MLK Jr. Day and my experience as a white student in a black school

Many years ago I attended an almost all black elementary school. I was one of 2 white students in the school. This was partly due to the area and the fact that my parents wanted me to attend Catholic school. I learned many things from that experience. I learned what racism was/is. I was picked on for the color of my skin--the Rapunzel and Snow White jokes were all over the place. It was said that I was class pet because I was white. I was told I didn't understand what it meant to be picked on because of my race. Well I did know because I was living it. I grew up in a poor area of Columbus. There were drug dealers and shootouts. We couldn't keep our windows open at night because you weren't sure who was going to try to break in. Life was hard. But I did have friends. I had a few friends that I still remain in contact with from that time. The summer before my 6th grade year I transferred to a different school where there was only 2 black students in my class. In high school, I was reunited with many of the people whom I had left behind at the old elementary school but this time things were different. I remain friends to this day with several of those people.

As I grow older and I look back over my elementary and high school years, I learned something in those years. Yes people will pick on others if they are different. It doesn't necessarily have to be about race either. It can be about economic class, what your mom or dad does, how your hair looks, etc. I also learned to forgive. Kids will be kids no matter what their skin color. Kids will pick on other kids. That is just how things are and I have forgiven many of the people that I grew up with who picked on me, from the kids in elementary school who picked on me because I was white, to the friend in high school who told me I was acting too black. I was being who I was and not everyone is going to like that and that is okay.

I also learned that I tend to side with the underdog. When I was attending the all black school I was friends with the other students who weren't just black enough--- the kids with the strange names, the Islamic student, the other white student. To this day one of the 2 black students at my 2nd elementary school is still one of my best closest friends. In college I gravitated toward other races as people to be friends with. My maid of honor and one of my bridesmaids in my wedding are from China.
As a mother, I want my daughter and son to grow up and not see the color of someones skin, but to see them for who they are. I have many friends on facebook that I have reconnected with from my early elementary years and they are different people now. They see that it is not the color of skin but who you are that counts. I want my family to be accepted for who we are on the inside and not because we are the right color skin. I want my children to not know racism and to not be racist. There are still obstacles. I still have family members who where shocked that party of our wedding party was Chinese, and that still have problems with African-Americans and Mexican-Americans gaining anything in the USA. It is a battle, but I feel confident that Bill and I can teach our children that what we believe is that which Dr. King preached---acceptance of one another and an end to racist ideas and beliefs.


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