In answer to the Day 1 Question “When Did You First Realize You Were Black (or X)?”
I was a military brat, and we moved to Alabama when I was four. When I was five, my best friend Kim and my “boyfriend” Jamal were both black (I’m so, so white), but I didn’t actually realize that at the time. My mom says she’d get dirty looks sometimes when she’d take us to the park together, but we were blissfully unaware. One day in kindergarten, another white classmate told me that “black people smell bad because they don’t wash.” I remember being stunned at this declaration, and focusing for the first time on our differences. I don’t think I ever told anyone what she said, but I surreptitiously smelled some black and white classmates after that without noticing any particular smell from anybody.
Now that I’m an adult, I’ve seen my world get whiter and whiter over the years, from my workplace, to my friends, to my movies and TV shows. I lament it out loud sometimes, but I’m never really sure what to *do* about it.