Kunielewa; Understand Me
Updated: Mar 5, 2018
As an African-American student attending a predominantly white institution (PWI), things can be challenging. From racial discrimination from my peers to just generally feeling like the odd ball out due to the color of my skin.
Before attending Franklin High School (FHS) I only attended schools in Milwaukee and was surrounded by other people of color (POC), students who looked like me. Racism was something that was not an issue for me because it had never affected me, until attending Franklin High School.
While attending Franklin High School I noticed that there was two types of people.
It’s those who hate you for being black and it’s those who praise you for being black.
The feeling of being discriminated against because of the color of your skin is definitely a nauseous feeling. It’s a feeling of fear and anxiety.
You ask yourself two questions.
Do I stand up for myself? Knowing the backlash I will face for standing up for Black Lives Matter and myself, or…
Do I let it roll off and remain ‘unbothered’? Allowing my white peers to go unchecked with public and harmful racism.
I have taken both routes. Now, the feeling of getting praised for my blackness is no better. I feel like an exotic pet that people view at the zoo. I am fetishized as people obsess over my hair, my skin, my style, and my verbiage. Black culture in general is fetishized around this nation by suburban whites who see it as cool and hype, want in on.
It isn’t a fun feeling to simply just sit there and feel as if I am on display for the pleasures of whiteness.
Before attending FHS racism had never hit me so hard. In 8th grade I was called a racial slur but it did not bother me because I was not heavily exploited to the situation. I did not understand how deeply rooted the situation was and how many people it affected. I never realized how strong prejudice toward black people are, or knew that people just genuinely hated black people.
Because of the color of my skin, a former teacher assumed that I was in foster care. I felt broken for a second, like how could they assume this. My feelings were so hurt and I didn't even know how to respond.
These experiences have driven my passion for social justice. To not only find my voice, study my history, but to root myself in love and pride in my blackness.
Now people look up to me for advice and guidance on race relations and equity. It brings to pride and joy to help those students looking to unpack their racism and prejudice.
One thing that I have learned being in so many of these situations of people going against me or watering down my issues is that someone will always dislike me. Someone will always view me as less than.
That’s ok. One thing to always remember is that change is what you make it. If you want to see change, you do it. No one else can manifest the change that you need and want to see.