After almost a decade, we're going there. It's time I finally share my high school experience so that hopefully the next little mixed girl knows she isn't alone, and more importantly -- it's not her fault.
It was always clear that I was different. Being an interracial family in a mostly caucasian town doesn't make it easy to blend in. As much as I tried, I was either too white for the black kids or too black for the white kids. I tried my best to fit in, I really did. I remember trying to code-switch so that I wouldn't intimidate the white kids but wouldn't seem like a sell-out to the black kids. I thought I had it figured out for the most part, but the truth of the matter is I couldn't keep it up. Once I got to Penncrest High School, I thought I could finally be myself. This was the place where everyone was supposed to be able to come into their own and find themselves. Find their people. Create friendships and memories that would last a lifetime...
What a load of sh*t.
I was pretty much screwed from day one and didn't even know it. I was nervous about high school like any other freshman. I grew up on Lizzie McGuire and Degrassi, so I already had this dramatic version of school in mind. Little did I know things were actually about to get that bad.
Volleyball tryouts were in the summer so I was kind of excited to create a little group of friends before school actually started. Some of my friends from the middle school volleyball team were trying out too which made it that much more fun. I managed to be one of the only freshman to make the JV team. Initially I was stoked, but that feeling of accomplishment and glee only lasted so long. Most of my friend's made the freshman team, but I thought that was okay because we would still see each other in the gym. After the teams had been posted, all of my friends stopped talking to me. I was no longer invited to anything, and no one would answer my calls. I would see pictures of them on Facebook all hanging out. It was clear they were making sure I was the only person not included. I had no idea what I had done to cause this, but I kept asking until I finally got a response. Turns out, jealousy really is a b*tch. These girls really stopped being friends with me because one of the girls that had made the freshman volleyball team was so upset that I had done better than her that she couldn't stand to be around me.
ISN'T THAT A B*TCH???? Our whoooooleeeee lives we're taught that being successful is the objective, but when you succeed you're penalized by the people who are supposed to be there to support you and celebrate in your victories. Experiences like this caused me to feel like it was wrong to celebrate my wins. It was wrong to be happy unless everyone else was happy first. It was wrong to be proud of my accomplishments. It was about more than being humble. Self-hate was the norm so I tried my best to never seem to like myself too much from that point forward.
Eventually, I made some new friends. In hindsight I should have known this wasn't going to work out when these girls would say things to be like "I love that I can barely tell you're black!" and "you're pretty for a black girl". Anyways... I thought I had made friends. The only time I ever reaaaallly saw black girls and white girls team up at school was when they came together to push me in the hallways. Once again, I wasn't quite sure what I had done to make these girls so mad, but the reason honestly doesn't even matter. These girls went so far as to attack me AND MY MOTHER on Facebook. 10 years later and you know I wasn't going to come without recepits.
Let the record show that there were or actually two girls attacking me in the original thread, but clearly only one of them had enough sense to delete their comments.
Not only was I being harassed all day at school, eating lunch by myself in the graphic design classroom, and having my parents drive me to school so I could avoid being tortured on the bus -- it was coming home with me now too. The texts were constant. AIM, Facebook, it didn't matter. There was nowhere that I could go to get away from my tormentors. I took these screenshots and more to the school and begged that they do something to make it stop. You want to know what they told me? They said it was my fault that this was happening because one day after months of bullying I finally broke and called one of the girls a b*tch. The administrators at Penncrest High School told me that because I responded ONCE with something negative, the girls were no longer at fault because I pushed them to act that way.
They pretty much angry-black-womaned me before I even knew what that was. In case it wasn't already clear, the girls that were commenting on my Facebook were white. It really makes me wonder if there would have been action had my bullies in this instance been people of color. I guess we'll never know...
To the principal, guidance counselor, athletic director, teachers, and coaches that blamed me for the abuse I was receiving while at Penncrest High School, I just want you to know how disappointed I am in each of you. I was a child reaching out for help, begging for someone to stop the daily harrasment and you looked the other way. Your actions have been extremely detrimental to my development as an adult. You nearly broke me. The girls pushing me in the hallways as I walked to class were one thing. The football team attacking me on Twitter because I broke up with one of their teammates was another. BUT, at the end of the day, these were kids that did these things to me. The fact that ADULTS participated in the racist, sexist, and outright vile behavior that I experienced is inexcusable.
To anyone who wants to say "Penncrest must have just been bad when you were there", I promise you there have always been and continue to be instances that would lead you to believe that this is a place that tolerates racism, sexism, discrimination, and bullying. Throwing a poster on a wall that says "no bullying" isn't enough. Just because such-and-such's mom is on the school board shouldn't mean they get a free pass to push other students to suicidal thoughts.
To my fellow classmates who think I'm referring to them, I don't care what your last name is. I don't care how many of your siblings have come through this school. I don't care how much money you think you have. Aren't you a little bit embarrassed about the way you acted? I mean let's just be frank here. While you get to go on and tell everyone how incredible high school was and how it was the best time of your life, every single memory I have is tainted.
I have been through a lot, and trust me when I say this is only scratching the surface. Typically this is the part where you would expect me to thank all of these people for terrorizing me because it made me ~stronger~ BUT I'M NOT DOING THAT. Let's normalize accountability. Let's normalize talking about the uncomfortable truths of our pasts so that we might learn and truly grow from it. Some of you have done some really, really, incredibly f*cked up things to me. Period. That's just a fact. I hope that you all have a chance to learn from this and become the the advocates and protectors I wish I had when I was younger.