Monday, February 23, 2015

The Day I Found Out I Was Black


February is known as Black History Month and there are many historical black figures being celebrated during this time – from Steven Biko and Nelson Mandela to Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka  to Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. In honor of Black History Month, I figured I’d share a post giving you a little more insight into my experience as a black girl.

Why?

I believe that vulnerability and sharing personal stories always opens up the door for connection, understanding, and growth. So, in the spirit of vulnerability, I’d like to tell you about the day I found out I was black.

The day I found out I was black was the worst day of my life.

I was about 5 (or 6).

It started off like any regular day. My parents woke me up, got me dressed, and dropped me off at school. When it was time for recess, my friends and I went to the playground and spent our time running around and laughing. And then it happened.

I had to use the restroom.

I told my friends I’d be back and ran off. I got to the closest restroom, which was unisex, and joined the line of about 6-8 kids waiting to use it. What happened next is both amazing and memorable.

The young boy in front of me in line turned around, with a hateful look on his face, hawked a good amount of spit from his throat and spat directly in my face.

No warning, no words…nada.

Then he turned back around and stood in line as if NOTHING HAD HAPPENED.

At first, I was stunned. Embarrassment came seconds later. The laughs and jeers from my fellow schoolmates reminded me that we had an audience. I didn’t know what to do or how to react. I was too confused to move.

I stood there for the next few moments replaying what had happened in my mind.

What did I say to upset him?

I hadn’t uttered one word to him.

What had I done to upset him?

I was just standing in line for the bathroom, like everyone else.

I eventually felt the blood in my legs return and I quietly walked away to find a napkin. I told no one what happened. Not the school authorities. Not my parents. In all fairness, I didn’t know how to tell anyone. I didn’t know how to explain that I had been spat on in the face by a CAUCASIAN male student simply because I was BLACK.

Yes, it dawned on me that my skin tone had incited his action. Apparently, it angered him to the point that he felt the need to make a public statement of his disapproval.

The funny thing?

Up until that moment, I wasn’t really aware that I was black.

Yes, I knew my skin was of a darker shade than most of the students at my school (I attended a predominantly white school at the time) but no one had ever made any fuss about it. My parents never told me I was different from the other kids because my skin tone was darker. My friends at school were all white girls and they hadn’t mentioned it.

You can see why I was oblivious of the fact.

Well, I got the memo that day.

I threw the experience into the recesses of my memory and attempted to “get over it”. No such luck. I ended up carrying that day with me for many years to come. In high school I considered myself unattractive. I went to a school with mainly Latin students and I was one of the few black students there. I was always conscious of how I looked. I thought I was too dark, my lips were too big, and my nose too large. I thought a lot of negative, self-hating things about myself which when I think about it, can all be traced back to the Caucasian boy that once spat in my face when I was 5 (or 6).

I carried this all the way into college. I became sensitive to what people said about my looks. When I was called “pretty” by guys, I’d be flattered and terrified in the same breath. Flattered because I liked the compliment and terrified because I thought they’d eventually change their mind. You see I believed I was as ugly as that boy who spat on me made me feel that fateful day and I assumed everyone else would agree with that too…at first glance or later on.

It was a painful way to live.

So, why am I telling you this story?

Is it to incite further racial anger and divide?

No.

We already have enough of that. (I’m assuming you’ve seen the media headlines lately about Michael Brown and Eric Garner.)

I’m telling you this story because since recently choosing to walk with Christ and grow as a Christian, I see that day quite differently.

As much as I hated finding out I was black in that manner, I understand that on that day I was given an honest gift – an opportunity to grow closer to Jesus.

What!

You sound crazy!

I know.

But, faith is “crazy” right?

And one of the “crazy” things about faith is forgiveness.

It is forgiveness that allows me to be reconciled with God through the love & sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If I choose to follow Jesus, it means I choose to be a forgiver because that’s who Jesus Christ is – a forgiver.

I used to dream of meeting that boy again & beating the life out of him. I imagined decorating his face with some of my world class saliva. I hated him for what he did and wanted payback.

Harsh, but I’m just being honest.

The difference today is that I have a desire for something more than revenge on that boy – a growing relationship with Jesus.  I have greater understanding and appreciation of what Jesus did for me; He willingly gave up His life to save me.

That means something.

And so I choose to forgive that Caucasian boy who spat in my face years ago because I have divine perspective now. Jesus was condemned, betrayed, insulted, mocked, viciously beaten repeatedly, crowned with painful thorns, SPAT ON, and NAILED to a cross to die. All so I (and you) could be forgiven.

That tells me something.

That tells me He loves me.

That tells me that if I love Him, I’ll spend my life becoming like Him.

That tells me that if I want to become like Him, I have to become a person that forgives.

And no, it won’t always be easy (I have to admit that there’s an egotistical satisfaction I get from holding grudges) but nothing worth having ever is – and the joy and peace in Christ that comes from having a forgiving heart like His is worth every bit of effort I’ll make. 

Please don’t raise your hands in applause at my decision to forgive the boy that spat in my face. It has nothing to do with how “good” I am! (I am STILL working on mastering the art of forgiveness in regards to a few other folks.) Instead, raise your hands in applause at the love of Jesus Christ and the power of His sacrifice that truly changes people.

It has started changing me and I look forward to a lifetime of transformation in Christ.

So yes, the day I found out I was black was the worst day of my life. But in paradoxical fashion, it also stands as the best day of my life because it gave me one of the grandest opportunities to practice my faith today and grow closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Why do I choose to forgive the Caucasian boy that spat in my face?

Jesus decided to forgive an undeserving sinner like me.

It’s really as simple and difficult as that :) 
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20 comments:

  1. Chei. Spit. I didn't see that coming.

    I forgive because Christ forgave me! Yesssssss!!!

    Thank you for sharing!

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    1. You're welcome! Forgiveness can be a struggle so I wanted to honestly share one of my experiences with it.

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  3. Why do you think it had anything to do with your skin color? If he didn't say anything like that then I highly doubt that was why. Bullies don't need a reason.

    I got picked on at school randomly for no reason by kids with the same skin color as me. Some kids are just jerks and that's that.

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    1. Hey Pashta! I agree that sometimes bullies just decide to be bullies with no evident precursor but in this case, I was convinced that he spat on me because of my skin color because of the way I felt in the moment. It's hard to explain but I just knew that the hate with which he looked at me had to do with what I looked like. Like I said, I was at a predominantly white school and this was actually a boy I had never seen before at school or known of as being a bully - and after that, I never heard of him attacking anyone else in that manner again. Also, not too long after that, I ended up getting into an argument with two of my white girlfriends at the school and while exchanging insults back and forth, they ended up calling me "black monkey" over and over again. I admit that I could be wrong but I honestly believed it to be a skin-issue at the time.

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  4. I feel this so hard. And yes, I'm right there with you on learning how to forgive. And I am also trying to learn how to engage in conversations about race with people who disagree with me in the best way possible, finding the balance between calling them out when necessary without going overboard with my harshness because, if we are real, there is no way to go about it without it being uncomfortable. Great post.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Mary! I know conversations on race can get very emotional for many people quickly so my recommendation would be going into it with a humble mindset - knowing that while you have something to teach the other person involved in the conversation, there is also something to be learned about their experience and why they believe what they believe. Regardless, it will on a lot of occasions, like you said, be uncomfortable :)

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  5. Such events can have a dent on one's psyche that can stay for years. Apart from skin colour, some bullish stuff students did to others remained with them for years.

    I am glad you overcame that. Indeed His grace has enveloped your mind and that's where the strength comes from.

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    1. Emeka, it had a dent o - a serious one! lol Funny enough, at times I find it easier to release bitterness towards venomous actions like this from a random person versus minor offenses from those I know well; go figure :)

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  6. It takes only Christ to forgive such hateful act. You and all other blacks over there are gorgeous. A lot of us here did wish we were like you while growing. When i see the beautiful creatures bullied or those committing suicide cause they feel ugly or incomplete, i shiver and i wish i was there to tell them otherwise. The lies that have been spread eh! It's only when someone feels threatened by you that they put you down so you won't be a competition to them. well it only takes Christ to forgive such and we all pray for such forgiving hearts.

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Nachi! Like you said, it takes a different type of love and heart to truly forgive and let go - a CHRISTLIKE heart. That's what I'm committed to growing everyday because Lord knows I don't have it naturally lol

      When I think of the young men and women that get bullied and end up hurting themselves (or killing themselves due to insecurities and feeling insignificant), I feel pained. I feel pained because I understand hopelessness and I know the power that a word or action of hope can have in bringing a person back from the brink of despair. And that is why I believe in this blog so much. I hope that when people read the posts here they feel understood, significant based on their identity in Christ, convicted to live a true Christian life, and encouraged to pursue the purpose that God has deemed fit for them - regardless of how uncomfortable, risky, and misunderstood it might be to others (same goes for me :)

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  7. @Pashta, it might not have been the boys intention to spit on her cuz he is a racist(we can't tell) but that's the message Diana got from it all.
    Ofcourse she was so young and couldn't rationalize it otherwise
    It doesn't change the fact that it affected her for years and it doesn't change the fact that God used it all for good.

    Knowing what true love is-God's love is, is priceless.
    I pray we continue to be molded into perfection in christ..in love, in forgiveness as we walk with Him.

    Thanks for sharing and being vulnerable with us Ada.
    It takes a lot to reach deep into painful experiences and share the lessons.
    God bless you!

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    1. My lawyer Frances!! Thank you for stepping in on my behalf, my dear - na you I go keep on retainer :)

      As for sharing the post, it was my joy to share nne. While I was nervous and uncomfortable about exposing this incident, I knew I had to share it because I felt compelled to write it and knew that it would help some folks like myself that have struggle with forgiveness (be it due to race, betrayal, etc)

      It is only through Christ that we can do virtuous things and I pray to come out at the end of this life looking more like Him than I could have ever imagined. God bless you too, my dear :)

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  8. Forgiveness......... Its always hard to do and it always take someone who has been Forgiven of God to offer it to others. I salute the strength of God in you that allowed you to forgive.
    Pray that more of God's grace be bestowed on you to become more like Jesus even in the act of forgiving, letting go and not taking offences. God bless you. You did bless me with this post. Thanks

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    1. You're welcome, Augustina! And thank you for reading/your encouraging comment!! I'm pleased that this post was a blessing to you :)

      And yes, I receive your prayers o. I need ALL OF THEM!! Lol

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    2. You're welcome, Augustina! And thank you for reading/your encouraging comment!! I'm pleased that this post was a blessing to you :)

      And yes, I receive your prayers o. I need ALL OF THEM!! Lol

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  9. It's good I wasn't there. I'd have more than likely punched this boy before forgiving him. I'm sorry you had to experience that but am thankful for the way you're allowing God to use you!

    My early years I lived in upstate New York. It was a completely white town. We had a black visitor when I was 3 or 4 years old. My parents said I talked alone with him for several minutes and when I left him I went to them and said, matter of factly, "Joe is real people too!" I believe hatred has to be taught to be learned. It helps me relate to a 'childlike faith' when I think of the innocents of those days.

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    1. Lol!! You're the best, George! I can just imagine what that scene would have looked like - nothing pretty. Thankfully you weren't there :)

      Ok, "Joe is real people too!" just made me smile so hard. Like you, I believe hate is taught and learned and in the same manner, Christ-love can be taught and learned too (which includes in it a good ol' helping of discipline, humility, and righteous judgement :)

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  10. Thanks for sharing the light amidst such a dark encounter. However, I have one honest and quite simple question; how do you know the boy spat in your face because of your skin colour? You never spoke with him and enquired...so I'm just curious

    BLEURGH - http://www.bleurghnow.com

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Onyxsta!! And thank you for asking - super fair question. My response to Pashta above (who also had a similar sentiment) was that I can only explain it as a strong awareness and feeling in the moment that what I looked like upset him. Plus, I had another incident where a racial slur was used against me by two Caucasian students at the same school that were once friends with me - "black monkey". Of course I could be wrong, but in that moment it truly felt like the action had everything to do with my skin tone. Now if I'm wrong, forgive me o - na 5 (or 6) year old girl experience; my mind could have played with me lol

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