My eyes darted around my history class, taking note of the laptop stickers around me. Even though I hadn’t met everyone in the room, each student had a story that I pieced together in my head. The guy with the band sticker was obviously the coolest indie nerd, the one who everyone would go to for song recommendations. There was a girl whose sorority sticker filled my head with an understanding of her social power. Even my friend with the “W&L Track” sticker made it hard for me to forget her physical superiority and prowess as a team leader.
I didn’t need to look at the faces that surrounded me to know that they had interesting stories to tell, because all I needed to know was that they were paler than my milk chocolate complexion. In the game of uniqueness, my brown skin made me less eligible for the winning team. Brown boys don’t have the cultural taste required to truly understand Vampire Weekend or Hegel, because we’re the boys who are too busy fixing your laptops. Brown boys don’t have funny stories about romantic exploits, because we aren’t the boys who know how to find love with people worth falling for. Brown boys aren’t the ones you pick to lead your team, because they’re too frail and shrill to command a group of the smart white people around them. These are the scripts that are laid out for brown boys.
I sat in my history class, clad in an indie rock band shirt from a concert I went to a few months earlier. My shirt paired well with my burnt orange denim shorts and white canvas shoes. I was the son of an engineer and bank employee sitting in a class about the Louisiana Purchase at a college named after Robert E. Lee. While the script had told me the loads of things I wasn’t supposed to be, it never told me what I was meant to be.
No matter how hard I tried, it never felt like I have what it takes to rewrite the script. To be a brown boy who listens to indie rock is to fall outside the script, a script that doesn’t expect
me to have any taste beyond the bad pop you hear on the radio. People don’t expect the brown hipster boy in jean shorts to have what it takes to command a group or team, because he isn’t following the script. My script was written for me by people who weren’t me, but I always felt like I needed to follow it, until I looked at myself that day in history class.
The scriptwriters around me had managed to define me in so many ways, but little did they know that I was an experiment. There is no one script, because we’re all just writing it as we go. I don’t know what kind of script was written for me, but I owe it to myself to find out where it goes from here.