A specific situation tends to arise every once in awhile at school that I can clearly classify as having cultural differences perpetuate the problem. The difference being race. Ever since I was little and we started learning about slavery in school I began to notice a specific trend whenever these topics came up. I noticed that people would be looking at me crooked, shady eyes, half head turns and sometimes blatant stares. Even in high school I struggled with this issue because I remember we had a whole unit on the civil rights movement and I felt like a target. The reason this was such an issue for me is I was always the only black kid in the room.
There is nothing more rude or annoying that people giving you sympathetic or uncomfortable looks when discussing such emotional and serious topics. I remember when I was in elementary school telling my parents about this predicament and they didn’t know what to do. When people stare at me it brings up a plethora of thoughts and emotions, here is a sampling:
“Why is he staring at me? God, I bet they think this is awkward for me considering they think my great grandparents were probably slaves. Really, your just gonna stare right at me and not try to be covert about looking at the only black girl in the room. Maybe I should say something? No that’s too awkward…STOP STARING AT ME!”
The main reason all of this brothers me so much is the fact that I was adopted into an all white family. I don’t have any African American roots in my life, I was born and raised as a white, upper-class, well- educated female. I think the assumption when looking at me based on the color of my skin is “I can’t talk good,” perhaps I have a weave and I probably don’t know who my father is. Yes these are all harsh, racist stereotypes but, at 21 years of age, I am used to them. The other part about talking about slavery in classrooms that makes it awkward is the fact that most student don’t know my background. They don’t know that I was adopted and I am the farthest thing from ghetto. I see myself as white, I don’t identify with being African American, so in a sense its weird to have people looking at me expecting me to have a strong reaction to the topic at hand. This bothers me because people can easily slap labels on me and stereotype me because of the color of my skin.
I don’t know that these situations opened the lines of communication so that I can analyze how my emotions or attitudes affected my communication. As I said, it is always very uncomfortable for me so I usually just sit there and don’t say anything. If anything I will try to interject something about racism I have encountered if anyone tires to make the argument that racism doesn’t exist anymore.
My attitudes about what people think of me when they look at my skin color highly influences how I react to this situation. If it weren’t for me assuming people think the worst of me because I am black, I’m sure this would not be an issue. However, based on learned experience that has shaped my social identity, I have learned I am usually in the out- group when it comes to race. Living in a white world I see myself as a minority, I am in the out-group. When it comes to learning about these topics in school, I am always the minority. I’m sure if I was white I wouldn’t be so hostile when we are taught about slavery. However, because I am the minority I feel the need to stick up for myself and assert myself as a biracial woman. What I mean is, yes I look black, but I was raised white, I still encounter racism and yet I have never let it stop me from achieving what I want.