It was September 2009, the first day of high school to be exact. The day that prepubescent thirteen and fourteen year olds anxiously wait for. I was one of them, but I don’t think I was as excited as they were. This didn’t just mean going to a new school, but it meant participating in a new life. I grew up in the Southside of Jamaica, Queens, not the most desirable neighborhood but whatever; I made the most of it. My high school is in Gramercy Park, a place known for expensive cars and celebrity sightings; this place was to become my second home for the next four years. Anyway, as I walked down the corridor into the outer courtyard waiting to meet my freshman classmates, I couldn’t stop thinking about what private school kids would be like. I opened the door and went out into the courtyard and there I was, one of three black kids in a class of 75 (reminder: I’ve never met a white kid until I went to this school). I was the first new black face in their grade that they have seen in a few years. I felt like a fucking golden statue, an exhibit of some sorts. All these white kids surrounding me like I was a celebrity or something. To be completely honest, it completely freaked me out at first, I was so uncomfortable. I felt like some type of bug surrounded by a bunch of polar bears. But people are people right? Who cares that race they are? That’s what I thought at first, but then I soon realized I was the only one with these thoughts.
I never thought I’d be one to be bullied one day, as I was by far the biggest / strongest kid in my grade and arguably in the school. At 13 years old I was 5’11, 205 lbs, built more like an NFL running back than a high school freshman. Yes, these kids were scared shitless about trying to bother me physically, be it hitting me, or stealing from me, etc., but they were fearless when it came to words. I felt like for a while I lost my identity and I was just known as the new black kid. I was bombarded with questions about “typical African-American culture” like “why do black people like KFC?” or “why do you brush your hair, it’s so short?” or “why do black people like grape soda?” or “why the fuck are black peoples’ lips so big?” and other shit like that. Truthfully, I didn’t know how to answer them, and today, as a senior, I still don’t. I was always into sports, so I played basketball and ran track as soon as I got to high school. Having a freshman dunker was great for these kids, but having a BLACK freshman dunker seemed even better. People started labeling me as “their black friend.” Like one time I was walking with a kid and his mom called and asked who he was with and he rattled off a few names and she didn’t recognize mine because I was new to the school, he goes “yeah, the new black kid. I’m with my black friend.” To this day I wonder why I was his black friend. I wondered why I could just be his friend friend. That thought still sometimes bothers me.
Another thing that bothered me was white girls. Not even trying to be racist here. Like those rich white girls you see on television. Fast forward to junior year, I had a reputation. I was a freak athlete, dope artist, dope musician, nice guy, party animal, class clown, super scholar. I thought I had everything going for me, and wondered why no girls have ever liked me at school, even the girls that I did like. I started comparing myself to other guys, kind of going down a checklist to see why she chose him over me. I had everything that he didn’t. She even told me that. She also told me that she just wasn’t into black guys. I wasn’t too offended by this because everyone has their type. But a few months later she was dating a light skin black guy, and when I told her “I thought you didn’t like black guys?” she said “Oh, well he’s light skin. He’s not REALLY black, like you.” First of all, I’m not even that dark. Second, fuck did she mean by REALLY black? Like I usually don’t get upset about a lot of things but this time shit got real. I’m not going to tell you what I said back to her, because it wasn’t nice, and after years of hearing the same bullshit you just get sick of it. Those are just two brief stories, if I tried to tell you everything, you’d be sitting here for hours and your computer’s backlight would be destroying your retina.
Here are some common phrases I’ve heard at private school throughout the years though:
“You’re my favorite black person.”
“You know, I generally don’t like black people, but you’re cool.”
“Yo Yo Yo homie G, let’s go get some KFC for lunch.”
“You want some watermelon?”
“Why do black people….(insert anything that black people are known to do here)?”
“You’re only at this school because you’re black.”
“You’re only going to get into a good college because of Affirmative Action.”
“Diversity conferences aren’t for white people, if I go, your “other” friends won’t like me.”
The list goes on and on.
But yeah, some people have absolutely no problem saying really ignorant things, and that bothers me. If they’re this reckless when they’re 16, how bad will it get when they’re 25? I’ve tried a lot to get people in my school to think differently and nothing has worked. The only real solution is to just graduate and leave. Sadly, it’s still a year away. I know a lot of people have similar stories to this, and it sucks that we all do, but it’s just the type of shit that makes us think deeper about who we really are and think about what we can do to make the world a better place.