The invisible game begins
The first time I realized I was invisible to most people was at the age of 7. I had been playing with a cousin and another girl who lived nearby showed up. My cousin began to ignore me when I spoke and turned her back on me to play with this other girl. I walked home sad and confused because I did not understand what had just happened.
How could someone be playing with me one moment and then ignore me because another child came to play? Why couldn't we three have played together? I was crying and feeling dejected but this began a pattern of behavior that was not my imagination or low self-esteem but became a reality for many years.
Racism takes root
For you, the reader to understand I will try to explain the complexities of the situation. We lived in a county where most of our neighbors were poor and did not have running water or indoor plumbing. There were also stereotypes regarding race. The neighborhood was integrated and my grandmother had an interesting take on the situation.
She said on more than one occasion that any self-respecting White person who could do better would not live in a neighborhood with poor ni**ers. She said the White families living in our midst were poor trash and would move if they could. I now understand that this was more cultural than racist and Grandma was using the terms that were acceptable in that era the year 1965.
I was a 7-year-old child so my thinking at that point was based on what my Grandmother said. This is why I did not get offended when older White people would slip and say Nigra or the N-word because I understood it was in their culture and habits are hard to break. Keeping this in mind I hope what I did next will be understood. I am not proud of it or ashamed because it was simply was what it was.
Why is it always me?
I went home and processed that (using today's vernacular) my cousin had ghosted me, her own flesh and blood for a white girl who was poor white trash. Later in the summer this cousin, her sister and I and another cousin had been playing together when 2 more cousins arrived. All 5 of them ignored me as though I were invisible and again I walked home sad and confused without anyone saying "See you later."
It happened again when I walked to the local softball diamond alone one day and a game was taking place. A few people in the group of about 20 looked my way then turned away but no one spoke or welcomed me so I walked home and wondered why this was happening to me. In later life, on 5 or 6 occasions I would call my mother and she would not answer her phone. Each time I later said I was trying to reach her she responded with ."I knew it was "just you" or she would say she told the person she was speaking with that "It was just Cheryl" or "Its nobody but Cheryl."
I understand Charlie Brown really well
I thought about Charlie Brown in one of his cartoons saying even his own dog (Snoopy) had turned on him as I processed that even my own mother preferred the company of others to mine. There were also occasions where my mom would have a cookout and when I was leaving I would say goodbye. If she were talking to other guests she would not even acknowledge me and that hurt.
Again I felt invisible as I had the first the first time I was ignored at age 7. As I have walked this earth for 65 years I have come to realize an ugly truth. There are individuals who the majority will "kiss their ass." There are others who get kicked in the ass. There are those who have the red carpet put out in front of them and also the ones who have the rug pulled from under their feet. I have accepted that for many I am in the latter category. I try not to put myself in situations where I am tolerated or violated.
Rejected by my own
It has only been other Black people, who are family members who ghost me when someone else both black and white is around. The first time sticks with me because it puts things in perspective. I am in no way disrespecting the young White girl who was chosen over me by my cousin but speaking on the principle that was at play.
When a choice was made blood was not thicker than water and sticking with your own race was not in effect either. I was expendable. My cousin, my mother, and others over the years valued the company of others over me. Thankfully I have learned to value myself despite it all.
In essence, everyone who treated me this way was thinking what my mom put into words. To them, I was "Just Cheryl" and "Nobody but Cheryl." Iwas useful only until someone more preferable came along. It all goes back to 1965, however, when a relative chose a person who was perceived (wrongly) as the lowest of the low over me.