The Microaggression Symphony: Black in a White World

In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to share my experience of being black in my predominantly white world to show the importance of awareness and to break stereotypes.

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Ashley Edwards

Throughout my 12 years of school, my blackness was the butt of many jokes. Now, I am proud of who I am on the inside and the outside.

By Ashley Edwards, Ola High School

As she skips down the aisle to her seat, bright-eyed, third-grade-me plops into her desk and arranges her pencils and crayons. She never notices that she is the darkest pupil in the room, but the others do. Soon, some of them will taunt her for her skin and hair. “Hey I have a question,” a peer will ask with a giggle. With a sense of foreboding, she listens. “Why do you talk so white? You’re supposed to be black,”.

Middle school wasn’t any easier—these microaggressions attacking my color continued to make my skin the butt of many jokes and forced me to laugh along, ignoring my embarrassment. I participated in jokes that said I was “white for a black girl” in order to avoid the “angry black girl” stereotype. Listening to the tune of laughter from my peers, I was forced to sing a new song, one that stripped away my blackness for the sake of fitting in. These detrimental lyrics created a puzzling medley of cultural confusion, making it impossible for me to find the right chord. As I struggled to decipher between the black and white keys, my voice was diminishing. However, this ignorance from my peers did not completely nullify my voice. 

As I struggled to decipher between the black and white keys, my voice was diminishing. However, this ignorance from my peers did not completely nullify my voice, ”

— Ashley Edwards

Writing has always been formative in my life, especially when I joined my school newspaper in ninth grade. With my first few stories, my hands typed hesitantly, unsure of every word that manifested on screen. With every draft, my confidence crescendoed and I realized I had found my calling: journalism. Along with my newspaper, AP Language helped me discover that I have a platform, one in which my voice can truly ring and I can make a change—these classes forced me to push my boundaries.

In my AP Language class, I was able to use my struggles as a black girl to write the essay, “‘The Black Man’s Curse’”, my own sonata accompanied by issues such as police brutality and systematic oppression. In my newfound confidence, I was able to bring up topics I was afraid to discuss amongst my white counterparts, like “talking white” or other offenses such as racist jokes and slurs. I assuredly stated how the “ongoing fear of dark skin,” needed to be resolved and used my blackness to lift me up. 

The taunting, causing a dissonance in my self-love journey, helped me learn to not fight fire with fire, and, instead, to eradicate the flames of ignorance with education. I was able to tell white peers what was unacceptable and patiently share my experiences. As she now walks down the halls in her final cadences of high school, a confident, 17-year-old me with her head held high, struts to the beat of her own song. Being black in a white world did not hesitate to make my struggles apparent, but helped me see my gifts. I am an award-winning writer and photographer, I am self-assured, and on top of it all, I am black and proud. 

This story was originally published on Hoof Print on February 16, 2020.