Learning I Was Black

Eugene Bertrand Contributing Writer

I first learned that I was black in kindergarten. More importantly, I learned of the negative connotations that come with identifying with my own skin color. 

On the playground, I was playing with my friend and we eventually decided to recreate a game of “Cops and Robbers”. Within a blink of an eye, I was called into the principal’s office, along with my mother, and the principal made it abundantly clear that, “We don’t promote gang violence here.” I often wondered why playing a game with my friend was associated with a gang. Just because my skin tone was different. 

Sometimes I wonder if people understand how difficult it is to exist while being an African American young man. I have to worry about my whereabouts constantly. For example, if I ever come across someone at the mall who I may not associate with, will a police officer hurt me if we get into an altercation? 

On May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, white police officers arrested George Floyd after a store employee called 911 and told the police that he bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. All I keep remembering is 8:46. 8:46 is a symbol of police brutality. A Caucasian officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds while he was clearly in pain, suffocating, all while yelling out for his mother. 

There were more than two officers at the scene watching officer Derek Chauvin kneel on his neck for almost ten minutes. As a middle class browned-skinned African American young man, I suffer along with others who look like me. I understand that people with a darker skin complexion are under constant threat not only by police officers, but others who judge us by the color of our skin. 

When I lived in another town in Connecticut, my school had a majority of Caucasian students and educators. I can recall being told that I, “Didn’t act black.” I was meant to understand that I was different

from the rest. 

Campus Lantern
The Campus Lantern is the school newspaper at Eastern Connecticut State University. The Lantern is run by students, for students and reports on everything hppening around campus. We publish every other week. The Lantern has been in publication since 1945.

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