I never had a problem with the color of my skin until I entered elementary school. Thankfully, I’ve never encountered any severe forms of racism, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was coming up short. That maybe I wasn’t as talented as the other kids at school. In hindsight, I definitely had potential, but at the moment, I felt like I was below average. Both my elementary school and my middle school were predominantly Caucasian. The town itself wasn’t very diverse and my mother was never too fond of it. She would always make snide comments on how “white” our neighborhood was and I agreed with her.
When relatives visited they would comment on the lack of other minorities they saw around town. I couldn’t see why it was so important to them. Nevertheless, I knew they weren’t wrong. Consequently, my biggest role models ended up being family members. One of my older brothers, Kenny, and I grew up in the exact same education system. He was a few grades above me, but we went to all the same schools and had almost all of the same teachers. Whenever I would move up a grade, the teacher never failed to bring up something my brother did or how smart he was in their class.
Whether it was math, English, science, history, a sport, or a club, I felt like I would never live up to his name. We were in the exact same situation, facing almost the same obstacles, yet somehow, he was doing so much better than I was. He eventually became not only my biggest role model, but my biggest rival as well. Trying to keep up with him pushed me to do my best. By the end of middle school, I was unofficially known as “Kenny’s Little Sister”. This carried on into high school. However, in high school, it wasn’t just my brother I had to worry about, it was my classmates as well.
How was I supposed to be on par with the kids in my grade taking honors classes outside of school if I couldn’t even surpass my own brother? Defeated, I fell into a slump. Soon it wasn’t just about feeling incompetent compared to others academically and because of my race. My dilemma evolved into feeling inadequate socially and within my own race. I’ll never forget the time freshman year when a classmate of mine said to me, “I wish you were sassier.
I feel like you would be so much more fun to be around. I can’t even recall the rest of the conversation or what even lead up to that comment being made, but the comment alone stuck itself in the back of my mind for the next 2 years. Of course, being one of the only African Americans in my school, I was expected to fit the “sassy black girl” stereotype and be the token minority of everyone’s friend group. Thinking about it now, it was a silly thing to worry about, but at the moment I immediately felt as if I was a sub par African American. I was the complete opposite of the stereotype. I was shy, quiet, and I didn’t even have an unbelievably ethnic name.
It wasn’t until I started becoming more involved in the clubs and the music program at my high school that I started climbing out of that slump. Joining Percussion Ensemble, Junior Jazz Band and Concert Band were the best decisions I could have ever made. The only people I needed to impress were my conductor and myself and it was no longer about skin color. The more I practiced, the more I’d improve. The more I improved the more I was recognized at concerts.. Now as a senior in Honors Symphonic Band, Bluegrass Club, Percussion Ensemble, and Senior Jazz, I’m proud at how far I’ve come.