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