The racial tension at my school is thick. We barely mix. There’s white things, there’s black things. Separate, but… just separate. I was going to say equal, but things definitely are not equal. The only time we really interact are in classes. Barely.
I came from a predominantly black area where I wasn’t judged based on my color, because everyone was my color. I was judged based on superficial factors other than race, like my clothes and shoes, the way I spoke, the music I liked. And even then, I still didn’t feel like I “fit.” Like, I was the last to hear about the latest trap tape, so I definitely wasn’t a cool kid, but I also wasn’t one of those Japanese culture fanatics.
But I could hold a conversation with a cool kid and act like I’m interested in whatever JPop artist they were talking about. You know, I was kind of in the middle. I liked what I liked, and I was always open to new things.
[bctt tweet=”I thought college was supposed to be the point where it gets better.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I really thought I was the type of person that can be friends with all races and find something in common with them. I thought I was gonna have this great diverse friend group and college was supposed to be the point where it just gets better. Not the case, but certainly not for lack of trying.
I tried. Hard. I don’t know why I felt I had to try, but I just did. I would speak a little more properly when talking to my white roommates and try to bond with them, telling them about all the “white” things I was in to. It still didn’t work. I still turned out to be “the black girl with the attitude” to them, and they ended up ‘mean-girling’ me out of my dorm.
Trying hard to be “white approved” did nothing, because they still thought what they thought of me anyway.
I had a project to do for my English class. We had to contact a leader in town, not affiliated with the school, and observe their business or organization. I corresponded with a lady through email, and over the phone for weeks. Everything went okay. We scheduled to meet for coffee and go over details of the project.
I made sure I was dressed appropriately, I even took out my red hair weave and opted for my natural hair, because I thought it was more approachable. The lady met me at the coffee shop and suddenly, became uninterested in my cause.
I was eloquent and professional in my emails and probably could have passed for white on the phone, but once she saw my face, it confirmed for her that I wasn’t a good fit to work with her organization.
[bctt tweet=”I tried. Hard.” username=”wearethetempest”]
An incident occurred my freshman year that, knowing what I know now, would not have went down like that.
There were two white girls sitting in front of me in the dining commons.
One girl was facing me, and the other had her back towards me. The one closest to me with her back turned and asked her friend, “What if I was black? Could you imagine me being black?”
I was looking at my phone, but I could still see that the white girl had looked up at me with an “OMG” face. She probably said something along the lines of “Becky, shhhh! There’s a black girl sitting right behind you!”
I continued to look down at my phone and acted like I didn’t hear a thing. I wasn’t as offended as I was embarrassed for her. I didn’t want her to know that I had heard her say something so stupid.
What could she have possibly meant by “What if I was black?” Did she mean how much cooler and cultured she’d be if she was black or how much worse would her life be if she was unfortunately born black?
[bctt tweet=”I was embarrassed–for her.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I wish that back then, I wasn’t so caught up in defying stereotypes and not wanting to seem like an oversensitive black girl with an attitude.
I would have said something.
If I had heard that today, I wouldn’t have sat quietly and ignored her ignorance. I would have at least asked her what she meant by her stupid question and gotten to the bottom of it, and if that would’ve lead to me acting like the black girl from metro Atlanta I am, so be it.