Each Sunday, I’m working my way through my experiences with race. I’ll share stories and memories from throughout my life. I know I’ll encounter moments of growth that I wish I could relive. I’ll also have to think back on choices that I wish I could remake. Today also marks Day 14 of the Slice of Life challenge. Join me as I work to write every day in March – and beyond!
Every story has a turning point. There is a moment of truth, a fulcrum on which our seesaw of experience forever rests between “before” and “after.” I’ve had several such moments in my life.
The details are sketchy. There’s a chance I have some of them wrong. There’s also much more complexity to this than I can express in a single blog post, but we all know words have their limitations at times. This is one of those times.
My first moment of racial reckoning occurred in high school. It was my junior or senior year. The high school newspaper just published an issue on slang. In it was an article on Black English.
I remember holding that edition of the paper in my hands, scrolling through the articles, and reading that one with some interest. I remember the article mentioning Black English Vernacular and giving some examples of its structure. I don’t remember much about the content of the article.
I do remember that it wasn’t written by someone Black.
And it didn’t sit well.
And it brought forth a lot of anger.
So much so that the local news covered our news.
LOTS of people were talking about it.
And if you asked me how things eventually turned out, I don’t even think I could tell you.
But I do remember that being a moment of truth for me. This idea I carried in my head, the one that told me racial justice and equality were “done” once Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks took care of things? It was a lie. There was still prejudice and racism and bias and inequality. There were wounds, still seething anger across and within racial groups, and it took a high school newspaper article to puncture that boil.
It was the first time I recognized there was still work to do. That I had work to do. That there was so very much I didn’t know, didn’t understand, hadn’t bothered to see.
That was the truth I had to sit with. That I still sit with. It has shaped me, has driven me. It’s what drove me to seek the experiences I have in college (starting up on that next week!) and beyond.
And…if you’re someone I know who remembers this time, I’d welcome your memories in the comments. I keep trying to put more perspective to these events, and I could use yours.