Updated: Oct 10, 2020
For me, my brothers, my parents, and for millions of people across the globe, the past couple of weeks have been difficult. It’s in times like these, I remember something my mother told me, something hard to forget: not everybody was raised the same way me and my brothers were. Of course, that’s no excuse to not open your mind to new information, change your way of thinking, and reform the ideals of others, but it provides explanation to the way some people act in crises like these.
I am black. Both of my parents are black, and the same goes for both of my brothers. Due to our dad being in the military, we’ve lived an upper-middle class lifestyle our entire lives. It certainly isn’t a small, or insignificant disconnect. Too many people have perpetuated the negative “polarity of black culture.” It’s either you’re ghetto and from the hood, or you’re masquerading as Caucasian. I can’t say the same for my younger brothers, but my whole life I’ve been told I “talk white” or “am eloquent for a black girl.” Often I’ve heard I’m “a lot smarter than I look” or “you don’t act black.” Unfondly, I remember someone from the eighth grade who gave me the nickname “Oreo:” black on the outside, but white on the inside. I’m still learning to be comfortable in my own skin, and unlearning criticisms from others; namely, the way I talk, dress, or act isn’t limited to a singular race or culture, and personality and race are not equidistant.
While the micro-aggressions between socioeconomic class overlap, black families living in the lower-class experience hardships that my family won’t. Me and my brothers have always attended well-funded schools, whereas families living in low income housing often have to settle to attend schools not as well funded as other aspects of their community, because funding is allocated to things like higher income housing in gentrified neighborhoods or law enforcement. Every time we move, my parents make it their highest priority to live in an area (when not located on the military base itself) where we have access to a well-funded school. The taxes in the area are noticeably higher, and aforementioned taxes are often allocated to education so they are allowed team sports, extra-curriculars, school-sponsored community events, etc. Families living in low income areas do not have the money to allocate to these aspects of a community, so low-income areas often cannot afford things like tutors, dedicated teachers, updated books, laptops, etc. Areas of lower income housing and a high POC population often have a disproportionate amount of law enforcement assigned to neighborhoods, escalating reports of crime rates.
A lot of the lessons I’ve learned being black, female, and a military brat are definitely going to be variables in the way that I act as an adult. I turned 18 last month, which means I’m finally eligible to vote. You’d best believe that everything I’ve experienced since the day I was born, to the day I write this article, and future days, will affect the way I vote.
I understand that in a lot of ways, I have it better. I understand that in a lot of ways, I share certain hardships. The differences sometimes are even smaller than socioeconomic class; there are some things my brothers have experienced that, because they are male, I haven’t, and likely never will - but those are their stories, and not mine.
I’ll conclude my thoughts with something else my mother told me: love everyone. It seems simple in itself, nothing radically inspiring based on appearance alone, but it means to be respectful of everybody - including their experiences and their hardships. This is especially true in these times - to be mindful of your neighbors, to keep an open mind, to be open to change.
This article was written by Maria M., an Army Brat stationed in New Jersey. If you would like to share a piece with Bloom, visit the Writing page to find out how.