WHEN A GIRL in one of my classes said, “Black Lives Matter is a hate group against policemen,” the entire class, including the teacher, turned to me for reaction.
It was the worst moment of my high school experience. As the only black student in class, I felt belittled and publicly insulted, unable to fight for myself and for my face. This experience underlined that even in our relatively progressive society, clear distinctions based on the color of your skin still exist.
The moment my class picked the topic of police brutality for an issue discussion this year, I knew I was in deep trouble. I knew no matter how much research I did, no matter how well thought-out my arguments were, there wasn’t much I could do. There was no way I could stand up for an entire population.
Later, when we were discussing campaign finance, I said we should get rid of money in politics and go back to the “good old days when it was just the candidate at a podium, like Lincoln’s time.” Of course, the second I said that, another student said, “You wouldn’t have been able to vote,” making a clear distinction that yes, I am black, and yes, I am a woman. The teacher also said, “He has a point,” disregarding the point I was trying to make.
In school, I stand out. I am one of only three black students in a 66-member Senate in Student Council, and I’ve always been the only black student in my AP classes. I see few other black competitive swimmers and people have told me “black people don’t know how to swim.”
I have never had a black teacher.
Friends have told me I’m lucky because I have a better chance of getting a job due to my race and sex. Almost every day, at least one white person asks to touch my hair. I’m often told that I’m “the whitest black person they’ve ever met.” That is like saying, “You’re pretty close to being white, but you’ll never be white.” I’m told that I look like I’m from “the islands” and that I’m “exotic looking.”
I don’t like being asked which of my parents is white, because it doesn’t matter and it never has. I’m asked on a regular basis which country I’m from. Is it really too crazy to believe that I’m American?
When I express how I feel about this issue, I’ve had people tell me, “That’s not true,” or, “You’re being too dramatic.” When I told my friends how writing this piece was hard for me emotionally, one of them said, “Oh my god,” as though I was overreacting.
I’ve had guys tell me they couldn’t date me because they were scared of what their parents would think. I couldn’t even make this up.
Four years of this cycle of harassment has taken its toll on me. I’ve tried to keep my head high, but I’d much rather lay low, sticking within my small group of friends.
People say that we are the “politically correct generation.” But I don’t believe it.
We still have a long way to go.
I believe we need to have more open conversations inside and outside classrooms. It’s time we stop judging people and learn from our differences.