I grew up hanging out on the poverty line. I went from living out in the countryside of southern Virginia to living in a car in Atlanta,Ga to living in someone’s basement. All before the age of 6. By the grace of God I was raised by my mother and a dear friend whom I fondly call “Mamaw". You see Mamaw was a peculiar person. She is a minister with more degrees than a thermometer and a heart after God. Also she’s white. She was raised out in bum-nowhere Georgia to a good Christian family, that surprisingly knew no color. At first it may seem like a good thing, but in actuality it made her ignorant at times to the struggles I faced.
I lived with Mamaw and my mom until about 18 years old then I went off to join the service. During that time with my mamaw she taught me things about being black around white people. She didn’t realize she taught me these lessons. She would get invited to fundraising banquets and speaking engagements, you see she was rather popular. She had friends and influences here in the U.S. and afar. She would always bring me along just to get me out the house and expose me to her goings on. She would always introduce me as her granddaughter, and boy it was AKWARD every. Single. Time.
But the term of endearment grew on me. But every time I got the same looks from her counterparts. It was either “ What the…?” Or “Aww how cute" expressions. At first the looks would bother me and make me feel small, and then that evolved into feelings of insecurity. It wasn’t until I was in high school apart of JROTC that things began to change. Whenever I was in my uniform and hanging out with my mamaw, her friends looked at me with reverence and respect! Suddenly I am not some run of the mill lazy black person. I’m not a threat. They started giving me accolades and cheering me on for setting a good example for “others". This similar situation would continue to play out over and over again well into my adulthood. Now that I have served for a few years and I come across white friends or neighbors or acquaintances or strangers, the mere mention of my military service or educational background gives them a sigh of relief and their shoulders relax. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I felt safer with their approval. I wear my military record and college education like a cloak of armor or a bulletproof vest saying “Its okay white people, I’m one of the safe ones.”