I believe in gray. The kind of gray that is an equal mix of black and white. Not the lighter shades of gray, like a November sky, that has more white than black nor the darker shades of gray, like slate or granite, that has more black than white. But an equal mix of both. Gray.
Before June 2002, I only believed in black. I didn’t have to believe in anything else. I didn’t have to know nor did I want to know anything about white. In Grand Rapids all you know is black. I wasn’t what you called a racist, being at a predominantly black school there was no need to be a racist. All we had were two whites in our class, and they blended in so they wouldn’t be singled out.
I always thought, If my parents ever moved to a white neighborhood I would probably die. I had seen what they did to black people in the old days. Besides, they talked weird and they were so country. And I hated the country.
Then came the regretful day in June 2002. We moved. The phrase that no pre-teen stepping into women-hood wanted to hear. We had to be moving to a place like Detroit or maybe Chicago. Right? Nope, we were moving to the worst place possible. The country. Hudsonville? Hudsonville? Where on earth was Hudsonville? I had never heard of and definitely did not want to live in a place where I would have to be surrounded by corn fields and cows. That was the worst day of my life. I had to leave all my friends and the place that I had lived all of my life. My safety, my shelter, my love, my home. I was made to believe in something that was bigger than me, made to believe in white. Everything that was white .
September 2002 was the first time that I had to conform. The bus ride on the way to middle school was the most nerve-racking ride of my life. I sat with my brother Mark and was scared beyond all measures. Of course, everyone on the bus was looking at us, like they had never seen black people before. Soon, it was time to go to homeroom, which for me was English. I didn’t want to go in, but I had to. Needless to say, I was the last person to walk in the class and all eyes were glued on me. The chatter had turned into dead silence as I went to find a seat.
I knew it, I knew it. Everytime. They acted like they have never seen a black person before. Do I have a piece of cereal in my teeth? Am I missing my pants? Why is everyone staring at me? Some things never change. The next thing that happened, had to have taken every ounce of strength from Heidi to start talking to me. Though she will never know; her simple, “hi, what’s your name,”would be the reason that I started to believe in gray.After my first week at school, I had been invited to sit with people at lunch, over to peoples’ house, and to hangout at football games. I realized that I had had the wrong impression of white people after all. I had been treated like a queen. Everyone wanted to know everything about me. I now looked differently at white people. They are some of the most genuine people I have ever met. It turned out that some of my best friends ended up being white. It became about gray, not just black and white.
That is how I now believe in gray. The gray that makes it okay for blacks and whites to be together equally. For one to help the other without discrimination between the two. For them to care, challenge, and grow from one another. Gray.
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