The first time I remember being aware of race was when I was about six or seven years old. Tyrone, an African-American boy of similar age, lived across the street from me and we would frequently play together. I have fond memories of playing basketball in the driveway, riding bikes around the block and having dinner at one another’s houses on occasion. One afternoon, I crossed the street to Tyrone’s house and as he greeted me, I noticed that he had a new haircut. It was a Flat-top-fade, similar to Kid of the musical group Kid-N-Play, but not nearly as high. I had seen similar haircuts while watching television, but to witness the style in person amazed me.
Later that night, I approached my mother and told her I needed a haircut. She did not think my hair was very long and asked me why I thought I needed one. My response was that I wanted to get a haircut like Tyrone. I don’t remember my mother’s exact reaction, but I do remember her trying to explain to me that Tyrone and I had different types of hair. I am pretty sure she did not use the terms “white,” “black” or “race,” but she was doing her best to describe how some people are physically different.
Although I was young at the time, I must have been aware that my hair was not capable of appearing like Tyrone’s. Perhaps it was my way of initiating a conversation about race with my mother. As I was writing this paper, I asked her if she remembered this event and she vaguely did. She could not remember if I brought up the issue of race at an earlier age.
Since Tyrone was a friend of mine from a very young age and I had other African American neighbors, the appearance of someone with different colored skin did not seem significant. Maybe this was the first time I became more aware of myself and my surroundings and began to take notice of race.