Growing Up as a Person of Color in a Colorless Town

A reflection on how race affects our mindset, for better or worse


There was once a time when I didn’t know that I was poor, a time when I could walk out my door with every

person and street looking the same as it always has. A time when every house looked approximately the same size… but maybe I was just too young to realize anything.

When I was younger, the environment changed for what I thought was against me but it ended up molding my character. It happened when I moved to a suburban town in Putnam County, New York.

Like most kids, I played a sport, and that sport was baseball. It wasn’t baseball that opened my eyes but what happened between the lines. There was this two hundred dollar bat that my teammates had called the “Mako.” In our house, a bat worth fifty dollars was too much for my mom. They also had the newest mitts, newest batting gloves, and even a donut for their expensive bats… and I had hammy downs. But I was slamming that ball towards the back fence of the diamond just as much as they were. That fact let me escape from our differences in money and helped me appreciate what I had. “I can do what you can do but with less.” I took that mindset and applied it to school but this cruel world found another way to drain me of my determination.

And it was the lack of diversity that created the hardest transition for me. In my former neighborhood, the streets were flooded with all kinds of color and nationalities, but in Carmel, it looked like a black and white television show from the 1950’s. And when they were introduced with color, they didn’t know what to do with it. They confused me for another kid that they saw on camera running through the halls. They confused me for another kid who got suspended off the bus and kicked me off. These types of scenarios didn’t happen in my hometown in Philly.

But I want to thank my sixth grade teacher. Something seemed different in your class. I had a friend named Jake who got called on almost every time he raised his

hand, but it was rare for me; Jake got help when he needed it but I had to just figure it out for myself. Jake and I would do the same thing, yet I got in trouble. Then the grades came back, and I got the same grades he got. I guess you could say I was competing. “I can do what you can do but with less.”

My mom was a big part, too. She took her kids from a dying neighborhood to one with life and opportunities. She turned the worst situation into a better one not for herself but for my sister and I. Even though you’re struggling more with bills here and making nowhere near what the average American makes, my grades are rising and I’m growing stronger to push through the hardships. You did something moms shouldn’t have to do: you raised a man and did it better than any father ever could. I know that there’s many moms who do the same but you did it with LESS.

I need to give my family that big house in a gated community where I know it’s safe, not the beaten down house with the sheetrock walls peeling off and loud bangs in the distance and us not knowing whether it was a gunshot or a firework.

I’ve established a goal: when I achieve it, with the people I want there, we will sprint to the end and battle the obstacles along the way. Doesn’t matter if it’s tests, racism, or money: those are things my kids won’t have to deal with. I’m planning to give my kids the kind of childhood I only dreamed of, to not have to settle for less like I did.
“I can do what you can do but with less.”