I have a story to tell that it is an ugly truth and a part of my life that I choose to ignore for much of my adolescence. However, given the nature of conversation in today’s media, I felt it was time I told it. I will leave it up to the reader to decide what the logical conclusion must be in the end.
My father worked for a company that had a habit of transferring and promoting its employee’s from one state to another. So, at an early age I was thrown into the realm of meeting new people, starting at new schools, and for a kid, leaving behind everything I knew to start over. It was difficult for me because it challenged my upbringing and the way I thought the world worked. I assumed that one state would be like the next and that my experiences of meeting new people would be similar. Those beliefs were born from previous good encounters, how I was accepted by people and raised to treat other people.
My beliefs were naive.
When I was thirteen my family and I packed up and moved to a new state just six weeks shy of my graduating the 8th grade. I was, needless to say, unhappy. I was leaving all of my friends of the past five years and did not want to hear the words “you will make new friends” from my parents. It was like rubbing salt into a nasty cut to me and unfortunately it was something I heard too often.
All I could do was give in and remember that I always have had a lot of friends and this was just “another adventure” as my grandmother use to tell me. Throughout the years she was a great source of strength for me, though I did not come to realize that fact until well after her passing. She was very wise.
Everything changed for me with in the first 4 weeks after that move. You see, I had always lived in a very diverse culture before this, had friends of every race and never dealt with any hate or ignorance. I had never experienced prejudice or bigotry. I had been lucky I guess. Children know when things are normal and when things are not. I was taught right from wrong at a very early age and these things were wrong and ugly. They went against what I was taught.
On my first day of school I was called the most hateful things and was the victim of torment because of the color of my skin. I was tormented because of the clothing I wore and was teased because of my hair. I was threatened with physical violence if I told teachers or other adults what was happening. This could not be how “my new adventure” was to begin. I was not raised to judge anyone on how they looked or the color of their skin. I was told to judge a person’s soul based on their actions and words because, according to my grandmother, that was how you knew a person was “a good egg“. I couldn’t understand what I did wrong. Why did they hate me? It got a lot worse, before I realized what was going on.
Two weeks before school ended for the summer I was cornered on the play ground by a group of maybe ten girls, maybe less, I was not sure. I had frozen and was scared of what they were going to do to me. One started towards me with her fist in the air and I closed my eyes. I don’t know how many times I was punched. I can’t remember all the names I was called. I will not repeat any of them now because language like that is used by small minds when there is nothing to say to defend an argument.
The attack lasted, to me, for what seemed like a very long time but that was because I was a child and pain when you are a kid seems like forever. No adults came to my aid and it wasn’t until I was home unable to hide my bruises, scratches and tears that I told my parents what had happened. I recounted my attack; every bigoted word, every nasty derogatory slur and every hit I endured. All because of the color of my skin.
My parents reaction was to call the school and tell them I would not return. They were told I would not receive credit for finishing the 8th grade, but my father explained to the principal that a criminal investigation into the “attack” would be worse, so the incident was swept under the rug. I was given my credit to move on to the next grade, though I did not graduate with my peers.
I did not know the definition of bigotry, prejudice, or racism. I had never experienced it until then. The first thirteen years of my life were spent with kids from all walks of life and I hadn’t needed to get out a dictionary to figure out what kind of hatred I was dealing with, but I did that Summer. I know definitions have changed since then, but not the basic ideas, so this is what I found:
Bigotry-Intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.
Prejudice-Preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience
Racism-Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.
What does a child do and feel when hatred like this is thrown her way? How can a child not think it was something they did wrong? How does it feel to not be able to make friends or be liked by people? I wonder how many kids dealt with this growing up? Why do people think that this is okay? I can say that I was a victim of hate. What is worse, even as an adult, is that I can’t talk about it even when it happens now.
It is nothing new to me anymore because I am stronger than I was when I was young and I know that this ugliness exists. I also know it doesn’t just happen to one group of people. Bigotry is ugly and prejudice is pure ignorance, but to hate someone based on their race is worst of all. No one should be judged by the color of their skin. No child should be treated with hate. This should not be endured by anyone. My story is not uncommon at all, and I am sure many of you have experienced some form of this in your lives.
The only part of the story that I haven’t told yet is that I am white. Does that make what I experienced contrary to the definitions of the words I looked up that Summer? Does it lessen the actions of the girls who attacked me? What was the logical conclusion to my story in your mind? -Liberty Speaks
UPDATE: Thank you to GRUMPYELDER.COM for posting the story