“I’ve spent my childhood and young adulthood trying to rewrite this image of myself…”

What type of labels have been placed on you?:

ANON:  I’ve had a lot of labels placed on me because of my race throughout my life which have defined my inter and intra-race relations. Even though I’ve been in honors courses throughout my entire school career, strangers typically recognize me as an athlete over a scholar. At social events and with my friends, I’m supposed to act a certain type of way, listen to a certain type of music and even talk a certain type of way or else “you’re not black” or “I’m whitewashed”.

How have these labels affected you in your life?:

ANON:  For the longest time these labels really bothered me. I hated being called white growing up because I would go home and study instead of playing basketball for hours with my friends. I hated even more that I was looked down on because I had to work so hard to become educated which made me “white”, automatically associating intellectual prowess with being white like it was something that black people weren’t capable of- even by my black peers as well. And now, I’ve finally established a reputation for myself and I’m still judged off stereotypical characteristics of myself despite the years I’ve put towards bettering myself. A few weeks ago, I was getting COVID tested and the nurse was getting impatient with me because she couldn’t understand that I, a black male, came there on my own fruition and not the orders of some athletic program, implying that our race is not better for anything besides athletics and entertainment. And for the longest time, stuff like that really hurt.

What have you done to overcome/actively doing to overcome these labels placed upon you?:

ANON:  I’ve spent my childhood and young adulthood trying to rewrite this image of myself but this is an innate bias in many people and I realized as much as I could change myself, I could only change my perception to others up to an extent. I’ve tried my best to set myself above my class and my peers to distinguish myself and kind of demonstrate that yes, we can be leaders, scholars, and athletes/entertainers/musicians. 

What would you say to others that are also being impacted similarly by labels?:ANON:  I say to live by those labels. In a way, these labels gave me motivation, something to strive for, and to prove everyone wrong. At the end of the day, you can only change others point of view so much. It took me years to wonder why I was so invested in others approval and if I was really working for others and myself. I realized that again, I can only change others so much but was I really happy with myself? When I went home at night, was I happy with who I was and who I was becoming, or was I disappointed that my entire personality was a facade to bolster a fake persona to people who I may not even like. I had to reassess my priorities for myself and not others and honestly, I use these biases that people have on me to help keep clarity of mind. If someone wants to think something of me, I’ll let them and go about my business and Inevitably, I know that one day I’ll prove them wrong if I stay true to myself.

Interview conducted by team member Jacob Colon

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