High school is really hard, and when you’re in it… you feel like there’s no way out. Growing up in Chesapeake, VA and going to Hickory High is no different, but there were things said that were laced in a tone that was different than just your average bullying. There were things said that were just very racist and today I’m here to talk about that and how important it is to normalize growing.
I remember my time at Hickory. I remember the fun, the laughter, the good times, but I also remember the bad. I remember hearing “jokes” about the “south rising again.” I remember hearing my black classmates get in trouble for fighting with white kids for saying the “n”word or for saying they would “lynch us all at homecoming” and yet seeing nothing happen to my white counterparts who stated those remarks. I often was one of two in honors/AP classes. I remember being told I was “too black or too white.” I remember being told that “I wouldn’t get lynched at homecoming because I was a good one.” (Which still makes me cringe to this day). I remember being told that “my parents only voted for Obama for because he was black.” I remember it all and I remember the trauma of high school and that deep pain of not being able to talk fully about what I was experiencing because I did not know what it was. I knew it was racist, but when the world around me held no one accountable for those acts of racism…. It began to feel like it was just me, just us. It didn’t quite seem like the racism we learned about in the history books, but they were joking about it, they were joking us… but who could we turn to? Who could we tell? We were constantly made to feel like “it was just words.”
The perfect gaslighting tactic.
Fast forward to yesterday, a classmate I was close to until midways through high school reached out to me to apologize for remarks she made and to also acknowledge how proud she is of me for continuing to “kill it.” To say that I cried deep tears would be an understatement because it validated years worth of what I already knew, but it brought me back to high school and to the kid, back then, t
hat simply thought “it was something wrong with me. And wondered why they don’t like me.” I appreciated her reaching out to me yesterday. I appreciate her growth. I appreciate her starting the conversation and that we were able to talk about it. But also, it made me realize that maybe I’m doing something right. Posting each and everyday can be exhausting but yesterday made me feel like maybe those post aren’t for nothing. My voice is being heard. And most of all, it made me really proud of the kid I was in high school for not allowing myself to shrink into less in the midst of perhaps one of the darkest periods of my life. And most of all, I’m glad that I’m finally being seen.
I share this all to say… normalize growth. Normalize accountability. If you feel you’ve changed and know there are things you’ve done in the past that aren’t reflective of the person you are today… apologize and acknowledge it. And to my classmate that reached out to me, again, I say thank you.