For a long time I believed that roaches, violence, and chaos were part of everyone’s childhood memories. In my neighborhood, Brownsville, Brooklyn, poor blacks and Latinos live isolated from wealthier minorities and other races. I’ve often been afraid to walk down my block alone for fear of being attacked.
As I got older, I realized that other people weren’t living in fear like I was. I began to feel like a statistic -- a black girl who lived in a place where mothers dote on drug-dealing sons and ignore the gun hidden under dirty laundry in the closet. I wondered if I had less of a chance to achieve the American dream because I had had less of a childhood. I wondered whether my race and the poverty I grew up in would hold me back from success and happiness. I had guidance counselors and teachers who sang the same old song about reaching for the stars and being determined, and I bought it enough to get good grades and plan to go to college. But those dreams were starting to sound like fairy tales.
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