As a child growing up in Jamaica, I had never felt uncomfortable with my race. There were people of many different ethnicities who spoke different languages and practiced different traditions. Perhaps I was unaware of the prejudice, but to me my life was comfortable and free of scrutiny. That all changed at the age of ten when I was thrown into a new world full of scornful eyes, unyielding questions, and crude comments. This world was the United States.
On my first day of school in the U.S., I remember feeling very excited about all the new things I would experience that day. During class no one really spoke to me, and I couldn’t shake the self-conscious feelings that were increasing with the whispers around me. Finally, one of the girls in my class approached me, and after we exchanged introductions she asked me one of the strangest questions I had ever heard at that point in my life, “What are you?” Of course being oblivious to the answer she was searching for, I responded with “A girl.” My response was amusing to some of the other students, and as the laughter subsided an unfamiliar voice chimed in, “I told you she’s a nigger.” Until that day I had never heard anyone use that word before, but I knew immediately that it was not a term to be used in everyday conversation.
Looking back on that day, I wish I still possessed the same kind of naivety that I had in my childhood. Unfortunately, as I grew older that innocence was lost in a world full of ugly truths and two faced acquaintances. Now at 17 years old I see the world in a whole new light. I am well aware of the prejudices that exist, and I have learned to ignore the malicious comments that people make about my race. The one thing I have yet to solve is the reasoning behind the prejudice. Why are some people unwilling to accept differences? The world is full of colors: various shades of blues, browns, greens, and yellows—all of which are appreciated and admired. Why can’t people be accepted in a variety of colors as well? Certainly there is no one answer, but I believe people should make an extra effort to look beyond appearances. Internally, I am like any other person on this earth, so why should I be ostracized by any one group of people? People are not like dogs of different breeds or pedigree. There is no superior race. However, some people are too stubborn to rise above their ignorance, and instead continue to treat others imperiously. In spite of this unwarranted treatment, I feel that is vital to forgive these actions in order to avoid conflict. These days, whenever I am asked that all too familiar question, “What are you?” my response is always the same, “Human.”
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