In their own words: "If I were white"

Clear Division: Signs like ones pictured here during the Jim Crow era sent a clear message of inequality in America. Although progress has been made, for many, it is still not enough.

By Chase Mason


“If I were white, or any other color than my own, I would get along better with the rest of the boys in my class. Also, I could go to more places in Davenport and Rock Island; I could get into the Hollywood Supper Club for instance. Also, I would be able to get a better job after college without going to the city to run my own business. My children would be able to get a better education and they wouldn’t have to be humiliated like I have been. If I were white, I could buy any house in Davenport that I could afford, and live in any neighborhood I chose without any questions about it. I would be able to get my hair cut in any barber shop that I wanted. If I were white, I could date any girl in this school that I wanted to without being looked down upon by teachers, students, and parents. People would treat me as one of them, not as an outcast, as they have treated my ancestors in the South and the North. Nowadays, when a Negro buys a car, all of the white men look at them as if he shouldn’t have one. A white boy wouldn’t have to put up with such things as this. Furthermore, if I were a different color I could wear any piece of clothing that I choose and students wouldn’t make fun of my clothes as they sometimes do now. But I am glad I am not of a different color. Even though there are some hardships, I still enjoy the color and the race to which I belong. After all, some of the great athletes in America are from the Negro race.”

The passage above was written by Thomas Allen Mason III, or as I called him, Grandpa Tom. My grandpa graduated from Assumption High School in 1961, so 60 years ago. I can only imagine the struggles that my grandfather and other black Americans went through. He grew up in a time when black Americans were treated as second class citizens. They were humiliated, discriminated against, and sometimes even murdered because they had a different skin color. In fact, from the beginning of this country’s history, my ancestors were treated as property instead of actual people, even though our nation’s constitution states that “All men are created equal.”

As I previously stated, the days of slavery are long behind us, but the days of discrimination and prejudice have not left us. Many people might read that passage from my grandpa and think that we have come a long way in those 60 years, but many of the problems that my grandfather faced during his time in high school are still around today. To show that these issues are still relevant today, I wanted to write an essay similar to the one that my grandpa wrote.

If I were white, I wouldn’t have to feel like I have to act differently to fit in with my classmates. I would be able to play sports and not have to worry about my teammates making racist comments. Students would not refer to me as the “whitest” black person they’ve ever met simply because I am educated. If I were white, I wouldn’t have to worry about students mocking my culture. I wouldn’t have to worry about people using racial slurs because they heard them in a song or because white people made the word. White students never have to worry about. Furthermore, if I were white, teachers and other staff members wouldn’t treat me differently, but would accept me for who I am. They wouldn’t mock me for wearing an I CAN’T BREATHE shirt, justify other students calling me racial slurs, allow students to wear confederate clothing, or suggest that black students do not deserve respect because “respect is a two way street.” Additionally, if I were white, I would have to wonder if my life mattered. I would never have to help form a diversity group to ensure that black students feel like they belong. I wouldn’t have to worry about people arguing whether my life matters on social media. Also, if I were white, I wouldn’t have to worry about my classmates questioning my accomplishments. Students would not claim that I only won class president and homecoming king from getting the “black vote,” or make egregious claims that the school rigged elections so I could win.

However, even though I have faced many hardships throughout my lifetime because of my race, I would never want to be any color different from my own. My culture is something that I am extremely proud of and it is something that I would never want to change. Instead, I believe that we need to educate our society on these issues. Instead of just identifying the problem, we need to determine how we are going to solve these problems. In fact, I believe that our society is already beginning to start this movement in order to make change. After the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and other innocent black Americans at the hands of law enforcement last summer, there was a nationwide awakening to the issue of police brutality. Americans of all walks of life decided to educate themselves and take part in peaceful protests. Our society decided to take a stand to the problem and it was amazing to see it.

In my own community, change is happening. Bettendorf High School is one of the main examples of this change. Yes, I know I described my school above in a negative light, but the student body has created change in ways that would never have been possible before. I am a clear example of this change. In this past year, my classmates have selected me as their class president, homecoming king, and co-captain of the golf team. I am not sure if I am the first black homecoming king, but I know for sure that I am the first black class president and captain of the golf team and I do not believe that I will be the last.

It is evident that we have come a long way in the 60 years since my grandpa graduated from high school, but we need to continue this effort. As I previously stated, educating our society on racial issues is the most important step in making everyone equal. Who knows? Maybe 60 years from now my future grandchild will write an essay like mine, but this time, it will be about how much closer we’ve come to realizing true equality.


"In their own words" celebrates students' right to free expression. The Growl supports the right to free expression for all students who wish to share their thoughts and opinions on matters that are important to them. With this in mind, The Growl will not publish any essay that violates Iowa Code 280.


The views conveyed in all submissions are strictly those of the individual, and are not expressly endorsed by the high school or The Growl and its staff.


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