A Black Rose Among Lilies

When I was younger I went to Washington D.C. with my parents, and they bought me my first snow globe. Small and palm sized, it was this magical city encased in glass and water. At night, I would slip under my covers with my globe and shake it until it lit up like stars in the sky. Before I went to sleep, I would place the globe beside my bed, drop to my knees and say my prayers. I would ask God to place me inside my magical city every night. Then, I would climb into my bed and squeeze my eyes tightly, hoping the next time they opened I wouldn’t be on the outside looking in. The years passed and I slowly forgot about my globe and its magical city, but I never stopped being on the outside.

I was lucky enough to be cursed with growing up in Ashburn, Virginia, the richest county in the United States with a predominantly white population. Until the third grade, I was the only student whose skin was comparable to the night sky; I was a black rose among white lilies.  I was surrounded by and accepted by friends, but I was not them, I was a representation; a display of the entire African-American culture.

Society expected me to maintain my culture while still being just different enough to interact with my peers. I was a spokesperson, a translator between the black and white. Due to the melanin in my skin, I was supposed to be able to understand every African-American social trend. I had to have every stereotypical quality and skill of the “Typical African-American”. I was expected to run fast, to be able to sing, and love Basketball. I was expected to be relatable to both cultures, but I was never expected to be in.

No matter which way I turned, I was always pushed away at arm lengths so my place on the outside was secured. It was made clear that I was not white, but I wasn’t black either. On many occasions I would be reminded of my differences. When our history class discussed slavery, all eyes would wander towards me awkwardly. Jokes are made about my dark skin tone, like how I resemble an unlocked character in a video game, and, how in the darkness, I disappear with the light. On the other side of the color spectrum, I was referred to as an “Oreo,” black on the outside but creamy white on the inside. These labels permanently stained my skin like a tattoo and trapped me underneath.

Being a black rose among lilies was never easy, but I would never reverse the clock. I was planted in a garden of diversity, and I am thankful for that every day. I have learned to balance between these two worlds while also maintaining a certain independence. I am happy with my dark thorns and the fact that  I can stand out in a crowd like a glittering diamond. I am happy that I am accepted among lilies just as much as I am with my fellow black roses. I am happy, but I also know that no matter how hard I push against the glass to my globe, I will always be on the outside.