I usually don't speak out about racism. For several reasons, I never want to offend someone and I never want to seem like a victim. But experiences help people; maybe that person is yourself or maybe it is someone else.
I grew up in a suburban area that lacked diversity in race, religion and culture. Every school break we traveled, and it was in these fleeting moments I never felt out of place. I got to experience different cultures while growing up but nothing compared to coming to college.
Looking back, I think it was because when I shared stories people questioned the actions chosen. They questioned the integrity, asked me how I felt. I never did that; I never asked but always accepted. There is true power in education.
The school district I attended had a talent for making issues like bullying and harassment as a result of racism problems that should be swept under the rug. They were made to seem meaningless, like the kids who got faced with oppression somehow asked for it. There are several experiences I had that were rooted in racism but instead of writing them all, I wrote my most memorable three.
I was terrified of going to school, crying and kicking to my mom each day getting on the bus and getting off of it. A group of kids had been tormenting me on a daily basis. I learned by myself, played by myself and stayed to myself. One day, a classmate approached me at my desk. If I try, I can still feel the fear that raced through my body. She took my crayons and dumped them on my desk, put all the colors to one side then the brown and black crayons to the other. She looked at me and spoke, "This is us and this is you, and that's the way it will always be." I went to the teacher telling on her, and my mom called the school. They said, "Ms. Tusing, the teacher did not hear that statement therefore we cannot take your daughters word as an accurate account." I transferred schools a year later because the bullying started affecting my ability to learn; those girls went without punishment. I was five.
I was now a straight-A student who was in advanced classes and a couple organizations through the school. But my apartment complex had students with behavioral issues, causing our bus to be known as the “bad students bus.” I missed the morning bus to go to the dentist, which was always great because the other kids’ behavior was truly awful. Later in the day, I came back during lunch, and I found out an incident happened on the bus that morning. Each student was going to be called into the office, although mine and other black students’ names were at the top of the list. The administration asked me why I was choosing to misbehave this morning by throwing food and jumping over seats. I responded that I was not on the bus that morning, and if they looked they could see my excused absence. They responded, "Lying isn't appropriate, Ms. Tusing.” My mother taught me that year to not say another word to the administration or a police officer when you are called a liar. "You don't speak until you have representation," she would say. When I told them this, they put me on a “watch list” and said they would be monitoring me for the rest of the year. I was not even on the bus.
There are a few teachers you just remember. My German teacher was one of them. A kid told me, while sitting in class, "You should shut up because you’re lucky you even have rights and that you shouldn't even have them." I went directly to the principal who looked at me and said, "Well it is unfortunate, but what would you like me to do?" I was baffled. The principal made my teacher aware of the situation. He was more outraged than our principal, and when he spoke to me after class it was the first timeI thought one of my teachers was on my side. When the student was moved to the other side of the class, isolated from the rest of us, he was upset, which resulted to him calling me the n-word in the hallway. I reported it to the principal again, so sure that thistime it would be taken serious. The principal looked at me and said, "I don't know what you expect here, Kylie. Because see, all you black folk say that word to each other, so how is it wrong if he says it to you?" The student continued calling me the n-word every day.
Administrators were supposed to protect me from an unsafe school environment; yet, they contributed to it. Racism is not dead, it is alive and can be found in the hands of people who hold power. I think for all the encounters, I should have stood up for myself, and I cringe out of regret.
How many kids have to go through exactlywhat I did because I refused to stand up and say it was wrong? We have come to a moment in society that standing in silence is choosing the oppressor. One day, I hope to live in a country where people will look at me for me. But right now the color of my skin still holds more significance in this country than the content of my character.