In a Biology class roll call, there was a young woman who shared my last name. I thought it was odd at first, but soured at the prospect that our familial history may intertwine in a less-than-savory manner.
How would someone who was white have my same last name? Or, perhaps more accurately, why would I have the same last name as them? At one point genetics came up, and we were encouraged to find information about our family tree. There were some comments, wholly innocent I think, that eventually she and I would find where we had overlap. In hindsight that may have been very uncomfortable. As fortuitous as a lack of knowledge can be, I was unable to trace my parentage that far back.
After finding a home in a new school, being told by many that I’m “not really black” as I didn’t fit stereotypes and perceptions and carried myself differently yet again.
By this point, I was long used to this sentiment especially after my prior school year. Still, it did nothing but continue to hammer the point home. I did, and do, still joke about my Lack of Blackness. There were traces of… bitterness, I think I could say. I did and do not despise other Black people only accounting for their skin color, but I know I was wary of interacting with them. This is mainly because, at some point, the observation of “you’re not really Black” would come up. From non-PoCs, I could make a “How would you know?” quip in my head. But for other people from the same background it was harder to deny.
Yes, I keep bringing this point up. As much as I did not want to care, it seemed to matter wherever I went to enough people for me to remain preoccupied with it.
I finally happened upon a community. I had a passion for theatre reaching back at least until the fourth grade when I was in a summer program. Coming to this school, the director of the program was the theatre teacher. And while our both being black did not weigh on me consciously, having an elder with the same passions as me was a welcome change to the rest of my life.
Atop that, my odd religious stance(s) and nerdiness found resonance. I recall mentioning in passing The Legend of Zelda animated series. Previously, if people knew of Zelda, they could find no proof of a cartoon. When I brought it up here, someone groaned loudly, asking why I was talking about it. I distinctly remember feeling “less crazy”. Something that only I remembered was confirmed.
I left this school feeling a lot less alone in the world.
I was finding a lot more good in these years, and more rapidly. Changing schools again and again likely had something to do with that. The odd aspect in this is the juxtaposition to the previous story. There are good and less savory aspects to whatever society I find myself in. It was good to finally be in a place in which I did not need to put on any masks or limit myself just to manage day to day.
I sometimes hung out with known weedheads and class cutters, but was well known amongst the school for being beyond straight-laced, and wholly unknown to the faculty because I always stayed well within the rules. One morning after everyone else had toked up and come inside, a security guard came over and looked over the whole group. He pointed at me and attempted an interregation across the table. I spoke well, per my norm, and completely threw him off the trail. This entertained my friends to no end, as they knew full well that
Knowing who at the table was regularly high should have left the security guard with “likely suspects” to question. Rather than that, I was selected.
Again, this was not an overt act. However, why was I singled out when the security guard either A) had no idea who I was or B) DID know who I was? For A, it would be because I never got in trouble for anything. For B, if he did know he’d be aware that drugs weren’t my thing. Not even caffeine. As I have said and continue to reiterate there was nothing overtly race-driven about the action. But that is a common trait in many of these experiences. And since my presence is the common thread I have to ask “Why me?”