I wish I was pink

Senior recounts growing up as only person of color in classes

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Sydney Rowe

A hand grabs a white doll as a Black doll stands untouched. Senior Aislyn Echols struggled with wanting to be white during her childhood.

By Aislyn Echols, Texas High School

I yawn as I climb into the backseat of my mom’s white Ford after a long day of being a first grader. I snap my seat belt into place, and we drive off. 

“How was your day?” my mom asked. 

I made eye contact with her in the rearview mirror and said, “I wish I was pink.”

It’s a harmless statement until you realize I meant to say, “I wish I was white.”

In the first grade, I was one of two Black kids in my class. The rest of the school was made up the same way. My brother was in the sixth grade at the time, and he was the only Black kid in his class with one other person of color.

Growing up, I knew I was different from the other kids because of my skin. I don’t remember what specifically made me say it this day, but the statement was always in the back of my mind. 

The demographic of the classrooms didn’t change much after that, even after moving schools in the second grade. 

Elementary. Middle school. High school. They were all the same for me. 

I was in classes of 20 to 25 kids, and I could count the number of people of color on one hand. This count would have to include me; otherwise, it may take no hands to count at all sometimes. The number gets so low when you factor in the fact that I’ve taken accelerated classes most of my life. 

I learned fairly early in school that people like me are a rarity in advanced classes and sometimes not welcome.

It was the second grade at a new math and science school. The first six weeks of school was ending, and my math teacher asked to have a conference with one of my parents. My mom and I went in. Her fist engulfed my tiny hand as she dragged me behind her. 

We sat down across from the teacher at one of the five desk groups. My teacher looks at my mom and tells her that I’m not doing great in her class (I was never great at math) and told her that she might want to consider dropping me from the school because I wasn’t “fit” for the material. My mom, trying to control her rage, said she would get my grades up herself and that she wasn’t going to drop me from the school. She stood up and stormed out of the room.  Looking at the ground and trying to hold back tears, I followed her.

As we walked out, we turned to see the teacher’s next conference was with my friend, the only other Black person in that class.

I lost a lot of innocence early on and learned a lot of harsh life lessons because of being the only person of color in classes. Though it has opened certain doors for me in life, it has closed a lot more. 

Throughout all of this, I have finally found pride to replace the embarrassment I once felt being the only person of color in the class. I know my job is to prove all those stereotypes and stigmas wrong. 

Seeing that I am the only person of my race in a classroom reminds me of the long journey that the people before me made to get me here; it empowers me to never let anyone try to make me feel inferior for my race.

I proved that teacher wrong, and I will never again wish I was pink.

This story was originally published on Tiger Times on December 8, 2021.