Being young, black and southern must be synonymous with experiences of discrimination, fear and hatred. Show me a young, black southerner who hasn’t had to deal with direct racism and I’ll show you a severely unaware individual. One of my earliest memories of racism came Halloween 1997. My mom had allowed me to go trick or treating with some kids who lived in a local housing project. My mother once taught the girl and she was close to my age.
Our small town—which was once voted best small town to visit—has always been, and still is, divided by a railroad. For their reasons, white people preferred to live separate from us. And even when black doctors and judges moved into their neighborhoods, they either move, or erect an enormous, thick cinder block wall to serve as a fence.
My mother dropped me off with this girl, her mother and a few other children. The girl’s mother told us that we were going trick or treating on the “other” side of town. She noted that they had “better” candy; however, I’m sure there was a thought about the “other side” of town being safer for us as well.
We stopped at an apartment building really close to Delta State University. Our small group walked up to one particular door and knocked. An old white, lady with grey hair opened the door. When she saw us, her mouth gaped open and she began throwing candy at us. She yelled, “y’all are not supposed to be over here!” Then, somehow she noticed me. A little fair-skinned girl—I was much lighter when I was younger—with long, wavy hair (likely from my mother’s long “dookey” braids) and paused for a moment. She gave a sort of blank stare and then slammed the door shut.
This was one of the first moments that I realized how deep and serious this divide really was. It made me wonder. Why did she hate us so much? Was she scared? If so, why? We were just children hunting for candy. We weren’t trying to harm or scare anyone. This was when I started to realize that not all black children had the same experience. A part of me wondered why she paused and stared at me, before forcefully shutting her door.
This was a defining moment. It was when I began to realize I must be aware of my surroundings. I must be aware of myself and how others may perceive me. I learned that day, as a seven year old, that I must prove to the world that I should not be feared because of my identity and looks. #DoubleConsciousness
Shera Phillips is a wonderful writer who speaks about her experiences in ways that edifies the soul. She is being highlighted at the Ghion Journal because it is imperative that we speak about our individual struggles while maintaining a spirit of hope in our quest towards justice. You can find out more about Shera by checking out her website at Shera Phillips Speaks and make sure to follow her on the various social media outlets inserted below, click on the pictures and it will lead you to her page. We hope to hear more from Shera in the future.
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Pictures of Shera’s youth, a reminder that we are all children united by love.
My cousin and I.
My brother and I.
I guess I’m running around, being country. lol
LOVE THAT SWEATSHIRT!
- A Defining Moment: Racism and Double Consciousness - October 26, 2017