everyone will learn to accept each and every race the same way that I did in elementary school.  

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