I never wanted to believe in racism. When I was younger, I studied the civil rights movement and learned about the separate but “equal” facilities for whites and blacks. My dad told me stories about this restaurant that he would go to for lunch and how he couldn’t even step inside, he had to order from a window around back. I listened, but I had the mentality that the past was the past and racism died a long time ago with the activists who fought for equality. I wanted to chastise older adults in my community who told us, the younger generation, to “Leave them [white people] alone ‘cause they don’t mean you no good.” I found it hard to believe that every single white person I met wanted to harm me or disliked me because I am Black. I wanted to believe that there are people in this world who are truly colorblind and I still do.
When I was younger, I thought racism no longer existed. I thought it disappeared, just vanished, the day Martin Luther King Jr. died. That’s the way it is portrayed, as if after his death, everything settled down and white people didn’t hate Black people anymore. That’s what it seemed like in my third grade history book. There wasn’t much information about the civil rights era after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., so I assumed that it all ended there. I know better now. I have grown a little wiser since I was eight years old. I have grown to realize that racism is more complex that white people discriminating against black people, and vice versa. I still don’t fully understand racism, honestly, and I know there are a lot of people who don’t either. I just know it exists, because from the time I was in daycare until my sophomore year of high school, the majority of the students in my school were Black. My county was small, so the entire county attended school in the same school system, except for the white children. Whites lived in my county; I would see them often either out in town or in front of their homes. They whisked their children away and put them in private schools, a thirty-minute drive away from our town, or they would send their children to the military school. Maybe it was because the school system wasn’t the best, but we interpreted it as them not wanting their children to go to school with us.
I was oblivious to a lot of things growing up, but I cannot ignore what is happening in the U.S. right now. Sometimes, I want to shut my eyes to it because it is painful to watch innocent lives be lost, but I would rather be aware of what is going on in my community because it affects all of us. If the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has to be said to remind people that all human beings have value, we are clearly not where we need to be as a civilized people. I can only suggest to myself to start paying attention because I don’t want to be ignorant anymore.
Markeisha Pollard, Staff Writer