I was born in Norfolk Virginia, but I have been living in Washington, DC since the age of two. I recently emancipated out of foster care, which started some of the hardest times of my life. I identify as a biological female who is a Black American. Growing up in a society where I was judged because of my race and economic class has pushed me to be where I am today. It’s easy to let your hardships overwhelm you to the point of giving up, especially when you’ve been living a certain way for a long time. I consider myself a Black American because I didn’t come from Africa, but I am of African descent. Society is quick to label you. To be African American is to be born an African and gained citizenship in America. Also, what most people don’t know is that some Africans consider blacks born in America to be fake Africans. I’ve been discriminated against by other races as well as by those who look just like me. It hurts to not be accepted by other races, but it hurts even more when your own doesn’t want anything to do with you.
Race wasn’t really discussed in my biological family too much; however, it was discussed that my mother might have been of mixed heritage. The topic of race in my foster family is very touchy; some of the older relatives in this family lived during the times of segregation. In particular, Grandma Wilson once told me a story of how her son, Uncle Alex, was chased home from school every day and sometimes beat up by the white kids. She expressed that she hated white people because of the harsh treatment her and her son received. She mainly talks about how blacks need to stop fooling around and show whites that we can be doctors, lawyers, and businessmen and businesswomen just like them. Usually, I will just listen to her spread her wisdom; but, when the topic of interracial marriages come up we start debating. She believes that as long as you are the same religion and are seen fit for one another in the eyes of God, then you can marry each other. But she recommend that you marry someone of the same race specifically because she feels that blacks need to procreate. She said that blacks, due mainly to slavery, are low in numbers. In my opinion, that is the epitome of old school thinking, but I do see why she thinks this way.
Higher education, as well as secondary education, is something that is very new to my family. I am a first generation college attendee, as well as the only one among my siblings to apply, attend, and remain in college. Because of this, there is a lot of pressure; failure is not an option for me.
I have to graduate and start my career because I have no one that I can fall back on for help, at least not financially. If it had not been for the foster care system paying for my tuition, attending college would have just been a fairytale. Going to college was not always something I wanted to do, but I had always shown an interest in learning new and exciting things. If someone would have told me, back when my mother was alive and I was in the 10th grade, that I could be successful in college, I would have thought that they were being sarcastic and cruel. Me? Go to college? According to several teachers, I wasn’t even expected to graduate high school. Yet, I managed to somehow make it to college; but I just didn’t make to college, I made it through being a freshman, a sophomore, and now I’m a junior. Not only have I proven those teachers wrong, I’ve also proven society wrong; black Americans can succeed in life.
My economic class background was less than enough, but that changed over time. First, my family had less than enough. I’ve made it through some incredibly hard times. There were times when food became scarce to the point that all we had were little boxes of raisins. If there wasn’t a roof over our heads, I would have called this the lowest of the lower class. My mother told us not to complain because there was always someone worse off than we were, but at the age of 6 and 7 you don’t really understand. All you truly know is that you don’t have the same things that your friends and classmates do. The embarrassment I felt from bringing home the leftover lunches from school made me depressed and anti-social. We did, however, received food stamps, but the amount we got was joke. Second, after entering foster care, I had enough. There was always a stocked refrigerator; and, if I wanted to eat different food other than the food provided during lunch at school, I had money to do so. That lasted for 6 years, and then it was back to less than enough. I was embarrassed when I was told to apply for food stamps. I thought that I had finally outgrown welfare. The saddest thing is that the amount they have me won’t buy a pack of hamburger, but at least it’s more than the $12 my mother received for a household of 1 adult and 4 children.