Growin' Up Ignorant

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

 

The Little Things

I wasn't allowed to play with white dolls when I was growing up. My parents were born and raised in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era. Post-Civil Rights era, they learned to be cordial with whites and forgiving, but they never forgot anything they endured. My mom and I were in Wal-Mart and I saw the veterinarian Barbie. There were no black ones, so I asked if I could get the white Barbie. My mom said no. I whined, "Why not?" She said it was because she didn't have dolls that looked like her when she was a kid. She believed that dolls help young girls with their self-image. 

Girls are often told, "You look just like a doll and just as pretty." If there are not any brown dolls, how does a brown skin little girl learn that she is just as beautiful as a doll, too? I remember this. Although I did not fully agree with it at the time, I understood that my mother only felt this way because she grew up in a time period where a strong self-awareness was necessary for a young black girl.  

It's funny how big of an impact the little things from your childhood have on you. I didn't think the movies I watched, the music I listened to, or the toys I played with mattered when I was younger. I didn't think it would have an effect on me later in life. Life changing experiences occur daily and most people don't even realize it; at least, I don't.

As I began to write this article, I reflected on moments in my life that seemed insignificant. I realized that these irrelevant conversations and minor occurrences had a part in shaping who I am today. One being the day my first grade teacher told me that I wasn't as good of a student as my older sister, so I decided to dedicate myself to my studies and prove her wrong. Ever since then, I have been invested in my studies.

My mother was a young African American girl during one of the most crucial periods in African American history; it is obvious from her demeanor that her experiences of the time influenced her. I always believed that only the really important events in a person’s life had a profound effect. I guess it takes all of the big moments plus the small ones, and a few tragic instances to define who a person is. I encourage anyone who reads this article to reflect over your lifetime and consider how the little things contributed to who you are. 

 

Markeisha Pollard, Staff Writer