This morning I woke up and watched the videos on CNN.com called “The first time I realized I was black”. It allowed various celebrities, CNN news anchors, reporters, and others to talk about the first time that being black affected how people treated them. At the end of the segment it said tell your story and tag it #realizediwasblack . So here is mine.
As a child I was getting on the school bus to ride home from school. The day was like none other, it was sunny outside, the temperature was warm. I got on the yellow school bus and went to the regular place that I sat. A few minutes later our bus driver informed us that another bus was having trouble so they would be getting on our bus to ride home and he would have to change the route. This happened often but, this particular day was a little different.
A kid that was in another class much larger than me got on the bus and saw that I was sitting by myself. He looked at me and said “Move over nigger”… My mind started racing and I was taken a back by this. You see, I grew up in the Northern area of my county where there were not a lot of black families at the time. There were maybe 5 black kids in a class of 30, and maybe 10-15 in the whole grade. At my best friend’s school she was the only black kid in a class more times than not. However, in my entire life it never crossed my mind that someone would call me this word.
So believe it or not, before this day I asked my Mommy (Rest in Peace, my Angel) how it felt growing up during Civil Rights times and being called this word and what I should do if anyone ever calls me this word. She told me, “Don’t get violent, try to remain calm and use your words. However, if the conversation turns and you have to fight, then make sure that they call Me!!” (I loved her advice)
Ok back to the moment…So I am sitting there in shock looking at this white boy that is calling me this name and I started thinking about everything and even looking around to see if anyone heard him, just in case. My body started to shake with rage. I calmly got up and let him in the seat. However, before I sat down I had to say a few words. This was the conversation that followed:
Me:”You have seen me around this school, and at any point have I called you a “cracker”, “whitey”, or anything like that?”
Me: “So why would you call me THAT word?”
Him: “Because it is what you are”
Me: Now I think the bus started to take off, so I had to take my seat next to him, but I next said. “Never, ever, call me that word again, the dictionary says that it means “ignorant”. That does not apply to me and I don’t care what anyone told you to call black people, I am black and we have been in the same schools and live in a neighborhood similar to yours but don’t ever do that again. ( I must have had conviction in my voice)
Me: “Thanks for the apology and as a matter of fact it would be wise if you did not call anyone else that word again.”
The bus driver reached the kids stop. I let him out and he got off of the bus. I could see red, and started to cry. Soon it was time for me to get off. That moment made me realize for sure that I was black and with it happening in Elementary school it taught me that you can stand up without fighting. ( Even though I wanted to trip him as he walked down the aisle.)
I went home and couldn’t wait to tell my Mom how I used my words. She smiled and was proud of me, and I am sure that she called the school. However, in my own way I felt like I had accomplished something that day.
As for the kid that said those words to me, oh yeah, I remember weeks later he got beat up by a black boy at school that was closer to his size and I can only imagine how the fight started. Probably the same way.
Thanks CNN for ending your segment with share your story.