This I Believe

Catherine - Plainview, New York
Entered on December 12, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

People’s thoughts and opinions are gratefully influenced by what is going on around them. When people are unsure as to what is happening or an event is so catastrophic, fear can cause people to become distorted versions of themselves and have them act out in ways they will regret later. I experienced this first hand when I moved to Plainview in 2001. I remember my first day in fifth grade at Mattlin Middle School, being the new kid was a challenge.

I was so eager to just fit in and make friends, I thought that first day would go by quickly; but time was passing so slowly. Finally the bell rang and it was time for lunch, the question came into mind, who to sit with? I remember looking around and not seeing a variety of people as there were back in Baldwin. Baldwin was filled with all different types of people: black people, white people, and many nationalities. Finally I got the confidence to sit with a group of boys and girls. Some were familiar, a few had been in some of my classes, others I had never seen. They welcomed me in as if I weren’t even the new kid. Acceptance felt good. After little time passed I formed some friendships, which I was happy about.

A day came unexpectedly to me, as I passed by my new friend Corey in the hallway; I heard my name being said. At first I didn’t realize that they were talking badly about me, until I heard what was said after my name. Prior to me arriving in Plainview I had never experienced hostilities towards me based on the color of my skin. I never saw myself as being different from anyone else, the pigment of my skin never stuck me as odd. Having a dark complication to me is a gift, I love being tan all year round, but this difference caused cruel judgment from these people who I thought were my friends. This stage in my life brought about so much confusion because I had never encountered this type of criticism before. As I passed Corey and his group of friends, I heard them making comments about me calling me “Indian, Muslim, Osama bin laden’s Daughter”. This startled me because I wasn’t even anywhere close to being those nationalities, these words completely didn’t represent who I am. I started questioning myself; do all people see me this way? Am I an outsider? As days passed, the jokes and comments continued. I never showed on the outside how much it hurt. But each time a new name was formed for me it was like I was being burned alive only the pain wasn’t felt or shown on the outside, it was as if my insides were ash from the remains of the pain I felt.

Looking back on this experience I forgive Corey and my other friends, the environment that we were all living in at this time was so uncertain and terrifying that what they did was a defense mechanism, it was their way of coping with such a horrible event at such a young age. The media and news was swarmed with all this information that I remember barely even understanding. At this time the word “terrorist” didn’t even have meaning to me. Our nation was effected so much that it formed fear and ignorance in people, even as young as 5th graders. My dark complication caused my friends to look at me differently because of what was going on in the world around them.

Therefore I believe that people become easily influenced by the world around them. This cruel judgment that I faced was due to the tragic events of September 11th. Before this event occurred I had never been faced with discrimination, but due to the surroundings of this time caused my new group of friends to look at me differently. For months after this event, I still faced judgment due to my appearance from this group of people, but now today this group of people are my best friends. As media updates about this event started to die down and I eventually started to get to know this group of people, I realized how fear can cause people as young as 10 years old to judge others based on what they hear and see in the environment around them.