As an African American teenager in the United States of America I have obviously been aware of my race since starting elementary school. Unfortunately I was not introduced to the differences of skin color gradually or positively. I was bullied for being brown. Not only was I bullied for my “black girl” qualities but also I was terrorized for the parts of me that were to good for a black girl to have, like my hair. As a child my hair was longer than the other black girls at my school and substantially curlier which caused distaste with the Latina American girls I wanted to be my friends. The constant pulling and tugging of my hair became more frequent than laughter at such a young age. Because I am talking about six year old girls, you wouldn’t describe this as racism in effect, but it is. But this is a very early stage of racism; this is what we learn from our parents and family. As young sponges of everything we see and do, this is us mirroring what we think is right. If my entire life I was told that all Hispanic women were supposed to be dangerous and terrifying, what do you think I would do, as a child, once I saw a seemingly Hispanic woman? I would run in the opposite direction. This is how racism starts.
Fast forward to high school, I was in a more ethnically diverse setting. There weren’t just Hispanic and African American people, there were Caucasians, Asians, almost every ethnicity was represented but racisms was alive and well. But it wasn’t in the form of bullying through hair pulling anymore. It was through cultural appropriation, verbal abuse, inappropriate questions, seemingly harmless conversations, and discrimination. It was more apparent in the way a Caucasian girl asked me, with a smile, if I could give her “nigger braids”, and it was more subtle in the way that a teacher joked about my dreadlocks and the told me about how I can’t be black because “I’m pretty and my hair is nice and not nappy”.
Racism stems from fear of the unknown and the false information given to us to absorb as young children. We have all heard the saying, “no one is born a racist” and it is true. Racism is instilled in young persons through nurturing or experiences. Racism is the enemy and force of the Black Lives Matter Movement. It is because my black life isn’t put on the same level as my white peer. It is because the N word is used in everyday language of students who aren’t African American. Through social media our everyday hardships are coming to the forefront and aren’t getting swept under the carpet. The Black Lives Matter Movement is a movement of hope and light and endurance for we ad black people has suffered to many types of racism and no type of reconcilement. Black lives matter is us stating that we are humans, no less and no more valuable than another. #Blacklivesmatter is our way of telling the public that we will no longer sit around while our hair gets pulled, and our skin color gets mocked, and our culture gets used for fashion and our lives get taken mercilessly. And if social media is the gateway into the homes and minds of the country, then that is the gate we’ll use to show that our lives matter.
Lia is a two year Martha who will be starting her freshman year in college this fall.