The House that Built Me: A Reflection of Escaping My Sunken Place AKA Suburbia

I can honestly say that I have made major breakthroughs in these last three months than I have ever had in my 26 years of life. I am finally in a safe space where I feel comfortable sharing a painful, defining portion of my journey. Before I continue, I want to make clear that I would never want to change a single portion of my life story. For what it’s worth, I truly believe that my childhood was meant to be challenging. I grew up into the extraordinary machine that I know that was perfectly carved out for me. It’s vital to carve the life path that you deserve regardless of any barriers or backlash.  I dedicate this piece to the black children like me who were raised in areas that weren’t built for them. I hope that my story gives you the strength and power to carry on in the face of adversity.

My childhood, in retrospect, is something I am genuinely proud of. My mother came from the Midwest and eventually conquered Corporate America. She is the most beautiful, caring person that I know. She is my hero. My father hails from South Carolina. He is so selfless and loving to his family. They built the most incredible foundation for me and my siblings. This is why I could never feel any sort of shame for where I come from. I am the “American Dream” when it comes to the rigorous fight that the Black Community continues to carry on. However, Suburban areas are a breeding ground for adversity when you are a living testament of “breaking barriers.” Unfortunately, I was placed on this horrid pedestal that I never wanted to be on.

Roswell, the city that I was raised in, is a predominately white, conservative Suburb that lies North of Atlanta, GA. It’s funny because this is the place that my parents believed would keep me “safe” and “distant” from harm’s way. However, Roswell is also the place that exposed me to what I now despise the most. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Assimilation is “to absorb into the cultural tradition of a population or group.” I had no choice other than to swim with self-absorbed, vain sharks. Drowning in their misery wasn’t an option for me. I had to work three times harder in order to compete with “the best.” My parents continuously drilled this ideology into my young mind. “Never let them see you sweat” became the ultimate protection mechanism for my adolescent years. It was in that moment that I had to come to peace with knowing that I couldn’t truly be who I wanted to be quite yet. I had to adapt. I had to survive.

High school, without a doubt, was the most mind-crippling experience that I’ve ever had to endure. The dynamic was genuinely confusing for me at a time when I should’ve focused on figuring out what kind of woman that I wanted to be. I think that the perfect way to describe my experience is through the words of Jodie Landon, my favorite character from my favorite cartoon, “Daria.” The “Gifted” episode was one of my favorite episodes because it highlighted the unrealistic standards that are placed on high school students based off of classism and respectability politics. When Daria was venting to Jodie about how “hard” it was to be the smart, emotional stereotype in the High School dynamic, Jodie’s response was direct and to the point:

“Then you’ll understand what works for me now. At home, I’m Jodie – I can say and do whatever feels right. But at school I’m The Queen of the Negros, the perfect African-American teen, the role-model for all the other African-American teens at Lawndale. Oops! Where’d they go? Believe me: I’d like to be more like you.”

Listen. I watched this and had my “AHA!” moment that I desperately needed. It also put a lot of internal struggles into perspective. I was the “token black girl” to my white classmates whether I wanted to be or not. I participated and excelled in sports. I was outspoken in all of my classes. I was their poster child for “blackness.” It would make me CRINGE each and every time. The black kids didn’t know how to receive me because I had white attributes to my personality and character. I don’t blame them for their criticisms at all. In all honesty, I didn’t like the person that I had to be under these unrealistic standards, either. It made for a recipe of internal disaster.

I was severely bullied by the star football player (a “token” black man who I refuse to name. He doesn’t deserve my free promo.) He would push me into lockers when I was alone. He even went as far to make a Facebook Group with his white girlfriend about me. The adjectives were very colorful. “She’s fat. She’s annoying. She takes up space. We would be better without her.” Suddenly, my depression started to develop and I felt so helpless. I used to ask God…. “Why? Why did this have to happen to me?” I have always been a person who wanted to be selfless and loving as much as possible. The racist remarks from classmates were disgusting. The body-dysmorphia that I harbored based off of the unrealistic standards that surrounded me. I had to keep my poker face on for the masses. Internally, I was suffering.

With time, I started to slowly feel comfortable with the idea of being myself. I made some incredible friends after the bullying episode. I’m still very close to them to this day. They lifted me up and really loved each and every part of me. They were my saving grace. There were minor bullying situations that I still had to deal with during my Junior/Senior years. However, I believe that I conquered the worst so it was relatively manageable to survive in order to #GetOut. It dawned on me that I was the target of adversity because my peers saw my potential. My intelligence is a natural attribute of mine. I was coined as the “talented & gifted” prodigy at the age of 5. I was also doing all of this as a Black Woman. It makes all of the sense to me that I was viewed as a threat now. It’s important for some of my former classmates to know that they failed in attempting to kill my spirit. I’m as magical and resilient as ever as an adult.

Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” perfectly described the concept of “The Sunken Place.” This theory ultimately became the definition of my childhood. Peele’s explanation for it is absolutely superb:

You know when you’re going to sleep and it feels like you’re about to fall, so you wake up? What if you never woke up? Where would you fall? And that was kind of the most harrowing idea to me. And as I’m writing it becomes clear that the sunken place is this metaphor for the system that is suppressing the freedom of black people, of many outsiders, many minorities.”- Jordan Peele

My closing remarks are for the young PoC that I dedicate this article to. I want you all to know that you are DESERVING OF EVERYTHING. You deserve nothing but the Sun, Moon, and the Stars. Your limits are not defined by the toxic environment of Suburbia. Trump’s America is so horrifying and it probably is heightening some of this undeserved treatment in what SHOULD be a safe space for your learning experience. We are victorious. We were BORN FOR GREATNESS. Life continues on after this experience and it is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I hope that my story of escaping my “Sunken Place” inspires you to appreciate the amazing, powerful person that is coming into fruition! You are Magic. #TheHouseThatBuiltMe

Written by Court Kim

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