As I sit in the back of the car, nose stuck deep in a book, trying to ignore the talk radio program my mother has blaring up front, I hear something that catches my attention and pulls me, with breakneck speed, out of my private inner world. “You know what? There’s no such thing as gay blacks; that’s just something black folks picked up from the whites. I know it’s true because they tossed all of the African faggots and dykes off the slave ships on their way over here.” I begin to pick apart, with great effort, as I was only 12-years-old, the implications of this bold statement. I am again jarred by my mother murmuring, “I know that’s right,” under her breath. My blood runs cold, then hot, then cold again. Just as I’m about to speak up, I bite my tongue, knowing that anything I could say would only bring the focus on me, and that’s the last thing I wanted to do.Clichés bolded. Write your essay.
This was the first time I was confronted, nigh slapped in the face, with how my racial and sexual identity, of which I had recently become aware, conflicted with each other. Growing up in a religious Black family, I was more than familiar with the flamboyantly gay man wearing the salmon colored suit and neck scarf who seemed to direct the choir at every Black church I had ever been to, yet was swept under the carpet. “Oh you know Kenny! He’s a lifelong bachelor! He and his…roommate are just living that single man lifestyle.” This is the sort of don’t ask, don’t tell policy that I don’t think will ever be repealed. Despite being aware of this hypocrisy and invisibility, I didn’t grasp how it applied to me.
Living in a predominantly white town, I was used to being the odd man out. With my caramel brown skin and curly hair, it was undeniable that I was different than most of my classmates. I always dreaded when we would do the unit on slavery in social studies; I could feel everyone looking at me out of the corner of their eye, wondering if their family has anything to do with my ancestors’ bondage. Worse yet was trying to fit in with the other black kids on the playground or at camp. “Why do you talk so white? Girl, you just an Oreo! Black on the outside, but wannabe white on the inside!” My parents taught me to be proud of my racial heritage. Yes, we were enslaved, but the fact that we made it here spoke to the strength and tenacity of our people. Yet, that was cold comfort as I sat alone while the other black kids laughed at me for my precise diction or my love of The Beatles. Whatever blackness was, I was terrified that I was doing it wrong.
Which brings us back to me sitting in that car, analyzing the harsh voice on the radio, that seemed to speak directly to me, my mother’s tacit approval the crap icing on the crap cake. I had known for so long that I was different than everyone else. I was interested in chasing boys, playing with dolls, and planning the perfect wedding. If given the choice, I would have much preferred to run and jump in the mud with the boys and chase the girls on the playground, trying to nail the prettiest one with a kiss. However, if that voice on the radio was right, what did it mean about me? If there’s no such thing as a gay black person, then who, or what, am I?
It took me years of struggle and self-exploration to integrate my racial identity and sexual identity, eventually realizing that I didn’t have to pick one or the other. I learned about people like Bayard Rustin, a key organizer of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington, who also happened to be an openly gay man. While learning about prominent LGBT people of color helped, the most transformative act I took was learning about, and embracing, myself. As a leader of True Colors, the student group on my college campus that served as a support for queer students of color, I saw the power of my people. All of my people. From the March on Washington, to the Stonewall Riots, to the individual acts of advocacy that True Colors practiced, I learned that the only person who can silence me is myself.
In general, too much suffering and not enough overcoming. Nobody in admissions wants to hear about the actual hardships you had to confront as an underrepresented minority. You may rest assured that whites constitute an overrepresented majority on admissions committees, and none of them wish to be reminded that their ancestors probably owned slaves. There is an appropriate and an inappropriate time to trigger the constitutional defensiveness of the Homo caucasus americanus, and an application essay is not the appropriate time.
Fewer references to your childhood. Many, many more references to your undergraduate experience. Your last paragraph is a perfect example of the way most of your essay should look. Your first four paragraphs are examples of the way perhaps one paragraph should look. This essay is about the way your experiences qualified you to become a scholar of the law, not the way they made you feel. Where are the references you said you would add to the kind of law you intend to practice?
Consider removing the references to "crap", and even possibly to "faggots" and "dykes". Stuffiness pays.
I agree with dubstepjuggalo on cutting the childhood stuff. That should be exactly 1-2 sentences if at all. Also, true, you want to keep your essay about being an URM, but at the same time you want to keep it engaging for an admissions officer. What an admissions officer looks at is the future. What will you bring to the law school? Thus, stories where you overcome being URM, or triumph over your handicaps (preferably during undergrad or within 2 years of applying if you have graduated for a while) are what they like to focus on because it speaks to your future possibility of success in law school. The more recent the experience, the more relevant it is because it speaks to how you are NOW. I'd also cut the first paragraph to about half it's length. I think it's a great intro, but I think you can accomplish the same thing while picking up the pacing. Keep in mind, the admin officers read a hundred of these per day. You want to keep them actively WANTING to read about you.
Hope this helps and that it wasn't too harsh. If you want, go ahead and PM me and I'll be happy to take a look at your revised statements.