I thought that my problems stopped with only being a first generation student, but this semester It’s been a little more difficult for me because of other factors.

I often forget that I’m black. I don’t do it on purpose; it’s just a product of the environment I live in. Pitzer College is overwhelmingly white, just like most of the other 5 C’s in Claremont, and as a servant of evolution I acclimate to survive in the habitat provided. I laugh at the same jokes they laugh at, talk about the same topics they enjoy, and participate in most of the activities. In some ways I become white. Until, the things we’re laughing at are the stereotypes of blacks, the topics they enjoy become racially charged, and the activities are getting arrested in protests. When I’m reminded of my skin color I look down at it, stare at if for a while, and feel like I’ve betrayed it. Regardless of my surroundings, how do I forget something I wear every day? How do I ignore something that other’s refuse to? Why do I constantly forget something that I’m reminded of several times a week?

November 1, 2014

There I was, walking down a street in what I thought to be the most progressive neighborhood in America–Claremont, CA. I had just come from grabbing a Jamba Juice from the Village and was walking back to campus. I took a slow pace down the street with a drink in hand, a basketball in my armpit, and was wearing earphones, a pair of light blue shorts, and my high school college preparatory shirt. My strut was lackadaisical and ignorant, until a snarling woman and her harmless pet rushed toward me cursing. Even over my blasting audio book I heard the racial slurs spewing from her mouth with ire. I turned to her and watched as she checked behind her several times to make sure I wasn’t following and to spout more acid. I looked down at my skin, reminded of what I was.

I’d forget again later that day as I reached my campus and was re-immersed in the Pitzer community, only to be reminded the next day as my class read a piece about the unfounded fear that white Americans have toward black males and everyone either inconspicuously snuck peeks at me to see how I reacted, or anxiously anticipated my response from the only black person in a class full of white students.

I’ve accepted that my skin is something I will never be able to forget. It’s not a mistake that people look down upon (although it feels like it at times), a bad grade that you get in class, or even a major felony: these things can be forgotten by your peers over time. I don’t have that luxury. I am branded, forced to remember my predicament, and bear it with pride.