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Learned Student, Honest.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I remember when we were young and color blind

I remember when . . .
When we were young and color blind.
When we had no sense of time.
Spelling and Math homework was our only concept of responsibility.

I always knew I was a Nigerian.
No one had to tell me, I could just figure it out.
Made my first trip to the Motherland when I was five.
And this was increasingly evident when my mom dressed me in a purple tie-dye Ankara on Halloween.

Little brown girl, with the best of both worlds.
Leggos and jump ropes, Fresh Bread, Semo and Soup (Stew).
Just the same, no one had to tell me I was black.
I was black and so were several people in my neighborhood (Uptown) and in my church (Faith Tabernacle).
I was black and so were a few people in my grammar school and on my bus route, my bus driver was black too.

Ms. Meister was my first grade teacher and she was my favorite teacher at the time.
My classmates and I looked forward to reading time at the end of the day.
We would form on the carpet, one after the other, once we finished our class work.
Ms. Meister read us several novels: The Boxcar Children, Stuart Little and the like.
Then she began reading Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.

I remember when
She came to the part just before Ms. Tubman was struck with an iron.
Some time prior to that, I involuntarily curled up in a praying position, on the carpet.
I was so fearful of what was to come.

Suddenly, Ms. Meister stopped reading
Christina? [pause]
I just looked up; surprised that I even ended up in that position.
Are you okay?
I felt 60-something 6-year-old eyes staring at me awaiting my response.
With a shocked yet embarrassed look on my face, nervously I nodded in the affirmative.
Then I fixed my posture and she continued reading.
And we continued listening not only with our ears and imaginations but with our eyes.

Then I started to understand what it meant to be black.
In a classroom where the African Americans could be counted on one hand,
it became very apparent, not only to me, but also to everyone else, that I was black.
We were still young but no longer color blind . . .

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