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.
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?
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.
You sound crazy!
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 :)