Entertainers, media personalities and other Black public figures recalled heartbreaking racist encounters that made them aware that racism was real and that it could affect them.
In a special Black History Month profile on CNN titled “The First Time I Realized I Was Black” on Friday, Feb. 10, political commentator Van Jones, actor Jason George and 18 other Black celebrities recounted harrowing experiences that made them aware of their Blackness.
From being pulled over by cops in a typical case of driving while Black to a young white peer calling someone the n-word out of anger, some of our favorite celebrities experienced racism like we have.
Jones, who has been a vocal critic of the rise of President Donald Trump, recalled experiencing one of the most disgusting forms of racism in his life.
When he was younger, a white girl tried to reach for his Coke but she stopped after a white boy came up from behind them and told her not to. Jones admitted the boy’s actions seemed odd but he drank his Coke anyway.
“And then we got on the busses and went back home,” he says. “The young white girl started to cry and I asked her what was wrong. And she said, ‘They told me later that everybody in the room spat in your coke while you were outside.'”
When George was in elementary school, a white peer called him the n-word after George tackled him during a pick-up football game. And a moment of leisure and fun suddenly turned violent.
“He was upset and maybe embarrassed and he called me a n—-r,” George recalls. “I kinda blacked out. I honestly remember nothing in the next few seconds. And by the time I actually remember what was going on … My hands were around his neck and he wasn’t breathing …
“This word. This one word had complete and utter control over me in some ways.”