Growing up in a bi-cultural, bi-racial family could be interesting, frustrating, or sometimes just ridiculous.
I watched my sisters straighten their hair with a hot comb that they heated on the stove and used Royal Crown hair dressing to style and set their hair. I learned about ‘ashy’ skin when they used cocoa butter on their arms and legs. But this was in the Bahamas, where they were the majority, and I was the minority.
Then our parents decided to move to the US and while I had repatriated, they became expats, and then immigrants with US passports.
They also became a minority in the eyes of US culture.
The story I’m reminded of this week, with all the terrible sad deaths that have occurred in the past few days, is not that dramatic, but I feel that it’s indicative of the bias experienced by Black people in the United States.
I was graduating with my Bachelor’s degree and my parents had come up from Florida for Commencement. They brought along my little brother, who was 12 and couldn’t be left home alone.
We had been doing touristy things all day, and my parents dropped me off at the dorm to change for dinner. It was the last day of the term, and graduation was the next day. There were lots of friends and family coming into the dorm, helping people move, etc. The normal protocol was to sign in any guests, but people were moving freely in and out of the dorm. My brother came in with me so he could see my dorm room, while our parents waited outside in the car.
We walked in through reception, passed the guard (as many others were doing), and then the guard yelled “HEY! I need to see some ID!”
Um, ok. I showed my student ID.
“No,” he said, “I need to see his ID – all guests have to show ID and sign in.”
Meanwhile, other students and their family members are walking past us into the dorm, without showing any ID.
I asked the guard why he wasn’t carding THOSE people.
He replied that they were family members.
I got VERY angry.
‘He IS my family and he’s TWELVE. What kind of ID do you want? His library card??’
I grabbed my brother’s wrist and pulled him onto the elevator and we went up to my room.
I was shaking. I was furious. What the hell did the guard think a twelve year old boy was going to do?
But all that old white man saw was a BLACK kid. Not my sweet, goofy, baby brother.