Two months into my senior year of high school, I will turn seventeen. For the past sixteen years of my life, I have had to learn why people degrade, persecute, and eliminate people similar to my image simply due to their skin tone. Naturally, being schooled on racism since first grade hasn’t been the most exciting learning trip, but a necessary one. I didn’t identify as someone who associated with the Black Lives Matter movement until sophomore year. I purposefully dissociated myself from it due to the fact that I knew there was a vast majority of students who were not even aware of BLM’s existence; however, I got over that fear quickly after realizing just how grave the issue was, particularly in America. By not uniting with believers of the movement, I would never be treated equally as a black American.

Middle school was awful. I would never realize the full extent of my white-washing until I was fifteen. Fifth to eighth grade primarily consisted of name calling, stereotyping, attempted personality suppression, and more. All these offenses wouldn’t come solely from students, but the teachers as well. There were about 281 students in my middle school, and I am thoroughly confused looking back as to why I didn’t let my parents pull me out when they realized I was depressed there. Either way, the damage had been done; white was right, and I was not. It was never explicit racism, just subtle beliefs that a pre-adolescent black girl would automatically believe from adults and peers who appeared smarter and more distinguished than she was.

I surprised myself when I auditioned for a performing arts high school; the setting was something completely different than what I was accustomed to. On top of that, the school is a notoriously difficult school to get into. Despite the challenges, I was accepted into the school, not realizing how much it would change my life. Suddenly I wasn’t the only one with my skin color, my background, and my beliefs. I was thrilled. The excitement started to settle down into my second year, where academics became more serious and I discovered my love for English. Sophomore year English was full of new information regarding the civil rights movement. I started to identify with my true self after watching the Freedom Riders, finally perceiving how acting as an African American in an increasingly white political climate was crucial for extending equality.

I wish I could say everything was perfect, but there’s still so much work America needs to do in terms of treating black people differently than they did 400 years ago. With more attention being drawn to the BLM movement from firsts in history like Barack Obama to upsetting incidents like George Floyd, more people all around the world are realizing the significance of unequal treatment. It is good to note these changes, but never be completely satisfied with them. As said by former Freedom Rider and U.S. Congressman John Lewis, “…you have to be optimistic in order to continue to move forward”

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