factors and challenges which shaped my life
How can society's standards shape one's schema? Why do our surroundings affect the way we feel and act? Being older and a bit more cognizant, I often ask myself these questions to help familiarize myself with the world. I grew up in a small town called Peachtree City, nicknamed "The Bubble", because of the idea that nothing bad ever happens in Peachtree City and everyone is good, accepting, and indistinguishable. However, without even being aware of it, I was an anomaly being 1 of only 4% of 1st generation African Americans and 1 of less than 1% of Muslims in a population of roughly 35000+ people. I was a normal kid, a bit mischievous, but for the most I was just like my peers. We all watched the same shows, played the same games, and had the same mannerisms so this was all of what I knew outside of my home. My mother and my father originated from Senegal and Niger, respectively, so I was exposed to two vastly different cultures. Despite this, I never really thought of how different I was from my classmates until one day in the fifth grade when a new boy, named Tony, moved into town and joined my class. I noticed our apparent similarities, both of us being black, not knowing to think much of it; in spite of the fact that we were the only two black students in the class. My classmates were used to me and like I said before I never truly thought of myself as different, but this new student, Tony, he wasn't anything like a lot of us. At this point in the year we were learning about the Jim Crow laws and about the Civil Rights movement, so a few of my peers, noting that he talked a bit different and dressed a bit funny, decided to start calling him Crowe Boy. This gave me a sick feeling in my gut, conscious of the fact that they called him this because of the color of his skin. I was afraid that they saw me the same way, so like everybody else in the class, I joined in. I let my fear of being different, dictate how I treated this boy knowing it was wrong. When I got home that night, I explained the whole ordeal to my mother who proceeded to ask me why I participated. I told her because everyone else was doing it. She then explained to me that I am not "everybody else", that the majority of the students in the class would never have to endure the hardships that I will have to face as a young black man in America. She elucidated the fact that, like the boy I made fun of and unlike most of my peers, we did not have the same means as most of the children I went to school with and that to earn my place in this world I would have to work two times as hard as my peers. From then on, following my mother's ideology, I decided that I would be friends with Tony and that nobody would scare me into conforming or being ashamed of who I am. She helped me recognize my self-worth and pride in being different. The pride and comfort she felt in her own skin, only emanated how proud she was to be who she is and that stuck with me. Essentially, I did not grow up with the same means as my peers, but I feel like my mother gifted me with something much more valuable than anything money could buy: self-respect. My parents never allowed me to believe that I could not be as successful or even more successful than my peers, despite the different lives we lead. They sacrificed too much to make sure that we were in the best environment to succeed. My mother has had the most profound effect on me, sometimes neglecting her own well-being to give me and my siblings a stable upbringing, whether it be delaying a loan payment to keep the lights on or skipping lunch at work to be able to afford dinner for us. My mother was a prime example for me, teaching me that success takes hard work and sacrifice. This has helped me become a more self-conscious and empathetic person, because I live in an environment where nobody has experienced what I have and that allows me to politely contribute a contrasting point of view during discussions bringing to light perspectives that many of my classmates might not have thought of. This served as the foundation of my inspiration to start a club at my school called MHS TALENT, to help accentuate the idea that everybody has different experiences and skills that might change way we view a certain topic.