I agree with Alisha’s post. Although I am not asked very often, “What are you?” people just assume I’m black without even bothering to figure out “what I am.” Granted I am black, but struggling to defeat the misperceptions that many teenagers have, that I have encountered, is something that I have faced very often.
Growing up in the “hood” of Newark, NJ, I often stuck out like a sore thumb in my neighborhood. All of the girls that I would play with didn’t like school, had boyfriends, knew how to twerk (shake their butts in all different directions) and had nice, long, permed hair. Me, on the other hand, I loved school, didn’t even think about dating a boy, only did ballet, and had dread locks. I was the complete opposite of these girls! I constantly felt myself trying to be like these people every day. So, when I got accepted into my high school I felt a sense of relief. Finally, I thought, I would be surrounded by people just like me. They would be people who wouldn’t judge me because I didn’t know how to twerk or because I actually enjoyed school.
When I first moved into my boarding high school I was very excited. I was in this new place, New Hope, Pa, which is very different from the city I grew up in. I knew I wouldn’t have to deal with feeling out of place or unaccepted. “For Pete’s sake,” I thought, “they are even accepting of gay people.” I’m not saying I was gay or anything, but coming from a city where blasphemous terms were shouted at people who were gay, bisexual, or lesbian, to a place where they openly accept you, was a knew and refreshing thing for me. But, unfortunately, I got the shock of my life on the first day of school.
The first day approaches and I am excited to meet all of the non-boarding students. The first person I met was a black boy, who like me grew up in an urban city. He shall remainnameless. The first thing that he said to me was, “Are you freshman? Because if you are you about to be my boo.” I had no idea how to respond. Once again the boy issue arises. I didn’t want to talk to any boys, all I wanted to do as a naïve, little, fragile freshman was focus on my school work. So for me, that was strike one in the “I don’t fit in with the black people” ball game. Strike two was when a few of the black girls on campus began to talk about how they had gone to party and who they “grinded” on. After they had finished talking, I was asked, “Do you know how to dance?” I responded by telling them I did ballet, but I’m more into the contemporary style of dance. The looks that followed my statement were as if they were ashamed that I was even around them. I didn’t stick around too much longer to figure out what strike three was going to be because at that point I had had enough.
So, I decided to take a different approach on my group of friends. I decided to hang out with the kids whose pigment was different from mine. And by this I mean the white kids.Unbeknown to me, I would be facing some of the same issues I dealt with when hanging out with the black kids. All these white kids wanted me to teach them was how to twerk and they would ask me questions like: what’s it like growing up in the hood, if I had ever trapped before, do I know drug dealers, do I know trap lords, they always played rap music when I was around, and one student even had the nerve to ask me if he could use the “N” word because we werehomies. Honestly, at this point I had just had enough and decided that I would just become a full blown introvert because no one understood me.
Society has these social structures already created and leaves very little room for people to be something other than what the “societal norms” of a specific race or gender should be. These social divisions arise from misconceptions and assumptions that people make every day. Breaking out of what people expect you to be has this stigma of if I’m not likethe others who look like me then I’m weird or I’m going to be lonely. Alisha said it best when she said that identifying with another group is literally impossible even when you’re not accepted into your own group.
One of my biggest pet peeves in seeing people divided based on race. Yes, I can relate to an African American student on the bases that we are both black and have a similar background with where we grew up, but I hate limiting myself to people just because of the way their skin looks. I began to have the best time of my life in my boarding school when I got comfortable enough to go out and talk to the Asian students, and find some similarities between me and the white students at my school, as well as come to common ground with the black students so that I didn’t feel so much like an outcast with my own kind. I was the happiest I had ever been when I knew that I didn’t only have one group of people to confide in and had so many people looking out for me and when a problem arose, due to the fact that everyone was different, there were so many diverse solutions to my one problem. Limiting myself to just people of my kind would have been something that I had regretted. But, at the same time I am very grateful that I had people there who looked like me that I could confide in when I felt as though I couldn’t go to the other students because they wouldn’t understand. People within this society will not be truly happy until we break these societal structures and social divisions and just be who we want to be.