In answer to the Day 1 Question “When Did You First Realize You Were Black (or X)?”

I was in kindergarten and we were preparing to celebrate President’s day by drawing pictures of our favorite president. As I scribbled contently another child asked for the brown crayon. When he saw that I had colored the face of my favorite president brown he asked what I was doing. I replied “I’m coloring my favorite president Thomas Jefferson.” The kid looking perplexed asked why is he brown to which I said Thomas Jefferson sounds black to me (no doubt growing up watching the Jefferson’s led to this assumption) and then he answered, “We’ve never had a black president and we never will.” Until that moment I had no understanding that being black meant you couldn’t be certain things.  My mom, who at times didn’t want to be black, clung to her Panamanian roots and was not able to prepare her children for being black in America. As she assimilated into the black American culture we watched her learn to accept her new identity as we learned what it meant to be black.