Whether it was in high school when these girls made a fake Instagram page about me – to college where I ultimately just trusted the wrong people, lost respect for those who chose to change others views of me, and were smiling in my face one minute and saying reckless things the next, thank you.
Truly, I mean this, thank you. And if you’re reading this and get a sense of heat that comes over your body, maybe that you feel guilty. I am not asking for you to feel this way. This isn’t meant to be sarcastic nor facetious. It is because of you and the support I got along the way, that I am where I am today.
It is because of the girl in elementary school who called me names, yelled about how the darkness I wear on my skin was everything but gorgeous, and made fun of how I look at recess that I choose to make it my mission to ensure brown/black people feel beautiful (I do this loudly).
It is because of the girls in middle school who used to exclude me from their conversations and ignore what I had to say because I wasn’t “pretty enough” that I demand my voice to be heard as well as many other marginalized groups in our nation (I do this loudly).
It is because of the boys in high school who played lacrosse, basketball, football, and etc.. who indirectly almost always made me feel less than, that I directly tell girls growing up that the approval of boys is not of their concern during this time in their lives. It is okay if you are not dating or if you do not have a partner. You are in this time to create and discover who you are, to pass your tests, to turn in your homework, and to make it to high school (I do this loudly).
It is because of the girls in high school who told me I looked like a troll (and the boy who laughed about agreeing with it), made fun of my body type which led me to questioning my eating habits, attacked my way of speaking, slandered my name when I wasn’t present, and told me I would not amount to anything that I tell those around me to have a thick skin- but understand that it is okay to talk to someone. It is okay to be vulnerable to someone. It is okay to cry. Therapy, self-reflection, a chance to forgive those who have put shackles around your wrists of confidence, tied you to your insecurities, and lit a fire underneath your chance to even smile at yourself in the mirror and convince yourself that what they are saying is not true… is necessary. Do not forgive those people for them, you owe them nothing. Forgive those people for you.
It is because of the girls in college who made me feel as though “Black” was a bad word, the girl who made me feel like I wasn’t pretty enough to be introduced to all of her friends, the boys in college who tried to define me as just a body, the boy in college who told others that I just “get everything,” unknowing of the times I had to find a way to make sure I could eat dinner on most nights, carry my emotional stability on my back, and try not to unfold at the wreckage that alcoholism, separation, addiction, and DCF had created. If I got everything, I would have had a childhood.
It’s because of these experiences, these words people shamelessly toss around whether it was cause of anger, hurt, jealousy, or you just did not like me, that I fight for those who endure(d) the same things I did. It is why I choose to work with students to make sure that they know their past does not control their future. That the mistakes they made, the people who hurt them, the wrong people they let into their lives, the harsh words said to them or about them, the humanity people would strip them of day in and day out, will not conquer them.
Granted, I own up to things I have done in my past. Hurt people, hurt people. Please read that again. Hurt people, hurt people. Once I had heard that, once I really understood that, and once I had realized I had lived that—it only put things into perspective for me.
Being in a marginalized community, you already have society trying to convince you that you do not belong and maybe that is why it hurts more when those close to you try to do the same. In my opinion, forgiveness is the hardest thing to accomplish. Once you do, it is like you can finally exhale and move forward. Sometimes you have to hurt to get to the next part of your life plan. You have to forgive, you have to move forward, and at the end of the day, you are going to have to fight. And unlike those who chose to tear people down to get to where they are…you will be stronger. And I will be your biggest fan.