There I was, around the age of four, standing in my tutu. Yes, someone had a brilliant idea to enroll me in ballet class. I was no Misty Copeland, but I could hold my own.
Who am I fooling? The studio was small and the lighting was dim. The other students were nice, but they were not my friends. Something was “off”. I felt uneasy. I could only tell my mom, “I don’t want to go back.”
Standing in the class, comparing my stance to that of my instructor and to my peers I noticed something. I am the only Black person here. Prior to this, I had been in either all-Black or very integrated environments. This was the first time I noticed that “I” integrated the room.
Looking back, I guess my parents grew tired of my pleas. Eventually, I stopped attending. Gone was the tutu. Gone were the ballet shoes. Gone were the leotards and stockings. They were never to be seen again.
Did the fact that I was the only Black person in my class have something to do with my adverse reaction? Possibly. Maybe I simply did not like ballet? Nah, I have always loved dance—the art of any kind of dance. There is no guarantee that if more children in the class having brown skin would have resulted in a more enjoyable experience for me. What is known, however, is that after all of these years I am left with a very vivid recollection of the experience—an experience which, at the very least, on paper seems like a positive one.
As an adult, I appreciate having been exposed to both ballet and the circumstance of being in the minority of a majority group. What I did not know then was that this occurrence would become routine throughout my life. You would think that because of this, “race” would be a common topic of discussion between my parents and I as a child. It may have been, but its presentation was not commonly overt. (I will probably talk more about that later.)
You know, I truly treasure how the topic of “race” has been handled by my parents and grandparents. I have gained real value by hearing firsthand stories from them. This invaluable knowledge, combined with textbook information and personal experiences, have formulated within me very unique analysis and viewpoints—or shall I say positions which are not always given the same attention by mainstream media. Luckily, I respect discussion. Being in the minority of majority groups, you learn its value…and you learn how to confidently stand alone if necessary.
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