“You will never be white,” she said. “Just because you talk proper and straighten your hair, and you have a good education doesn’t mean that you will ever be more than an ugly black girl.” she continued. I stopped smiling and stood completely still. It was as if her words had cast a spell on me and forced to me to stand there. I didn’t need to turn to see who was talking to me, I already knew who it was. She was tall and pale. She had dirty blonde, shoulder-length hair, that moved when she talked. And now, as she stood in front of me, I could clearly see her face, scrunched up as if she smelled something sour. I watched as she dropped the finger she was waving in my face to her hip. I think she was waiting for something.
Maybe she was waiting to see if I would respond. I wanted to react. I wanted more than anything to tell her how wrong she was for thinking that I wanted to be anything more than who I was. I was confused, angry, and offended. I was confused as to why this grown woman was yelling at me in the middle of the hall. The confusion only intensified when I tried focusing on what triggered her to say this right now. I stood there for what felt like forever. I could feel a lump forming in my throat, the kind that comes right when you’re about to start sobbing. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes but I refused to let this teacher see that her words had hurt me. I opened my mouth to say something and then turned to walk away.
I know you’re probably wondering why I didn’t put my “good education” to good use and tell her off. Trust me, I thought about it. And, as much as her words hurt me I knew that if I had tried to stick up for myself, it would inevitably lead to me being called aggressive. It was better for me to just walk away and not say anything.
My mom always tells me “Pick your battles.” Which usually means, you’re completely right in how you feel but not every action needs a response. As I was walking to the car to leave with my mom that’s all I kept thinking. “Pick your battles.” I opened the car door and got in. My mom started off with her usual ” Hey noodle, How was your day?” I told her it was amazing, and I skipped the part where I was insulted by a teacher in the middle of the hall. I didn’t want my mother to try to handle this situation, not this time. I turned on the radio, to flood my thoughts with something else.
Five commercials later, I could hear the beginning lyrics of a new song. The voice danced out of the radio and found me. It’s a beautiful day. The singer was someone who I was unfamiliar with. My mom had been telling me since I had entered middle school last year that I should check out this artist. India arie, I think was her name. Right now at this moment, listening to this song I wished I had listened and checked her out sooner. For the rest of the week the same song played on the radio at least twice a day. On friday, India Arie appeared on the news to talk about her album, and then she performed the same song I had been hearing all week long.
On Saturday, I begged my mom to take me to the store so she could buy me the album, Testimony Vol. II: Love and Politics. I knew that if this one song I listened to made me want to wake up in the morning, and block out all the negativity in my life, then the album would change my entire life for the better.
By Sunday, I knew all the words to every song on the album. The album spoke to me in ways other music didn’t. The album made me fall in love with who I am and who I was starting to become. Listening to the album brought me to tears. I cried because when I looked in the mirror I saw the beauty in my skin color. When I looked in the mirror I wasn’t ashamed to bear the hardships that came with being black. She lives a life she did not choose. That one sentence speaks volumes. I did not choose my skin color, and I did not ask for anyone’s acceptance of me. I realize that I don’t fit into any stereotypical thoughts of how a black child should act, but that is what makes me who I am. As I remembered the day that I was offended in the hall at school I was no longer angry. I was no longer offended, but I was encouraged. I felt encouraged to continue to be who my mother was raising me to be.
On Monday, on my way to school I listened to “A Beautiful Day”. I went through the day bouncing, it was like my eyes had opened and I was seeing the world through new eyes. When it was time to go home, I saw her. I saw the teacher who offended me in the hall just last week. She still wore that same sour faced look she had when she talked to me. I walked right up to her, even though I knew she couldn’t stand me, and I spoke. When I spoke to her I was genuine, and I knew in my heart I had forgiven her for her ignorance. As I was speaking to her, I could see that she was confused. I knew she had to be, because of all the really hateful things she had said to me. As the week continued I still spoke to her as if nothing happened. I still kept a smile on my face regardless of how my day went because it’s still a beautiful day.
As I look back I never really thought about the significance of listening to that album. I had never thought about how encouraging it was to hear India Arie warm my heart to the icy attitudes I dealt with everyday in school. Still to this day I listen to the album religiously, nodding my head and dancing in approval. It still encourages me to push on even though I deal with all types of different personalities, and backgrounds. It still encourages me to be who I was raised to be, and who I will eventually become.