Gifted Black Girl’s Road Less Traveled

Giji Mischel Dennard,
Burtonsville, MD

While my cross-culture world view likely has been shaped by my early exposure to people with ethnicities different from my own, I can’t help but believe that by divine design I was wired for this often “road less traveled” life journey. As far back as 3rd grade, other Black kids called me names like “Black cracker,” due to my speech pattern…primarily the result of growing up in a family of educators. It didn’t help that from 3rd through 5th grades, I was the only Black child in the gifted program. Many of my other friends in this group were first-generation Americans, whose parents were from Cuba, Syria, Sicily, Lebanon and Canada. Until tenth grade or so–separated by relocation–my best friend was Jewish and hers was the only house of non-family members where I could spend the night. I was surrounded by affluence, but lived on the other side of the track. In 9th grade, I attended a prep school where I was the only Black kid in the entire school. But I was raised in Florida and experienced some violent racist encounters between 7th grade and my senior year in high school. I’ve dated guys from Lebanon, Haiti, Palestine, the Ivory Coast, Tonga, the Bahamas and a few African-Americans in-between. When I went to grad school at Stanford Law School, I often was asked how I was “adjusting” having gone to Howard University undergrad. The truth was Stanford was what I knew and Howard was quite a culture shock. Not many of my undergraduate peers had studied, Latin and classical Greek and I was the only one who went all the way through 3rd-year Russian. All these years later, I still often find myself a minority within a minority. I’m a conservative African-American with strong messianic Jewish leanings. I often find I am drawn to and most embraced by others, like me, who lead cross-cultural lives. While my race is a core part of my identity, it has much less influence on what defines me.


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