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Rock Street, San Francisco

Unlike many Georgia College students, I grew up in a
small town. Monticello, Georgia has a population of less than three thousand
and everyone knows each other. As a result, we had the same friends and classmates
from the time we started pre-school to graduation, with the exception of a few
new kids and those who moved away. As children the difference in race was never
an issue, we obviously recognized our differences, but it had no meaning behind
it. In our eyes we were all the same and the only time we had any opposition against
each other was on felid day, as each class worked together to destroy the
other. It wasn’t until we got older that we assigned meaning to race, religion,
and gender. I was slightly oblivious to this shift. My friend group has always
been diverse in multiple areas, so that aided in my ignorance. When I thought
of racism I thought about the Civil Rights Movement, Travon Martin, and the
Holocaust, things that happened years ago or in places far away from me. It wasn’t
until I was in tenth grade that I was faced with the harsh reality that racism existed
within our school system. I was having a conversation with a white gentleman,
who I’d gone to school with my entire life, someone I considered to be a
friend. As we were conversing, a black female interrupted our conversation to
say that if he accidently hit her with the tennis ball he was playing with she
would hit him. I was shocked at her comment and found it to be unnecessary, but
his response to their interaction appalled me. He then turned to me and asked, “don’t
you just hate niggers?” I assume the utter shock and disappointment was very evident
by my face, so he quickly responded “you’re not a nigger, you don’t act like
them. You act white.” I could tell that he truly thought he rectified the
situation with his comment. Apparently, I, as an African American woman, have
the luxury of not being classified as the derogatory term he used because I speak
proper English as opposed to slang and or Ebonics. I had no response. I left
that conversation with tears in my eyes and a new perspective. The sense of
betrayal that I felt caused me to shut down and to make assumptions, specifically
about those students that were closet to him. However, I realized the same way I
made assumptions about those close to him, other black students could have
assumed I condoned his racist tendencies because I considered him a friend at
the time. I decided to take a new approach to the situation and so I decided to
have a discussion with him to let him know that his comment bothered me. I told
him his comment was ignorant, inappropriate, and offensive and he still
remained adamant that what he said was a compliment. This situation taught me
that no one is born racist and that we may not agree with everyone’s opinion, but
we still owe them the decency of respecting their differences.

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