For the greater portion of my life I lived in York, PA. As much as I hate to admit it, I am from York. When people ask me where I am from I go through a panic in my mind, should I say my country of origin or should I say York and wait for them to look at me like they don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. See when you tell people you’re from York something automatically clicks in their head and makes them ask “New York?” No, not New York. I wish, but just York.
Some may say that York is a diverse area to live in… these people are probably not minorities. A minority living in York would never say that the area is diverse, especially not a minority high school student.
I attended a majority white high school in a “great, family friendly” area. For all of my 4 years attending this school I was always the only black kid in my class or one of about two. I remember my junior year we got to pick seats in our English class and me and my minority friends sat in a foursome and called ourselves “The Minorities” because we truly were the only 4 minority kids in the class of 20. Our group consisted of 2 Asian boys and 2 black girls, so yet again I found myself in a situation where I was one of two.
I lived in what most people would refer to as a upper-middle class neighborhood in a good part of town. There were no disturbances, the neighbors were friendly and my family was one of probably three black families in the whole development.
I think you get the point. York is not a diverse place.
The black people who attended my high school were not raised in York. Most of them had moved from Baltimore or Harrisburg, areas where they had come in contact with a large number of black people. I did not have that privilege. I was raised around white people and had absolutely no idea how to act around people like me. People that I should have been at my most comfortable just made me panic.
You see black kids make fun of you when you “act white,” I never knew what that meant. I didn’t talk in the slang and I couldn’t relate to some of their experiences but I still saw us as one. We may have been raised around two different types of people but externally we were the same. That’s the way that I saw it, evidently that was the wrong way.
Not only was I black, I was African. Yet another thing setting me apart from everyone. Prior to the black pride, Dashiki wearing, finding my roots movement that is currently going on right now there was always a subtle disliking between Africans and African Americans. I heard all the jokes in elementary and middle school, the African Booty Scratcher, the clicking of the tongues cause kids assumed that all Africans communicated that way. Surprisingly these jokes did not come from the white kids, they came from the African American kids.
As high school progressed I found myself isolating myself more and more, cutting people out of my friend group until it wasn’t even a group anymore. I came to the conclusion that I was too black for the white kids and apparently too white for the black kids. I didn’t belong and there was absolutely nothing that I could do or wanted to do. Subconsciously I began to resent African Americans, choosing to go my own way and mind my own business than to face them. If they didn’t like me then I didn’t like them either.
Now I’m in college, attending a PWI but still in contact with way more diversity than ever, and I still feel that 9th grade sense of panic when I’m around black people. In my mind I know that nothing bad can happen and I won’t be judged because of my background but because of the person that I am. But that doesn’t stop me from being skeptical and avoiding these ‘uncomfortable’ situations.
I’m working on this because in this day and age it is very important that black people in America stand together regardless of background. Before everything else, people see black.