"I had just assumed that as you grew up, you became lighter and lighter until you became white"


In answer to the Day 1 Question “When Did You First Realize You Were Black (or X)?”

I suddenly learned everything I needed to know about the world when I discovered that I was Black.  What can I say?  I was an Air Force brat who was born in Long Island, New York, moved promptly to Japan and had maids who lived with us, proceeded to Maine and lived with the “Eskimos” (at that point, no one knew what color we were because we all wore those really thick parkas that covered every inch of our bodies), and then back to Long Island, when I turned 8 years old and I mentioned to my mom what I was going to do when I grew up “and became white”.  I  think my mom’s head almost popped off of her shoulders, but, after gathering her mental faculties, she asked me why I thought I was going to grow up and be white, and I told her that grandma and grandpa were white.  She disagreed, and I suppose she should know, given that they were her parent, but they were as white-looking as the clean white walls in my home.  In fact, my parents were lighter than me as are my older brother and sister and all of the elders and ladies in our church in East Hampton New York, so I had just assumed that as you grew up, you became lighter and lighter until you became white. I was so excited that I ran around telling everyone because life suddenly made sense to me.  I also realized that I tan easily — I am “dark” in the summer and “light” in the winter.   Life is good!