Growing up, I always bubbled in African American during tests because that’s how I was seen. I am interracial. I am half white and half black. Yet, I always found myself angry that I couldn’t identify with both on a stupid standardized test.
I grew up white. I grew up in a whitewashed suburb in the South where very few people of color lived. I grew up around white adults, white peers, and white friends. I grew up “dressing white” and “speaking white”. Though my skin color said differently, I always felt white. I always tried to be white in fear of being different.
To my recollection, I barely dealt with racism growing up. I never dealt with confrontations that would leave me feeling less than a human being because of the color of my skin. I guess you could say I was lucky in that sense compared to many others that I know have questioned their existence because of a racist experience.
Flash forward to 2016 and for the first time in a long time I am very aware of my skin color. We have just elected a President who has said many racist statements along with his supporters who have said far too many more racist remarks to leave anyone scared.
Today, I am aware that I am black. No longer can I hide inside the race protectant bubble I unfortunately built for myself growing up. Today I am aware that, like many others who don’t fit the Trump “formula”, I am being watched more. Today I am fully aware of the horrifying racism and discriminatory hate trying to divide our country.
The way I see it, there are two ways to use this new awareness for how this country sees me.
I can hide. I can hide in my home in fear of someone calling me a nigger while out around town. I can go out and keep my head down and avoid eye contact. I can hope that my skin is light enough not to bring attention to myself.
Or I can stand in the light and be proud of who I am. I can walk in public being aware of the possibility of being discriminated against or hated on, but also knowing that the I can conquer hate with love and acceptance towards others.
Whether it’s the color of your skin, your religious views, or your sexual preference that has you fearing to step outside today, I ask you to consider a few things. Consider accepting who you are rather than accepting people telling you that you don’t belong here. Consider loving every inch of yourself rather than accepting the inevitable hate in this country that makes you feel like you have a target on your back. Consider this the spark you needed to finally accept who you are and to run with that. This is the silver lining I am choosing to see in this darkness.
It’s going to be terrifying. We’re stepping into territory that looks far too familiar to some of the most frightening pages in our textbooks. Territory that is designed to make us fear being who we really are. It isn’t okay, but we will be okay.
In the past 12 hours I have seen more messages of hope and pledges to protect those who are terrified to be different today. Because of this I choose to believe in the good that is left and to believe that it is okay to be who I am. I will not allow this presidency to keep those who feel different in hiding out of fear. Let us come together and be proud of who we are.
So for those searching for light in this time of darkness, for those who are afraid to suddenly be who you are, I leave you with this story:
One day I came home from 3rd grade to tell my mom someone at school had called me black. With fear spreading across her face in fear that her interracial child was dealing with racism already, I soothed her fears with one sentence:
“I don’t understand why we call each other white and black? We’re all just different shades of brown.”