Kierra Keady (at right) on her graduation day with her mother and brother.
My name is Kierra Keady and I am from Mountain View, California. When reflecting on my 18 years of life, I always thought I never really had to think about my race. Just recently I realized that was not the case at all. I was born to two parents of different races.
My mom is Black and my dad is white. Growing up, I was never uncomfortable with my races, and the things that came with them, but other people were and it always bothered me. Especially since the people who seemed to be the most uncomfortable were my extended family or peers who didn’t know me that well.
I have always had to deal with microaggressions, the mixed baby fetishes, lots of veiled racism and discrimination, but I also experience a lot of privilege. I’m light skinned, most of the time no one assumes I am Black, and when I straighten my hair I can almost pass for anything I want.
In high school I was, most of the time, the only Black student in my classes, and sometimes the only student of color in Advanced Placement classes. I never had a Black teacher in the 5 schools I attended throughout my 12 years of education. I can count on my fingers the number of Black students in my graduating class of 500. I know them all by name. A survival tactic we all became accustomed to. A not-so-secret alliance or support group.
In my public elementary and middle schools I was surrounded by lots of minority students making me feel very comfortable in my skin. In 7th grade I posted a picture with my mom on Instagram. It circulated around and my classmates asked who she was in relation to me. There were all kinds of rumors: my babysitter, a family friend, etc. I have never been ashamed of my mom or family but they made it seem like I should have been.
A year later I remember standing with a few girls at lunch. One of them made a racist comment. She said “C’mon you should half get it..” as if being white somehow meant casual racism was okay and understandable. I didn’t laugh.
Starting high school, I went to a private Catholic school where for the first time really, I began to understand somewhat about what it is like to be a racial minority in America. As a scholarship student, I would serve food at lunch to my white, very affluent peers, and then serve their parents at PTA meetings where they wouldn’t look me in the eye or say thank you.
I heard all types of racial slurs and ignorant comments everywhere. I heard stories of blackface and whatever injustice occurred at whatever party last weekend.
In my sophomore religion class, my teacher asked me if I was a United States citizen, constantly humiliating and belittling me in multiple rooms in front of many crowds. No one ever stood up to him or defended me. It was a 15 year old against a grown man and my grade now thought this behavior was okay. I took this to the school administration and scheduled a meeting to hash this out with other adults in the room.
That teacher called me a liar, said I thought I was “above everyone else” and proceeded to say he knew what it was like to be Black because he had red hair.
Isolated from my peers, and hungry for change and respect, I transferred back to public school. Junior year in my APUSH (Advanced Placement United States History) class we had to present about our family’s immigration story. Immediately I became uncomfortable.
Half of me did immigrate here, but the other half was stolen and never given that option. In this class, the idea was reiterated to me that I was not welcome here. We even had to debate with partners at times. One of us was supposed to be a southern slave owner and the other was supposed to be an abolitionist slave. My partner was white and he knew I was Black. He asked which one I wanted to be: the slave or the slave owner. This class was for white students, not for me.
In light of recent events and the growing Black Lives Matter movement I am concerned for the state of the world. We are supposed to be moving forward, not 3/5ths steps back. I have lost many “friends” over the desire for basic human rights.
The day I graduated high school, I went out to protest. I hid in my white skin like I sometimes do and hoped we would be the last to have to do this again. I am in constant fear that one day I will get a call that my 13 year old brother, who is darker than me and 6’3", will have been victim to a system that was not created for us. That one day I will hear my cousin was killed, or my grandpa, or my mom.
To be very honest, I am angry. I am tired. I want to go through a day and not worry for someone I love. I want to go out with my family and not be on constant alert in case I have to jump in front of them.
I want to go to school and not think about which of my classmates know I am Black and won’t hurt me. I want to pass by a police officer and not go still while my heart drops. I see the names on social media and TV of all the people who look like me but not quite and wonder who’s next.
I am becoming so numb to this injustice and it scares me. I shouldn’t be tired at this age.
We have to do better because Black people deserve better.
Cherish Black lives.