How My First Job Helped Me Discover Myself And Love My Blackness
"I allowed an anti-black person to erase my blackness right in front of me, just as I tried so hard to do throughout my own childhood."
My dark skin made me feel as though I was invisible, but with an incandescent spotlight constantly beaming down on me. Paradoxically, I, so desperately, wanted to escape from that spotlight; however, I longed to finally be actualized by my peers. In retrospect, I think I just wanted my counterparts to notice me for something other than my dark skin.
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After graduating from high school, I truly regretted wasting my youthful years attempting to erase my blackness for the acceptance of my peers. This prompted my decision to dedicate my life servicing children in inner city areas, specifically African American, and Latinx children. I truly believe that self-love produces brighter futures and trumps all preconceived misfortunes fated to them.
Resultantly, my first job was, indeed, a childcare job. I worked at an after school program in a community center as a group leader. The community center was in an extremely rough neighborhood, my own neighborhood.
I was subdued for my first few days working there. I barely spoke to any of the staff. The children, however, instantly took a strong liking to me. I was happy there until I received my first dose of workplace prejudice, which I dimly overlooked due to my satisfaction with finally having a job.
My first boss, a Mexican man in his late 40s, called me into his office and straightforwardly asked, “Are you Hispanic? I read your last name.” I apprised him of my Afro-Latinx heritage, and he replied, “Oh, great! I like you now!”
During my walk home, I was blindly ecstatic. I did not think about the question that I would have asked myself today, like: Why didn’t he like me in the first place? I was so happy that my boss expressed a—what I thought was—genuine liking towards me.
When I finally got home, I told my mother what happened. My mother, a woman that usually supports my every move, stared at me with a glimmer of terror or disappointment—or both—and said to me, “You thought that was OK for him to say?”
I was absolutely befuddled and uncomfortable with the cold, judgmental stare she gave me. “Yes,” I replied to her, still not seeing anything wrong with a non-black person of color suggesting they only liked me because I have Hispanic blood coursing through my veins.
My mother continued to stare at me with a cold look and said, “How are you going to teach young black students how to love themselves when you don’t love yourself?” This confused me more than anything; I thought I presented great news to my mother, and now she’s accusing me of hating my blackness? I had no idea what was happening.
Days turned into weeks, and my mother’s spiel replayed in my head endlessly. A few weeks into my employment, that boss was terminated from the organization after one of my colleagues reported him for calling her a “black b*tch.” It took him getting fired to truly open my eyes. I learned the cold, hard truth: I allowed an anti-black person to erase my blackness right in front of me, just as I tried so hard to do throughout my own childhood.
After that unnerving reality check, I vowed to never again accept any form of anti-blackness, to be a better role model for black youth, and to always remain omnipotently proud of my black identity.
Similarly, I applied this logic to all other forms of injustices I may face based on my identity: a pansexual, African American male. Because of this, I swore to stop trolling people on social media, educate myself on all social injustices and use my platform as a tool to debunk all forms of bigotry.
Eventually, my social media friends and followers inspired me to become a journalist because of my long Facebook posts or controversial threads on Twitter. I knew the road to becoming a journalist was not a simple one with yellow bricks and little, cute dwarfs handing me daisies. I knew that I had to work hard, network and have mental breakdowns trying to get rid of my writer’s block.
Today, I know who I am. I know that writing is a passion of mine because I learn a little more about myself with each article I publish. Each writing piece has a large piece of my identity—an identity I fought so hard to find.