Rheanna Toney is an optimistic and quirky mixed chick who loves manatees, peaches, and showtunes. Her hobbies include painting, reading, daydreaming, and collecting snow globes.
Growing up in the same region for most of my life, I’ve mostly interacted with the same people, from elementary school to now. I’m not sure what I expected once I reached high school, but I felt within me that something should be different, and that change should be welcomed with open arms. But, it never came. I was looking at the same faces every day and it was a while before I began to feel uneasy with the fact that very few people in my classes looked like me. I knew there were others, but they never were in my classes, so we never talked, never made connections, never clicked. Racial identity had never made me question my abilities as a student, until I got to high school and noticed the lesser number of minorities in my classes, especially Advanced Placement classes. Suddenly, I was asking myself, “Did I truly belong here? Even though I wanted to be here?”
I had always loved reading and challenges, so I was drawn to these classes as a way to learn as much as I could, something that should never be taken for granted. However, it never resonated with me that from the view of my desks in school, at times, it felt like I was sitting alone, even though I was surrounded by my peers. As one of my parent’s three daughters (my dad is African American and my mom is Indo-Guyanese), I was always taught to be proud from where I came and embrace every part of my culture; you live, you grow, and you learn. You share yourself with the world. In having these doubts, it felt like I betrayed my own pride and let myself down, but I couldn’t let that stand.
Being more confident in myself and recognizing my strengths was not an automatic choice. In a perfect world it would be that simple, but most of us who have experienced our fair share of doubts know that it takes coaxing and reminders that you are more than what people perceive you as. So much more.
It’s an outlandish feeling because there are many factors that fall into place when discussing the apparent homogeneity of certain classes and the lack of minorities in advanced classes. It is a topic that begs discussion, and that is crying for strong voices. It is not a solo act, nor a job for one. Stimulating conversation that makes people respond to questions that don’t have a direct answer. I can truly only talk about myself and my experiences, but I am one more voice to a crowd of many. And I do not stand alone.
For the kids today who are feeling what I have felt, there are some things to keep in mind that might help. Firstly, leaning on those who love and support you is an imperative step. Without my sisters, Yasmin and Kiara, I would not be nearly as happy and full as I am today. I love them with everything in me, and there is something indescribably magical that comes with having people who truly get you, like no one else does. You should also learn as much as you can, and be happy in learning it. Accept the challenge and learn for yourself. Learn the information to make you a better person, so that you can change the world and offer your perspective. Be a part of a community of thinkers and listeners who are open to change and possibility, and make the dream in color a reality, for a world that was never meant to be viewed in black and white.