Fifth grade. Lunch bell rings and children spill into the hallway, herded like cattle, speed walking towards the cafeteria. I’m accompanied by a friend, and we join the hordes of students singly filed; one by one, eager to grab today’s hot plate. We are giggly, loud, and hungry. We’re interrupted by a lady. Unknown. Occupation: Lunch line lady AKA parent volunteer.
“Do you know that if you place a brown paper bag next to your skin there would be no difference?”
A pause followed by, “Ooookay,” and a look of bewilderment as we continued our procession closer to our lunch plates -which I no longer had an appetite to consume. I am ashamed, embarrassed and downright confused. My brunette, blue-eyed classmate turned to me and said, “I’m not sure, but I think she was trying to be racist.” I was aware of the definition of racism, but it had never happened to me. Sometimes, my parents spoke of it in conversation. I’d overheard examples of racism as it occurred on their jobs, in their hometown, in the grocery store, anywhere and everywhere else adults gathered. But, to me? A 10-year-old whose friends were absolutely perfect because…they were my friends. Period. We were clueless to race. But, was it really racism? According to my mom, the lady was obviously crazy and misinformed. Her remarks were inappropriate, but it wasn’t racism. In fact, I was subjected to the infamous Brown Paper Bag Test, without the brown paper bag, of course. Urban Dictionary defines the Brown Paper Bag Test as follows: During the 1900s, if your skin was darker than a brown paper bag, one would be excluded from the upper echelon of Black American Society. The lighter the complexion, the more accepted you were.
Mind you, I was born in the 1980s. I guess it’s easy to assume that I had failed the test, because, according to that loony toon, I was somewhat of a chameleon as I was the quintessential blend of Brown Paper Bag. But, I was more confused than ever. Why were Black people frowned upon by other Black people? Why did she target me? What’s wrong with me? Am I a bad person? Am I not accepted? I was the victim of ignorance and stupidity, albeit the mere definition of racism. However, it’s called colorism; prejudice against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. It took a while to find my self esteem after that. Mind you, I was only 10 years old. I found myself over-analyzing my friendships, my image; my look. I mulled over the most insignificant thing ever created by a human being to establish superiority over another human being. It was a testing system based on discrimination. Before that, my worst fear, in life, was failing Mrs. Johnson’s pop-up math quiz. It was then that I realized, in a matter of just :10, my outlook on people changed forever. #ibedamned Like this #ibedamned blog? Please leave a comment showing love or sharing your thoughts on the topic. And, don’t forget to share the page with your friends.