What it’s like growing up Black

It went from jokes to insulting my skin color, hair texture, and ethnic features to calling me slurs. Most of the class joined in. No one stood up for me.


From dealing with microaggressions to being called slurs, I didn’t get to enjoy the simple joys of being a kid.

“Look! It’s your dad, Elom.” “Your dad finally came back!”

I flipped through my notebook, searched through my bag, doing anything I could ignore them, hoping they would stop. They didn’t. They continued to make jokes.

They were laughing about the fact that my seventh grade substitute teacher was a tall Black man with a thick African accent, apparently finding a resemblance between us.

It went from jokes to insulting my skin color, hair texture, and ethnic features to calling me slurs. Most of the class joined in. No one stood up for me.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran into the hallway sobbing. A few of my teachers came out of their classrooms and tried to calm me down but I was inconsolable.

I felt like I wasn’t only crying over this moment. I cried for every microaggression, joke, comment and slur ever said to me.

Everything just came out at once. People who I thought were my friends treated me badly.

The teachers didn’t contact my parents so they could comfort me or even inform them of what had happened. Instead, they made me spend the rest of the day at school in class with the kids who attacked my Blackness — a characteristic I cannot change .

After a couple of days, I built up the courage to report this incident. I sat down with the dean and he asked me to explain the incident so I did.

The dean kept making excuses for the students’ actions: “They made a mistake, it happens to the best of us,” “You should have said something to an adult as it was happening.”

He was more worried about the reputation of the other students and the school than my feelings. He made it seem like it was my fault that it happened to me.

Being one out of only four Black kids at the school with no one to turn to, I listened to him and never brought it up again.

Just because I didn’t talk about it, doesn’t mean it didn’t affect me.

While I’d experienced microaggressions for almost my whole life, being dismissed like my feelings and experiences were invalid opened my eyes to how little America cares about Black people.

We don’t get to experience childhood. We are forced to deal with microaggressions, casual racism and classmates with different “opinions” we have to respect.

But it’s much more than insensitive comments.

We are forced to face the daily reality that we can die at the hands of the police just because an officer had a bad day.

We are forced to face the fact that we can go to jail for the rest of our lives for a crime we didn’t commit because we “fit the description. “

We are forced to live in the conditions that 400 years of oppression and brutality have imposed on us.

Coming to high school and surrounding myself with kids who look like me taught me that my voice is valid. The systemic racism that has taught Black people their voices are not is just that: racist.

I can’t change the way Black people are treated in America overnight; I can create a place where their feelings are validated. A safe space. A chance for Black kids to stay kids a little longer.

I co founded the school’s Black Student’s Union for just that.

The club has allowed me, along with other Black students, to have a space to be our true authentic selves and celebrate our culture.