How One Question Can Shatter Feelings Of Belonging

ancestral healing feelings of belonging Sep 05, 2023

One warm spring day during my senior year in high school, my friends and I were hanging out on the steps of the English building during lunch.


The volume of the small crowd began to increase as people finished their lunches and began to joke around, talk about the latest new couple, and make plans for the upcoming weekend. There was a palpable giddiness in the air as the end of the year was approaching and senioritis was creeping in.


Suddenly, someone dumped a 7-11 Big Gulp full of water over my friend’s head. If you don’t know, a Big Gulp can hold 128 ounces of beverage. My unsuspecting friend was drenched with an entire GALLON of water!  


Clearly some of the kids had planned for this because water balloons appeared and a full on water fight ensued.  


For the next 10 minutes, all you could hear was raucous laughter as we threw water on each other, releasing the pent up frustration of 12 years of overachieving and competing with one another for grades and college acceptances. (I guess this was how nerds partied 🤷🏾‍♀️🥤)


Finally, the bell rang, indicating the end of lunch.


As we gathered our wet selves, one of my long-time guy friends approached me with a question in his eyes.


He pointed at my hair and asked, "Why is your hair not wet? Why is the water is just beading up on the top of it?"


I . Was. Aghast.


Looking back I don’t think he was anything more than curious. I was one of the only (and sometimes the only) Black girl in our classes. But the fact that I can clearly recall the incident 30 years later means a harm was done.


I didn’t have the scientific knowledge about or historical pride in my curly, water wicking hair.  


I couldn’t tell him about how follicle shape determines one’s curl pattern nor curly hair’s ability to act as a cooling agent by moving water (and thus, heat) up the hair shaft. I didn’t have a good sense of how significant hair has been for identity and cultural communication to those on the African continent and to those who persisted in the diaspora.


I just didn’t know.


And so instead of answering his question with dignity, his curiosity left me feeling embarrassed and feeling shame.  


I was marginalized and alone…again.


And while the place may vary and the circumstances may be different, this dynamic has played itself out over and over and over in my life.


I find myself in situations where I am one of a few or the only Black girl/woman in the space and I have to account for, explain or defend my Blackness.


Especially as an adult on my spiritual journey.


Have you ever felt this way, ? I really want to know.


Hit reply and share your story with me. (Or you can leave a voice note in my DMs on FB or IG)



Dr G!

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