“Five years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the emancipation proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon of light of hope to millions of negro slaves...” My mother said, lowering her voice, and finally stopping. She looked away from the notepad that read-- Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech. I was fast asleep. My mother kissed my forehead and got up from her chair. She looked back at me and shook her head. Then she frowned. She opened the door, and closed it, quietly, in an attempt to not wake me up.
“The bills. Have you paid them?” My mother said faintly. I mumbled.
“Mom?” I said quietly, mumbling. I wasn’t aware she left. I didn’t want her to know I woke up. I quietly tip-toed over to the door, and pressed my ear against the hardwood.
“We can’t. We’re in debt. My job, they’re treating me like a peasant. And the worst thing, they barely pay me. We’re not going to make it!” My dad said, sighing a whole bunch.
“How much are they paying?” My mother said, “I’m sure we can work SOMETHING out!”
“1,000. A year. We are 20,000 dollars in debt. Isabella’s school money is hard to pay, and the fee is coming soon. We’re going to have to sell our house” My dad said, with a huge sigh at the end.
“No, no! There has to be something else. Where are we going to live??” My mom said, crying.
I rushed down the stairs. The wood planks made long creaks. I put my hands on my face and walked towards them.
“Oh honey, you woke up?” My mom said, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand. She got up and walked over to me. I frowned.
“We have to sell our house?” I asked, whimpering. Everything was silent for a second.
“Um. We don’t… we don’t know. Honey, please just go to sleep” My mom said, almost shoving me up the stairs.
“MOM!!! How can I sleep knowing that we might be homeless soon?! The kids at school already make fun of me enough” I said, stopping her from moving me.
“Nia, you didn’t tell us about kids at school making fun of you! What happened, why?” My dad said, putting stacks of paper next to himself.
“They make fun of me because I have darker skin. What’s wrong with it anyways??” I told my parents, covering my eyes.
“Don’t- don’t mind them” My mom said, taking my hand off my eye, and holding it.
“Why did you put me in a school full of white kids! Even the teachers are mean to me!!!! I HATE SCHOOL!!!” I shouted, bursting.
“There are no schools for black kids, Nia” My dad said, getting up.
“I know! Why do I have black skin anyways??”
“It's just that our melanin and carotene levels are different from the others” My dad said, coming closer to me.
“But then why is everyone there mean to me???” I asked, shaking my mom’s hand off.
“They’re just not used to us. Go to sleep, Nia” my dad said, walking back to his chair. He sat down, as the wood planks creaked again. He grabbed the stacks of paper. I angrily stomped upstairs. I didn’t like that people were mean to me and nice to the other kids. I’m not that different. Its just that my skin is darker. Why do people hate me so much because of it? I fell asleep in my cozy bed wondering about it. Wondering if my house is going to be gone soon. I hope not.
I woke up for school, knowing today was another day for bullying. The kids at school are so mean. I wish I was homeschooled. It would be so much better. I skipped around my house happily, knowing I wouldn’t be happy at the end of the day. My parents fell asleep on the couch, I guess they were working all night. I jogged over to all the papers. They were writing letters. I picked one up.
I know that you are my sister, and that you shouldn’t have to help me pay off debt, but I am your brother and I need it. Isabella’s school fees are as much as my whole house is, which I find very expensive. Please mail 20,000 to me as soon as possible, I am in desperate need of it.
Your brother, Andrew”
Wow. The thing was, my father never contacted his sister. It was mostly because they got into an enormous fight, and now they don’t talk. I pushed my hood up, because I knew people were going to gawk at me the moment I walked outside. What was it they didn’t like about me?
Was it my braids?
Was it my clothes?
Was it my plastic bracelet?
I think I know. It was my skin. My dark skin. It was almost black, but it had shine. It was pretty. At least in my eyes. I continued to walk to school. I kept my hood pulled up, because if it fell down, there would be swarms of people crowding me acting like I’m an alien. I stared at the sign of my school, getting closer and closer. Cold shivers went down my back as I walked around the bushes and down the sidewalk. My feet started getting cold, and felt like spaghetti. I closed my eyes for a moment and opened them again. I continued walking. I opened the door, and walked in.
“Hoods down in the school!” The janitor shouted behind me, after I walked in for a few moments.
“Take your hood down please!” The janitor shouted again. They couldn’t see that I was black! If they knew I would be treated unfairly, even if they’re the janitor! I started walking faster.
“TAKE YOUR HOOD DOWN!” The janitor said, starting to rush over to me. I quickly walked down the hall. I submerged through the crowd. I saw many black people like me, getting bullied in the middle of the crowds. People were watching helplessly, they didn’t know what to do. They couldn’t do anything.
I continued to rush down the hall, but it might’ve been too late. The janitor broke through the crowd and snatched my hand tightly.
“Oh you trouble maker! I could tell it was you from the back! You’re not attending class, go to the principal's office, now!” The janitor said. That’s when I noticed my hood fell off while I was rushing around the long halls. I nodded my head, looking down. He dragged me through the crowd and pulled me to the principal's office.
“Oh you’re in big trouble” he said, tossing the door open.
“I found this rat running around in the halls with her hood on!” The janitor said, walking closer to the desk.
“Is that so?” The principal said, putting down stacks of his paper. He put his hand on his chin, and looked at me.
“Yeah, we should punish her!” The janitor said, pushing me forward.
“What did we say about giving second chances to everyone here, Alejandro?” The principal said, looking down at a piece of paper. He jotted something down.
“But sir, she’s black. She doesn’t deserve a second chance” The janitor said, looking confused.
Did he really think that? What did my skin have to do with anything? That hit me hard. I wanted to break down on the floor and cry. I’ve been treated so unfairly my whole life. My father is a coward, he doesn’t stand up for me at all. My mother just wished me well. But she’s just like my father, again. She doesn’t stand up for me either. I don’t even know who I’m supposed to look up to.
“Alejandro, I don’t know what you’re doing. It seems like you’re bringing me more children than cleaning. She deserves a second chance. Go” The principal said, motioning his hand for me and the janitor to leave. The janitor, Alejandro sighed. He looked at me, and we both left the room.
“I’m going to watch you. You won’t get away with anything” He said, leaving through the crowd. I shivered.
I didn’t understand anyone like him, didn’t I deserve a second chance? Whats the difference from me and all the other kids? I’m no different. I just can’t understand why he sees me as such a low rank from the other kids.
I was finally at my class, escaping bullies as fast as I could. It was hard, because most of the time they would start chasing me. But after a while they ended up losing me in the slowly growing crowd of students. I swung the door open and walked. I knew I was late, I knew she was going to be mad, but this was my favorite class, nothing was going to ruin this!!
“Nia, come and sit at a desk. At the front. I know you darker skins always make trouble” My english teacher, Mrs. Kyra said. She pointed to the seat right in front of her. Way to get me more embarrassed.
“Now class, what would you like to be when you grow up??” Mrs.Kyra said. I raised my hand immediately. She shot an annoyed look at me, and then she looked away.
“Anyone?” She asked the class. No one raised their hand.
“Nia” She said, annoyed.
“I want to be a motivational speaker when I grow up!” I said, with a big smile.
“Hmph, like you’re actually going to talk about anything important” Mrs.Kyra said under her breath.
The rest of class I refrained from raising my hand, because I didn’t want more second hand embarrassment. I sat through the whole school day quietly, crying to myself. Asking the same two questions.
“Why am I like this? Why does it have to be me?”
Over and over again.
Why do I not deserve the same as the white people?
My whole life, do I have to act like I mean nothing? This wasn’t fair! It was finally the end of class though, all of my classes, so I could finally get out.
I speed-walked down the long halls in an attempt to look normal. I couldn’t cover myself with my hood, because if the janitor saw me again it would be over. I walked home as fast as I could, barely being able to sustain my tears inside myself. My life has been like this, unfair, for so many years. Everywhere I go, there seems to be a dark cloud above me because of my skin. I just wanted to be normal.
I walked home, all alone. No friends, no support, nothing. But an about-to-be-sold house.
“Honey” my dad said, looking up at me as I walked through the creaking door. Who was even going to buy our house, at the condition it was at?
I walked over to them.
“How was school” My mother asked, still writing letters.
“What did aunt Janice say?” I asked, not responding. I sat down at a wobbly and old-wooden chair.
“She… she said no. But don’t worry Nia, we still have some other people we can reach out to” My dad said, sighing.
“But honey, that doesn’t matter right now. How was your school today?”
“Well today was a good day for us” my mom said, smiling.
“We got our rights today, my boss finally came around and is giving us 70,000 a year. We’ll be able to fix our house and pay off our debt! Our life is going uphill Nia. Racism is going to stop soon! Never loose hope Nia!!” my dad said, happily. I smiled, knowing that everything was going to be okay.
“I have a vision that all the little white girls and boys will be able to play with all the little black boys and girls.
I have a vision that whatever race we all are, whatever religion we all are, we are united through everything.
I have a vision that we all get up and try again, because after all, we are united. We are together. We are human”