I don’t recall seeing a person of color until I was riding the school bus one day. A black family had moved into town and several of their children rode that bus.
I don’t remember anyone saying anything specific to me, but I knew that I was not to talk to these children.
So I kept my face straight ahead and only occasionally did I allow myself a sideways glance at them.
Because I have never socialized much, somehow I have managed to get to this age without having a black friend. Until the woman moved in next door. I consider her a friend.
It isn’t that I took what I heard as a child to heart. Not at all. I simply was never around all that many people to begin with.
I have eschewed social activities, stayed to myself and kept my own counsel. Never wanting to be in the limelight or any light really, I always chose the shadows as my safe place.
I chose animals over people every time I had the chance.
Now as an adult I wonder how those children felt, riding the bus with the white children, knowing they were being looked at and talked about. I know they must have felt uncomfortable.
As for me, I never really knew who I was. So how could I begin to understand who they were?
When I was in elementary school, I was pulled aside one day and told that I could no longer use my granny’s last name. I couldn’t understand why.
I was told it was not my legal name, not the name on my birth certificate. So I had to start using the name on my birth certificate.
But who were those people with that last name? I didn’t know them. And I surely didn’t want their name. I felt a sense of belonging with my granny’s name.
I felt kind of betrayed. I felt like the person I was becoming had been eliminated and now I had to be someone else. I never really had a good sense of identity in the first place, not knowing my background or how I got to be where I was. So this hit me hard.
I know what it feels like to be different. I never quite matched up with my peers at any age. I would always rather watch than mingle.
No one should feel pre-judged.
Even pets are affected. In a survey, Petfinder member shelter and rescue groups reported that most pets are listed for 12.5 weeks on Petfinder. Whereas, less-adoptable pets (such as black, senior, and special needs pets) spend almost four times as long on Petfinder.
Black cats are associated with witches, superstition, and bad luck.
It is hard to be different. But never should it be considered wrong.