By Rafihat Banjo
The deep impactful piece on growing up as a youth and young adult of color – good and bad. There are tons of people out there who want to see someone like them who is driven and succeeding despite everything.
Growing up as a person of color (POC) is empowering. As a Muslim Nigerian-American, society has molded me into who I am today, someone who is educated, bright, driven, and passionate. Being able to express me through writing is refreshing.
As a POC, every day isn’t filled with sunshine and rainbows. Everyone goes through a tough period in their life, whether it’s brought on by personal or societal issues. Nobody wants to speak on the good and the bad things that come with being a youth of color. You only see the good, or you only see the bad. Never both.
Below, I will touch on the good and the bad about growing up as a POC.
Black and African American people are smart! In the media, society portrays Black and African Americans as “loud,” “thugs,” or “uneducated.” Society tries to put a label on what they think all Black and African Americans look, think, and act.
The ability to code-switch. Merriam-Websters explains code-switching, “the switching from the linguistic system of one language or dialect to that of another.” Being smart enough to differentiate when you want to use Standard English or use “African-American Vernacular English (AAVE)” as a tool.
There is a lot of cultures! You will never get bored, whether it is the food, languages, fashion, dances, hairstyles, or music. We have Soul food or our traditional African dishes. Additionally, we have different fashion trends that came from Black or African American cultures, such as bucket hats, sneaker culture, and oversized clothing.
Some people believe that successful Black and African American people are a threat to society. Nobody wants to see Black or African Americans succeeding. If they see us succeeding, they think we’ve either cheated or scammed our way to the top.
Racism. Dealing with racism can be a lot, especially because most of it is systematic. It is hard to escape racism, but we can try to reduce it in our communities by educating others.
Being categorized as negative stereotypes. As I mentioned earlier, society portrays Black and African Americans as “loud,” “thugs,” or “uneducated.” This can negatively impact how we view ourselves. Every race/ethnic group has stereotypes. Stereotypes can prevent us from getting jobs or can lead to being racially profiled. For example, if society sees us as “thieves,” we might as well prove their point and steal something. Society will only see us as the negative stereotype they have created for us. If we constantly ingrain stereotypes in our heads, we start to believe them.
It is very wrong for people to participate in stereotypes and continue to be racist. Regardless of how society sees us, I hope you will continue to stay true to yourself. Don’t let society tell you how to think, act, or look. I think it is important to set achievable goals for yourself, stay motivated, and grounded. In order to become the best version of yourself, you should stay career-driven and continue to work on yourself. Believe in your ability to make a change and create your own future.