Most parents and institutions try to instill the concept of “color blindness” in their impressionable children. I was not secluded from this social conditioning. We were told the basics: everyone is equal and that you should be a great person and all the other sugar, spice, and everything nice language you can think of. I blindly lived in this bubble for years and years in my earlier years.
I grew up in the nice part of the city, went to an amazing school, but this would not shield me from what was to come. I never knew the color of my skin was a problem until one day in 5th grade.
A classmate of mine and I had got into an argument – I honestly have no recollection of what it was about. I just remember it was trivial. I didn’t have much to say back (being raised by Senegalese parents I was taught to be respectful of others). I must have said something that really pissed the girl off because she preceded to say:
“You are as black as the desk!”
I literally was at a loss for words, my mouth became dry in an instant, I felt a heat rush through my body I had never felt before, I was for the first time in my life ashamed. I ran to the bathroom and cried my little 5th grade heart out. This was the day I realized my blackness was a “bad thing”. This was the day I realized that no matter how much I tried to fit it, I would always be as black as the desk to the girl, and my classmates, and everyone else in the world.
I was about 10 years old when this was said to me and 15 years later, I have not forgotten it. Those words have made me stronger. The worst part is this came from another minority.
Note to my 10 year old self: You may be hurting now, but you will laugh at this in the future.
What I did not know was that 15 years later, I would be adorned by some and still hated by others because of my ethnicity and nationality. As cliche as it may sound, I learned to love the pieces of my physically identity that made me unique. It it your uniqueness that allows you to progress.
People never realize how traumatizing their words are, especially children. If you are currently dealing with the turmoil of a similar past incident please believe me when I say, it gets better. We can not change how we look or where our family is from but we can change our outlook on life from negative and afraid of others to positive and optimistic.
Moral of the story: Love yourself, don’t let others weak minds bring you down. 15 years later I may still be as black as the desk but I am loving and embracing my excess amount of melanin.