"Anything I do at this school will stand out."


In answer to the Day 3 Question “Have You Ever Wanted To Not Be Black or ___?

I could be embarrassed. I probably should be embarrassed. However, I am not sure I feel anything for the times I have wished I was any other color but black.

I am African, Kenyan, for precision sake. I spent the first eighteen years of my life as just another girl. My teachers were black. My classmates were all black, with the occasional Indian or point-five (half-black/half-white), but those were very rare - like 0 in my high school classroom of 50, or 2 in my high school graduating class of 284. That was high school. I am now in the States, enrolled in a private, Christian college in rural, Southern Illinois. See where I am going with this? My teachers are all white with exception of one - yes, only one faculty member is anything but white. I have become the one black person in most of my classes and I am one of the few black people at the table when I decide to venture out of that ubiquitous back-of-the-cafeteria-“black-people” comfort zone. Anything I do at this school will stand out. Even simply walking into a room - I stand out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t wanna stand out, I do. For the vanity of being the prettiest girl in the room, because I am the smartest in the room, or because I made such a mind-blowing point in class that changes the course of earth for ever. I want to stand out. But after four years, I feel as though I am only allowed to stand out for the color of my skin, or for breaking some stereotype attached to being Kenyan/African or being black. (There are plenty more African students than African American students at my campus.) “Oh, wow. Most of my African friends can’t swim. You’re pretty good.” Or, “Look at you! Your English is so good - your accent is almost indiscernible unlike some Africans on campus.”

There are a few white Africans on campus and while we haven’t sat down to swap anecdotes, they seem to have an easier time blending in. People (read ‘white kids’) are also a lot comfortable around the Asian kids. But around the African kids, white kids walk on egg shells, trying too hard not to be offensive. So no, I am not embarassed to want to blend in. Nor to want to make friends without being the ‘token-’ anything. Nor want to have a simple conversation about my haircare without generalizations or worrying that I will be offended by curiosity. I would like to have normal interaction with people, and while I am in this college, the only way that would happen is if I wasn’t black - even only by half. I should probably also wish I were male to achieve complete norm-status.