Growing up I had serious self-identity issues, specifically with being Black. I remember the exact incidences of my lack of understanding of my identity pouring out into my behavior—the way I interacted with friends and family, and even how I interacted with myself. This of course was further amplified by being in White spaces for a majority of my life. Yet this behavior was most evident in my childhood school, which I attended from kindergarten to twelfth grade. It was attended by mostly Whites and located in Memphis, Tennessee, a major metropolis of the American South.
The first incident was with a cousin of ours who was old enough to take care of my big sister and me, while my mother was doing a radiology fellowship in Boston in the summer of 2006. I was six years old when I verbally expressed for the first time in front of her, that I wished I were White instead of Black—to which she responded, “You are so silly.” Another memorable moment was when I was in the sixth grade, and I was wearing a T-shirt that my mother had gotten from a medical conference with two Black kids on the front saying, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up.” I wore this shirt inside-out, and refusedto change it, even when kids pointed it out to me several times. Later on that evening when I went home with the shirt still inside-out, my mother’s boyfriend at the time tried to inform me that people still knew I was Black, whether or not I wore the shirt correctly. I tried my best to hold back my tears