Black Excellence. This idea has been beat into my head since I can remember. My dad served in the military while working towards his PhD, being the first in his family to go to college. My mom, and her love for the arts, decided to go to college for English and later get her masters degree in higher education. My parents instilled in me a love for education. They taught me to love one another and to be kind. Being the naive child I was, I believed that everyone was taught the same. I was in a bubble. My own little bubble of kindness. I was wearing rose colored glasses in a world of red flags. Unfortunately, I was very wrong in this way of thinking. For a year and a half, my family lived in Fayetteville Arkansas. To be completely honest, and I say this with complete certainty, Arkansas was NOT the place for my family and I. My dad had just graduated, and was offered an associate teaching position at the University of Arkansas. So we all packed up and moved. I was very young and don't remember much, all I know is that we moved there, and then quickly left.
The N-word was something that I had only heard in movies, movies that I wasn't allowed to watch. I read the N-word in history textbook once when I was 8, I didn't know what it meant. But I was 8, and didn't know a lot of what things meant. When I was 11 a boy who I won’t name told me that I was a stupid N-word. No context whatsoever, no other words were said. He just came up to me, and called me a stupid N-word. Whether or not he used a hard r is completely irrelevant, he said it. As stupid as it may sound, I genuinely did not know racist people existed. At this point, I knew what the word meant, but not necessarily how serious it was to use, I just knew it as a bad word. This boy continued to call me the N-word in person and over social media for over 6 months. It took me that long to tell my mom, not because I was afraid to, but because I thought it was just me being picked on. My mom asked what the boy's name was and then walked away. She called my school and asked that I be switched out of the class the boy was in. Later that night I heard her cry alone in her room.
My parents recently sold our old house in Arkansas and we had a party to celebrate. That's how much we hated Arkansas. I asked my mom why we left so fast and what made her hate it so much. She told me that it just wasn't the place for her. I begged and begged her to tell me what that meant and she reluctantly agreed to tell me. One day when I was around 5 years old, my parents got an anonymous letter in the mailbox. They opened it and quickly realized it was a death threat. The letter read, “I will hang you all, you fucking monkeys” She immediatley starting crying. I was completely shocked. How could someone say something so disgusting? And how could someone mean it?
For as long as I can remember, I have been very conflicted on whether or not I should have been told this information sooner. I went through a lot of my life not knowing what racism was and not fullying understanding it when it would happen to me. Things like being called dirty in 5th grade, having the beads pulled out of my hair when I was 9, or even being called the N-word. A part of me misses that innocence. But, my eyes were closed then. My bubble of innocence was still intact. When I was 14, I read an article on Teen Vogue of all places about a scandal at Saline High School. A group of football players had a groupchat in which they targeted specific Black students at Saline. They sent very racist and disturbing messages saying things like “The South Will Rise Again” and “White power!” News began to spread and almost everyone I knew was talking about it. The one thing I kept hearing was “I can’t believe this happened here!” Nothing enrages me more than that sentence. Things like that happen all the time. I can say with almost 100% certainty that if you ask every Black person in this city over the age of 8, if they have experienced racism here, they will say yes. Please, I am begging you all to open your eyes. Open your eyes to the microaggressions you inflict upon people of color everyday. Open your eyes to how segregated this school is. Open your eyes. Look around you. Bursting your bubble helps you not only advocate for others but advocate for yourself. Open your eyes, and burst your bubble.