Black Like Me

Black Like Me

FEATURED ARTICLE

Black Like Me

FEATURE: Devorah Porter shares an exclusive insight to her experience with racial profiling.

By Devorah Porter | Guest Writer
February 09, 2017


The routine of school is infamous for its spirit drainage of the young and ongoing strenuous workflow.

I was reminded of these factors every time I would walk through the metal gates of my middle school and throughout the day.

There was never any deep-seated hatred for the place, but there was enough tension created by our expectations that I’d choke up and find myself struggling to stay afloat.

My steps through the crowded halls and narrow concrete paths were made less stressful by the presence of my friends. I could laugh and banter with my friends for hours on end as we’d always find joy in any topic we were sticking to.

As I sat through lectures in my history class, I found it tangling how my parents couldn’t have had the same friendships I had today. The grueling details of segregation between colored and caucasian students seemed impossible to me, knowing I had plenty of friends of different backgrounds and ethnicities.

To this day I cannot fathom living in a state that separated me into a sector of living conditions purely based on the amount of melanin in my skin. The dividing mindset the officials of yesterday had seemed barbaric and unquestionably immoral.

I was raised among people who saw color as anything but a primary determination of character. As a child of both white and black heritage, I found no issue in befriending a girl who might have not grown up with the same culture as me.

This stayed true through my middle school years as my favorite people to talk to were Armenian, Filipino and Hispanic. There were no noticeable differences between each despite how varied our races were. I saw my friends as people individualized by their personality more than anything. From my perspective there seemed to be little to no opposing views from the standard to be equal.

“I saw my friends as people individualized by their personality more than anything. From my perspective there seemed to be little to no opposing views from the standard to be equal.”

Little did I know I would come face to face with the oppression I made imaginary from my lack of experience. My encounter brought attention to the prominent oppression towards minorities that lingers to this day.

I chattered on with a few of my friends during passing period to occupy the leisurely stroll to my next class. I’d soon be greeted with the same class I associated with lectures about Thomas Jefferson and the haunting recalls of the Jim Crow laws from the African-American community.

As I approached my desk I glanced in front of it to see my classmate chatting with the student to the right of him. I gave little thought into what he was doing, as I only talked to him near the end of class out of pure boredom.

My neighboring classmate was a boy about a year older than me and pale-skinned with brushed blond hair.

Our teacher sat at her table finishing the remnants of her lunch before preparing the presentation for the day.

The lights flicking off must have been a signal to the student in front of me, as I saw his conversation with the other boy quickly wind down. As my neighbor’s last conversation ended, he attempted to begin one with me. With the little time we had left until we started taking notes, my neighbor thought it was crucial to ask me something. As he turned himself around to face me, I was taken out of my daydream and into confronting him once more.

“Okay, so I was wondering during lunch….” He began placing his hands on my desk to flow along in different motions as he talked.

“Since I had a black friend with that weird braided-straight hair thing going on….”

As he muttered this phrase I was instantly unnerved. I was mostly confused as I tried scanning his eyes for any insincerity he might’ve been hiding behind the potent words he used.

“How can some black people have straight hair when yours is all, y’know, poofy?”

At first, this question left me without any clear direction as to how to handle it. I gave a nervous chuckle despite how offput I was by his sincere demeanor.

“I mean, don’t white people also have some variety of hair textures?” I spoke as a subtle deflection of the boy’s question. I could tell by his preemptively open mouth that this retaliation didn’t phase him.

“But don’t guys get that poof from where you were from?”

It was now clear that he had intent with what he said. I felt the realization sink into me as I sat there giving him a puzzled look for what felt like hours.

Time started to press me, so I blurted out, “That doesn’t make any sense.” I spoke with a sarcastic tone as a final attempt to distract him from confronting me. My efforts still weren’t successful and I had to stop dancing around his topic.

“Well… not all black people have the same kind of hair, just like others’ races.” This answer felt reasonable in my mind as I uttered my official reply.

Looking at my neighbor’s perplexion, he still seemed to approve his own notion of what “my people” are supposed to look like.

Boiling anger slowly settled in the pit of my stomach.

This was the exact encounter I never wanted to experience, but perhaps that was my fault not to expect. The class continued as normal and thankfully I didn’t seem him pressing on about our discussion.

Even though I knew I was not harmed in any physical manner, I felt an aching feeling of hate and shame in my chest on my walk to sixth period.

Venting this frustration out to friends didn’t provide the relief I was seeking either. Thoughts of obsolete racial standards from 20th century America crawled to the front of my subconscious and struck with a lesson I learned from the strife from earlier that day.

Living in a day where political feuds seem to take up a great amount of societal space daily has emphasized many outdated ideals unlike any other time in recent history.

The rich assortment of racial backgrounds has undoubtedly been beneficial to our country’s growth, but it has also brought about an ongoing era of shallow disputes.

Although constant arguments about skin pigment aren’t favorable ones, they have made their way to being a staple in American life. Sweeping this clash between ethnicities under the rug is worse than taking the subject as what it is.

On my ride home I looked towards the clouds as these conclusions scrambled to be true.

At face value, my class neighbor had more of an ignorant perspective than a malicious one. Being challenged by his contentious questions just showed how many American people are bewildered by diversity.

Whether or not the bewilderment of race-sensitive eyes is coarse, it seems to me to be another sign that our country is indeed a melting pot.

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