Growing up in the suburbs of New York, in a town in which I was one of the very few (and by few I mean 10 or so) black girls, I surprisingly rarely felt my color. I had lived in this neighborhood since the age of 5, and grown up my entire life mainly around people who did not look like me. All of my friends were white, but race was never something we spoke of – not because we couldn’t, but because it didn’t matter. Around me, kids would make jokes about black people or say stereotypical things about them, but assumed I would not take offense to it because I was not like “those” black people. After a racial remark was made about a black person in front of me, I have usually been told that I am not like other black people, which I assume is that person’s way of making the remark OK. As ridiculous as it may seem however, I started to believe that. As a child and young adult, race can be a confusing concept. Growing up being told by my peers that I am not like the other people who look like me, and having a father who many people assume is white because of his light skin (although he considers himself black), it was confusing for me to find my racial identity. I knew I was black, but I could not relate to stereotypically black things, nor did I ever feel prejudiced against. The most judgment I ever felt was from other black people, calling me an “oreo” or asking me why I acted so “white”. Because of the lack of racism I faced growing up, and the amount of acceptance I’ve felt from people of all races since I was a young child, I believe that in a way it has made me naive to what is happening in the world around me.
It may seem like a very simple way of thinking, but because I did not feel any racism, I guess I assumed it wasn’t happening to anyone else. Learning about what blacks had to go through before and after the Civil War seemed like it was centuries ago, and I thought those struggles were over for black Americans. So, when I came across this article from CNN.com http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/30/justice/mississippi–hate-crime/index.html?hpt=ju_c2#, I was both startled and disgusted. I could not believe that something so hateful, and based solely on race could still happen in this day.