In light of Milton Hall, a 49 year old homeless man being shot 46 times to death by the police today, I’m going to share with you all my internship essay. They asked me to describe a setting where I had to come into contact with another background or culture so, since I live in America, I chose to write about white people. Here is my response:
A setting where I had to interact with people whose background differ from mine was when I was enrolled into an all white private, christian school from the seventh to eighth grade. I was coming from a predominately black public school so I was extremely culture shocked. Not only was I the only person of color in the middle school program, but I was also seventh day adventist. Fortunately, the students were really and truly christians because they accepted me as there own, but there was always that underlying factor of racism that “accidentally” slipped into our conversations. I can even remember one time I was in history class and we were on the topic of slavery. My teacher, who was a very old white baptist pastor, asked me if my parents had ever encountered and/or struggled with the civil rights movement. He also asked if my parents were financially handicapped. Being that I was still a child, I immediately told my parents the isolation I had felt once all the attention was on me in class. I couldn’t understand why my teacher had chosen to single me out, but then I realized that for the first time, I was being stereotyped because of my color and at that point, I was no longer looked at as a human being, but as a spectacle. It was at that point that I knew I had to look at my classmates differently and realize that I was not one of them. I was black and everyone knew it. After my sudden realization, I told my parents that I wanted to be integrated back into public school where I would be surrounded by different people of color and that’s exactly what happened. I had black, hispanic, indian and white friends and I thrived in these relationships. Even though we were different, I knew we were friends because we had things in common and that little aspect gave me a lot of hope. I feel like diversity is an important part of society because if everyone was the same, the world would be boring. If diversity didn’t exist, every culture in present day, would be nonexistent. We draw inspiration from things that are different from us and it’s what makes us who we are. It’s very important to embrace the parts of others that make us uncomfortable because it’s the way we expand our life experiences and its the way people become better versions of themselves. Speaking from experience I know that life is a roller coaster and if you don’t hold on, you will fall off. If we don’t open ourselves to new experiences, new cultures, and new life, then we will have nothing to show for our legacy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still friends with the people I went to that christian school with, but even to this day when I see them, I get remarks about my hair, my skin and even what college I go to. Now its not directly in my face, but they will say things like, “Oh, Dreu can’t go tanning” or “I’m almost as black as you, Dreu!” They say these as if I am supposed to be proud of there tanned skin and curly hair they refer to as afros. But it also made me realize that they were looking for my approval just as much as I was looking for theirs.
Being A Person of Color in America is one of the hardest things to have to live through everyday. You are constantly being looked at as skin tone first, then stereotyped and when you don’t meet their expectations, you’re either acting white or not accepting your blackness.
I say all of this because I want white people to understand that we are trying to be nothing, but ourselves. Living in this skin is already hard enough so just try and be a little more… sensitive.
Keep the peace