In response to, “When did you first realize you were black?”
The day that I first realized I was black was my senior year of high school. At the time I lived and went to school in Vallejo, CA. Vallejo was the home of notable rappers E-40 and Mac Dre. It was also the home of Nascar driver Jeff Gordon…. but I digress.
Anywho, back to my realization. During my senior year, I took AP English. I believe the second book in that class we read was “Invisible Man”. Like many white English teachers, our teacher had an odd fascination with the book. He believed that everything had meaning in that book of great significance.
We were spending a class period discussing our required readings of the book thus far. Most students of the class were hinting at why the title of the book was as it was. Our teacher was focused on a random unanswered conversation the main character had with a person not right of mind. All I remember is the character had said “Iz you got the dog?”. Our teacher went into a long explanation as to how he didn’t understand what was meant by that phrase. He then asked “I wonder if maybe, one of our African American students could enlighten us on this conversation?”
It was then that I realized that there were only three black people in the class that day. Myself being the darkest. The teacher turned and stared at me, in hoping that I was Negradamus or something. Our class clown, not black, followed the teacher’s eyes to me with a wide smile. I wasn’t smiling.
Ever watch The Boondocks? You know the episode with the old blind jackass? I was so close to having one of those moments, but I’ll still consider it the same. I was so close to being the typical angry negro. Sure, maybe if the book came out 8 years ago, I might have taken the opportunity to be the informant to white people, but I was unprepared, overwhelmed. My first real moment of having to do something as a black boy was daunting and so stupid that it took my entire being up to that point from snapping completely.
I may have restrained my voice, but I’m sure I wasn’t able to restrain the immediate anger from my face. After the class clown focused on me and saw my face, his smile went away and turned around. I’m sure the entire class was looking at me, but after the clown turned around, I only focused on the teacher. It was dead silent for a good 15 seconds before the teacher composed himself and went on with the class. I’m pretty sure I was the only person in the class that year that directly said “F*** You” to the teacher without uttering a single word.
After class, one of my closer friends came to me and said: “I never thought I’d see the day that you’d turn black.”. It was then that I knew that I was black. I was the Angry Mute Negro.