A lot of people have preconceived notions about who I am without even asking. They assume I like watermelon or that I listen to rap or that my hair isn’t real. If I walk into a room and I’m the only black person, I usually never notice until someone else points it out first. I just don’t think about stuff like that.
Before school was out for Thanksgiving break, I found a post in the green room for the CBS Diversity Institute. It’s a 12-week writing program for “people of color.”
Besides the basic application and a writing sample, they want a letter of interest. They want to know why I’m interested in the program and what it is like being a “writer of color.”
Can we rewind a little bit?
When I was growing up, I was discriminated against a lot in some of most devastating ways. I wasn’t allowed in an Asian friend’s house because her father “didn’t know anything about black people.” And once at the playground, a ball rolled to me by accident and upon picking it up to throw it back to its owners I was told, “don’t touch our ball you nigger.”
It didn’t take me long to realize my skin came with a price. It was like I was born under some kind of burden to fight a fight that I didn’t start.
Even though people are racist, I don’t need anybody’s pity or special treatment. I don’t want to be held back in life because I’m black, but I don’t want to achieve because I’m black either. I want to be judged based on my ability and skills and talents. I want people to see me for my honesty and integrity and personality. Isn’t that what MLK wanted?
I guess my question is...what am I supposed to say in this letter? That I’m proud to be a black writer? Of course I am, but should it even matter what my skin color is at this point? I have been black for 28 years and if I live to be 100, that’s 72 more years of being black. Do I really need to keep dwelling on it?
Sometimes I feel like programs like this are the reason we can’t move forward. No one is ever going to get over anyone’s race if we keep putting ourselves in these closed off groups and jerking each other off. I know that I’m black. I have a mirror and I look at myself everyday. I’m well aware. But my skin doesn’t define me. My skin is not all that I am.
So I guess my questions for today are...do whites have to write essays about what it’s like to be white? If I were white, would I not be able to apply for this program? Is this a form of “reversed discrimination?” Do other minorities feel the same way I do?
*photo from http://www.henkeldiversity.com/tag/equality