Being the Only One

I haven’t been the only one since I can remember.
Even when my parents moved from Newark to South Orange, NJ my best friend (the only other brown girl in my first grade class) was my ally.

There’s a comfort in numbers, and an unexplained understanding.

As I matriculated through SOMW School District the numbers and faces of color grew. However, in my high school AP classes there were always only a handful of faces of color. Reminding me again of the first grade, when I went from my all black preschool and kindergarten to a first grade classroom where my teacher routinely called me by my besties name… because you know, black people look alike.

I chose Spelman College because it felt amazing to be surrounded by so many inspiring, kick-ass, intelligent, and goal-oriented black women (who were often the only one’s in their AP classes too).

In law school the number of faces of color predictably went down, although I intentionally chose Rutgers-Newark, a law school with a history of inclusiveness, to ensure I wouldn’t be the only one. People of color were of course still in the minority, but we were present.

I am now, for the first time in my life, facing the frontier of being the only one. The only African American attorney at my firm.

And maybe this isn’t a big deal.

And maybe I’m over-reacting because you know, Barack, Beyonce and Oprah made it.

But it’s hard explaining the sense of comfort you feel:

when you don’t have to be a representative for your race

when you don’t accidentally overhear someone (who is not black) calling another black person a nigger, and they weren’t singing a song

when you are not routinely assumed to be a secretary (and not an attorney)because the color of your skin (and probably my gender- damn that intersectionality)

 

I’ve never been the only one before.

And I guess it just takes some getting used to.

By: Yasmine McMorrin
#whyracestillmatters

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2 comments

  1. Welcome to the club! And yeah it is quite different. Do you find being the only one much different than being one if only a few?

  2. I know your pain. I have often times been the only black girl and/or black person among church members and classmates for so long that I’m honestly used to it. For years I didn’t notice until another person mentioned it. Now, I’m a little more socially aware of my surroundings, so much so that it now makes me slightly uncomfortable to be the only. Therefore, it is my goal to not just propel myself into certain positions where I disrupt the racial/gender status quo but also that I take others with me. #Liftasweclimb

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