I grew up immersed in white culture through private education. I attended predominately white schools from preschool through college. Though I successfully navigated the ins and outs of school, there, I was often too black.
My ponytail didn’t move like the other girls. My father was a step ahead of the hairstyle scene, so I was wearing cornrows the decade before they became super popular again. My hair choices regularly confounded those around me, and I quickly learned to dodge wandering fingers touching my hair without permission.
I was called a nigger and told I look like a monkey. My parents taught me to never place my hands in my pockets or in a purse after touching something on a store shelf and to always hold my receipt until I’ve made it safely to the parking lot. Along with driving lessons came a tutoring session in dealing with the police.
I was questioning what we learned in history class and used every opportunity I could (book report, art project, research paper) to study black history. I learned that I had a choice growing up, I could give the answers teachers were hoping to receive or I could risk the F and speak my truth (ie- Christopher Columbus discovered America? Nope.) Though I succeeded in school, that success was not indicative of sameness. I was regularly negotiating my identity and establishing demands for respect...
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