Racism introduced itself to me in kindergarten class. My teacher invited the invisible guest into our classroom and it took up residence. My classmate told the teacher someone took her banana. After seeing my lunch, my teacher told me to give the banana back. I professed my innocence; however, my teacher insisted I stole it. Tears welled up in my eyes and slowly streamed down my cheeks. Racism whispered, “Your voice doesn’t matter.”
My mom came to my defense and met with the head of the Lutheran school. The next day, my teacher was no longer my teacher. I didn’t know the details of my mom’s conversation, but I knew the banana was the reason for the change. My mom, also an educator, knew she had to address the issue urgently, and she was not going to settle for anything less than an honest answer.
In Third grade, I raised my hand frequently to answer questions. My teacher never called my name. Ever. Racism whispered, “Your presence doesn’t matter.” My mom visited the school for another educator-to-educator conversation. The next day, my teacher was still my teacher, but the assistant became my ally. When I raised my hand, she called my name. With trepidation, I started to feel visible again.
Racism never took time off. It popped up unannounced and left just as quickly as it arrived.
During my adolescence, my family had a beach house in South Carolina. We lived in a golf community and mastered the art of packing on a moment’s notice for a weekend getaway. In the midst of dad’s golf outings and mom’s shopping excursions, my dad and I frequented the pool. The first time we visited the pool, he gave me a heads up that when we arrive, others would leave. Head tilted, I gave him my best RCA Victor dog impression. I followed along, not fully understanding what was about to happen. The sounds of splashing water and frolicking families greeted us at the gate. It was a perfect summer day. My father and I set our towels down and then we slipped into the water. When I came up for air, the pool was nearly empty. Deafening silence replaced the sounds of the summer afternoon. As the last person exited the pool, I looked at my dad. This is what he was talking about.
I tried to enjoy my time in the pool but there was a sinking feeling in the pit of my…