What My Racist Fourth Grade Teacher Taught Me

“Mr. Rogers hates me because I’m black,” I told my mom desperately. I vividly remember my mother stopping whatever she was doing at the time to look up and tell me that I was making excuses as to why my fourth grade teacher said I was a “disruption” to his class. Mr. Rogers was fired 10 years later for racial discrimination in the classroom. I can definitively attribute this as the first time I felt inferior because of my skin color. In the years to come I would hear a wide variety of phrases ranging from, “You’re so pretty for a black girl!” to things like, “You’re not full black are you? You’re too well spoken”. Despite hearing these macroaggressions on a daily basis, I still had pride in my identity.
“I’m not attracted to black chicks” said a boy in my seventh grade math class upon discovering I had a crush on him. This might have been when I began rejecting my African roots. I played up my Eurocentric features, constantly reiterating the fact that my skin was a caramel color, my hair wavy, and my nose small. I repeated the fact that I wasn’t really black. I turned to fair skinned men for confirmation that I was beautiful. Hearing, “I don’t normally like black girls but you’re just so hot” made the blood rush to my cheeks. I rejected attention from black men, refusing to believe that I could be on the same level as them. I thought that if a white man wanted me, than I surely was different from “those other” black girls.
My racial identity has been something I have struggled with for most of my life. I used white validation as a crutch to help me believe that I was good enough, smart enough, and beautiful enough to be worthy of anyone’s time. I sought to impress these people who I would never see again by mimicking them as much as I could. Often times, I found myself I hastily changing my speaking patterns for fear of sounding “ghetto” every time I saw a white person looking my way. I spent my days hoping that whoever heard my prayers at night would make me a blonde white woman.
It took me a long time to love and accept myself as a black woman. I stopped equating white with beauty, and realized that the color of my skin was something to be proud of. I am proud to be part of a culture as rich and diverse as mine. I am not great because I am black, I am great and black.



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