This I Believe

Thomas - Ivy, Virginia
Entered on June 12, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

I am not my skin color. I have been told by too many people that I am not black, or that I don’t “act black.” People need to realize you don’t act a certain way because of your skin color. You are what time makes you; the experiences that you have come across and what you have taken from those experiences. You are the surroundings that you have grown up in; if you haven’t been forced to grow up in a hostile environment then odds are you’re not going to be a hostile person. I believe that everyone is a reflection of the environment in which they grew up. I didn’t grow up in a bad neighborhood where I was forced to join a gang or anything close to that. I don’t see a need to act like what I see on T.V., or do things that I hear on the radio. I’m not accepted by some black people because I don’t “act black,” and it hurts me to the point that I am starting to be angered by it, and it takes a lot to make me angry.

I wish people could understand that I don’t act like a gangster or a thug because I’m not one, and I don’t want to walk, talk, dress, or be anything like a gangster. What will that get me anyway? The most puzzling thing to me is why I should be expected to act a certain way because of my skin color and why I’m not accepted by some of my own people.

I asked someone who said I was white- why? He answered “I don’t know.” I said “Is it because I don’t use a lot of slang, don’t curse out the teacher, and don’t get in trouble all the time?” He said “Yeah, that’s it!” I asked him if he could see the color of my skin. He answered, “Yeah, but you don’t act like it.” We continued the conversation until I decided to stop before I got mad. But before I finished our talk I gathered that if I were really black I should be a hindrance to the progression of everything around me and that I should be an embarrassing, noncontributing member of society.

My Mom met someone who has been driving by my bus stop on her way to work for about six or seven years and has basically watched my brother and grow up. The woman said, “Those are your boys? They act so well and dress so nice.” My Mom accepted the complement but wondered, well what should they be acting like and what should they be dressing like? Well maybe my Mom just doesn’t know how to take a complement, but it also made me think. Does the fact that people have this set stereotype in their mind make them racist or just ignorant? I hope they are just ignorant. A lot of the people displaying this ignorance I, at one time, considered friends of mine. These are the people that are supposed to like me for who I am. I think that I often surprise teachers when I don’t give them any problems.

Though the subject still bothers me, I have come to terms with the fact that I am considered a rarity among my people in that I have the ability to know what to and what not to do in the public eye. I don’t think this is true of black people, but others must think so because of the comments that my family has received. I’m not loud, I’d rather not fight, and I dress the way I want to. No one influences me, period; not the clothes I wear, not the way I walk, not the way I act. If anyone else reads this I hope they take something from what I just wrote. I’d like them to look inside of themselves and figure out if they expect people around them to act a certain way-not only because of their color, but for any other reason like sex or religion. If you do you should ask yourself does the fact that I have this set stereotype in my mind makes me a racist or just ignorant? I hope its ignorance. I am not my skin color. Neither are you.