The Skin I’m In – A Natural Born Suspect

Looking back on my childhood, I can honestly say I had a pretty diverse upbringing.  I grew up in the time period known as White Flight, however my elementary school and neighborhood consisted of black, Caucasian and Mexican people. Everyone spoke to each other, the kids all played together (we weren’t all besties, but everyone played) and there was a mutual respect among the neighbors.  Simply put, we all got along.

I know people say it all the time, but I truly did not see race or color.  I guess we can chalk it up to childhood innocence. Even after over hearing a conversation between my older brother and his female Caucasian friend, I was none the wiser.

Shar – “Sherman, Don’t you wish everyone in the world was white?”
Sherman – “Shar, Don’t you wish everyone in the world was black?”

They both refused to answer the question.

I could not wrap my 6 or 7 year old brain around that noise.  I remember thinking she’s not white (like a crayon) and he’s not black (like a crayon).

So what the fuck??

Like all 6 or 7 year olds that over hear a conversation, I told my parents what I thought I heard. My mother did her best to explain the different races.  I recall her saying something like ‘in spite of people being of different races and colors they are all the same.’  That was good enough for me.

Fast forward to my teen years.

I attended junior high at a private catholic school.  There were 9 black kids in my 8th grade graduating class.  After more than 25 years, I remember all their names; 0 Mexican and the remaining 26 kids were white.  Even though this environment was not as diverse, we treated each other the same.  We can chalk it up to adolescent innocence I guess.

I was 16 when I first became aware of my blackness – when I realized that things were in fact different.  I was working at the mall and I met a girl (Carrie) from a small town who was going to college in the big city and working part-time.  She had never been around any black people.  She told me she had only seen minorities on television and black people, for the most part, on the news covering their faces after being arrested for a crime.

At first, she was very standoffish, however after working with her for a while, she became more comfortable.  So comfortable she actually told me that although I was black, she didn’t see me as black.  I guess that was her way of paying me a compliment.  Her exact words were:

 “You’re black, but you’re not black.”

What the fuck?

I am black…My momma told me so and so did that random lady/guy that follows me around (that I thought wanted to help me, but is really only making sure I do not steal) in every store I shop in.

Carrie felt so comfortable she thought of me as being just like her.  And all this time, I thought I was.  It was at that moment I realized how different we were.

Unfortunately for me, despite my cocoa brown skin, my black friends thought I was different too.  They didn’t think I was black enough. They would give examples such as my grammar and speech pattern.  I sounded white.  I spoke too proper. I liked the wrong music.  My rhythm was off.

“You’re black, but you’re white.”

What the fuck?  I am black – just like like you; just try telling the lady/guy that keeps following me around (pretending to want to help me, but is really only making sure I do not steal) in every store I shop in that I’m not.  They don’t know I heart New Kids on the Block.  They are suspicious of me because of my skin.

They know I’m black and do not care that I can speak the King’s English.  The fact that Carrie doesn’t view me as being black does not change the skin I’m in.

You can’t see a person’s character, beliefs or education.  I wish you could.

George Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges for the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin.  I asked my son to get his point of view of the verdict and to see how it affected his outlook on life. He clearly falls into that stereotypical demographic.

Based on his individuality and demeanor, he assures me that no one would see him as a threat. This situation and tragedy would never happen to him.  If he is ever in that situation, I pray someone sees his spirit and not just the skin he’s in.

I’m Just Sayin’…(Damn!)

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