Davianne’s Story

The first time I became aware of my race was in pre-school when I was four years old. The pre-school was in a suburban town outside of Boston, MA in the early 1990’s. I was the only black student in my class, and one of the only black students in the entire school. I remember always feeling like an outcast not only because I did not look like everyone else, but also because the other kids treated me that way. Even the teachers seemed to treat me a bit differently than the other kids. I was too young to really understand “racism” or black vs. white, but I could fathom that something made me different, but I was not quite sure how or why. One day in particular I remember quite vividly. It was after art class that I went to wash the paint off of my hands at the sink. There were two (white) girls standing at the sink talking amongst one another. As I washed my hands, they said, “If you wash your hands long enough, maybe you’ll turn white.” Then they snickered and walked away. At that moment I realized exactly why I was different and treated the way I was—because I wasn’t white. I felt ashamed and inferior, like I wasn’t as good as everyone else. Instead of coming to understand race and skin color as a physical trait or unique characteristic, I believed that white was the ideal and the norm. I believe that my initial negative experiences with race definitely impacted the way in which I perceived race and what it meant to be black. Even when I went to other schools and had white friends, in the back of my mind I still wondered if they looked at me as lesser. As I grew older I realized that everyone was not like my pre-school classmates, but I still found great comfort in seeing people of different races intermix.

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