When I was growing up in Baltimore, no black family in my neighborhood owned a computer. However, most of my white friends’ families had computers. (It seemed I was the only kid among my black peers willing to withstand the ostracism that came from spending time with white kids … even in their homes.)
I don’t think I let a Christmas or birthday go by where I did not ask for a computer, but I eventually learned that we simply could not afford one. Any time I spent using a computer was when I was at my friends’ homes. At some point, a white colleague of my grandmother’s gave her a used Texas Instruments computer to give to me. I spent hours writing code for simple graphic patterns and stuff. Eventually I wanted a better one… an IBM, like my white friends had. I also remember wanting books, disks and cartridges for the Texas Instruments computer, but, of course, no one could afford them for me.
I love computers. As an adult, I’ve had some low-end database management jobs, but I like computer graphics and design more. Many of the friends I grew up with have really nice jobs in the programming industry now. One guy is making more than $100,000 working for the State Department. They are all self-taught. Right now I’m making about $25,000 basically pushing paper and entering data into databases. Sometimes I think, ‘Man if I just had my own (real) computer when I was a kid…” Who knows? When I was a kid I thought, ‘Man, if only I could be adopted by a white family.’ That’s actually what I thought.
I think I will have to take classes to catch up with my white peers who I grew up with. I just don’t have the time I’d like to devote to teaching myself. And I can’t really afford the classes. I have to note that I still feel hurt, anger and resentment from when I was a kid. Once I realized the economic disparity between my family and other black families and the families of the white kids I knew. It’s just something I feel, but I don’t know that anyone in particular deserves it.