Managing a mixed mindset
By the time that I was old enough to fully understand what it meant to have skin that differs in color from my friends, I had already been berated with racist and colorist comments from my classmates. Imagine that: a kid who is not simply Black or white but instead Black and white being told by his classmates that he doesn’t fit in with either party.
As I’ve traversed the complicated maze that is the education system, I’ve been attacked with racist and colorist comments from peers of all races that have tainted my memories of school. Phrases like “You don’t act Black” or “You’re only half black, you don’t really count” have been used time and time again to invalidate my identity and to excuse the deep rooted ignorance and hateful actions of my peers.
Years of this persecution left me feeling “Too Black for the white kids and too white for the Black kids.” From one end of the spectrum I was bombarded with racist comments or “jokes” and from the other I was ostracized because of my lighter complexion. Wandering between two places where I was either unhappy or unwanted, I had a decision to make: continue to fight for acceptance or go where I am welcome at my own expense.
Settling for the latter, I expected the actions of my classmates would change as we matured, but even now as they hop on the train of whatever social justice movement is most popular at the time, their behaviors often remain unchanged. Social media posts and words of solidarity mean nothing if your actions in person do not align with them.
In the last two weeks alone I’ve been attacked with the same style of awful offhand comments numerous times, but two instances bother me most.
The first of the two came about in a conversation regarding cultural appropriation. After I voiced my opinion on the specifics of the conversation I was refuted by a Black classmate using the words “You’re half racist because you’re half white.” Instead of arguing over our contrasting views, they chose to use my race to attack me and pass off my opinion as invalid.
The second and exponentially worse of the two stemmed from a conversation about how I ran into an old classmate who was known for his controversial opinions and actions.
I mentioned the fact that I saw said classmate to a “friend” and they replied, “Oh? Did he chase you around with a noose while wearing a pillowcase on his head?” Our conversation stopped there as I walked away upset and exhausted from the countless times I’ve suffered through encounters like this.
I’ve become desensitized to behavior like this. I’m angry that I’ve had so many racist encounters that they hardly phase me now. I’m upset that in a world where so much progress has been made towards equality for people of all races and ethnicities there is still so much deep rooted ignorance and hostility toward people of color.
Although a handful of my peers have apologized for their past actions, this form of injustice is a hydra. For every apology issued, there are two more offhand comments coming. Just as I wish for closure and healing for those with experiences like mine, I wish nothing but growth and enlightenment for my peers who are still stuck in their abhorrent ways.
There’s no clear solution to the problems I have mentioned here but I believe people can begin by being conscious and aware of their actions and how they impact the people around them.