Samantha’s story: Being black in South Dakota

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A local woman’s blog is getting a lot more attention than she ever expected. More than 16,000 people have read about Samantha Jo’s experiences growing up black in South Dakota. Her words are opening a lot of eyes to the racism that happens in communities everyday.

Samantha Jo grew up in a small South Dakota town – a town that was mostly white.

“It doesn’t even faze anyone and to me it’s just another reminder of how different you are,” Samantha Jo said.

She recently decided to write down her experiences to help herself let go of the prejudices she faced as a child because of her skin color. The blog doesn’t mention the name of her hometown.

“The biggest point that I wanted out of all this is that it was not for anybody individually to be called out. It wasn’t for my education system to be called out. There’s a reason I didn’t use any names or say where I was,” Samantha Jo said.

But she does share her personal experiences, like the daily microaggressions she encountered at school.

“Being called the n-word down the hallway or something as simple, that I also wrote about, as the fact that when it was prom season your goal was to get darker than me. Just things like that where they probably don’t even remember,” Samantha Jo said.

For years, Samantha Jo says she struggled finding her identity and fitting in.

“It was immediately just that I wanted to be like the rest of them. I wanted to be pretty so that’s why I got my hair chemically straightened,” Samantha Jo said.

Samantha Jo now lives in St. Paul and was in the city when George Floyd died and the protests began.

“It’s things that you hear about in the news. It’s not new. Racism is not new. Black people being killed by police officers is sadly not new either. But the fact that it was down the street is what really hit home. It was affecting the people I cared and loved about but in a completely different sense, a different level,” Samantha Jo said.

She says everyone, including herself, has work to do when it comes to understanding discrimination and the impact it has on the world.

“Ignoring it is the problem. Saying that you don’t see color is the problem. I don’t want people to not see me as a black woman. I don’t want it to be the reason I’m treated any differently, but that’s part of my identity and I want that part noticed, to be seen, to be heard,” Samantha Jo said.

She says it’s simply about listening to one another.

Samantha Jo came home to South Dakota during the riots for safety reasons because she was living alone.

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