That time I wanted to be black too.

That time I wanted to be black…

Growing up in Upstate New York there were black people and there were white people.

I don’t remember any Hispanic or other Asian kids in school. In fact, I grew up calling Asians “oriental” back then, back there. (I know, I know)

So, many of my friends and classmates were black and naturally there were many times I wanted to be black. I wanted to be like my friends. 

There is one particular time however that stood out.

One sunny day, when I was around nine or ten, I was in downtown Syracuse and I came across another boy who was probably seven or eight.

He did a double take.

“Are you black?!?” 

I don’t remember exactly how I said, no.

I do remember feeling a mixture of feelings.

Amused, that he probably had never seen anyone like me. 

Tickled, that I was so dark he thought I was black. (Cool!)

And even though I couldn’t articulate it or maybe realize it then, looking back, sadness, that the answer mattered.

I could tell that whether we would keep talking or would start playing depended on whether I was black too.

It was the first time that I remember my race being an issue.

And I realized, remembering this, that is one reason I sometimes don’t like answering the question 

“What are you?” 

Because while most of the time folks ask good-naturedly with genuine curiosity, sometimes it feels like when I answer some people make a lot of assumptions about who I am. Or what the answer must mean.

It seems to shut down conversation or any further attempts to get to know me. 

Like, that’s all they need to know.

Or that I answered with the wrong answer.

And it goes back to that moment with that little black boy I didn’t end up playing with because I wasn’t black.

Part of me wishes I could go back and say 

“No, I’m not black. But we can still be friends.”

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Sovann

Licensed professional counselor and health coach in Portland, OR
Pre-marital and couples counseling.
Individual counseling for anxiety, depression, insomnia, sleep disorders, sexual addiction, porn addiction, career, transitions, grief, burnout, personal growth.

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