being black

a storytime about when i was literally called a “fucking nigger” by some privileged girl in highschool.


highschool is a time capsule. the things you say and do are stored by everyone. each person you study with, eat with in the cafeteria, have a crush on, save a seat for, skip band practice with, and cheat off of. the good things are hi-lighted in yearbooks and remembered at 10 year reunions.
“wow jenny, you look great!”
the bad things are spread in rumors and create scars deeper than the ones on your wrist, lasting a lifetime.
“wow jenny, you hanging in there?”

careful.

it felt crowded in the cafeteria that day. my friends and i decided to sit somewhere else instead of our usual spot right by the doors. a bold choice, but whatever.
“no such thing as assigned seats in the cafeteria.”
the tables were lined with those hard plastic chairs with the skinny metal legs. they were red. red musical chairs. the sound of metal scraping the linoleum every three seconds from students coming and going from the long lunch line. we were surrounded by a sea of hungry teenagers yapping about whatever it was highschoolers yap about.
i forget what they were serving that day. bosco sticks were my favorite though, so was the pizza.
we chose the least crowded table we could find in the middle of the cafeteria. empty red chairs surrounded us.

i liked having some space.

space separated me from the crowd.

the color of my skin separated me from everyone else.

i didn’t mind being the “token black”. i didn’t think much of it. i didn’t have to. i was a product of private schools, summer camps, dance lessons, happily married parents, everything on christmas lists, church every sunday, girlscouts, no arguments at home, no abuse, no alcohol, an easy upbringing.
“privileged”

i had just finished eating when i felt something nudge the back of my chair. i turned around and looked up to find this girl glaring down at me with an attitude she found somewhere. she was blonde. blonde hair. blonde skin. wearing a lilac polo embroidered with our school logo.
“you’re gonna have to move”
i didn’t say anything.
“MOVE”
i just looked at her.
..”no…”
“move, you’re in our spot.”
by now, her friends had joined her and my friends had overheard. mine chimed in something about them using the extra empty seats. hers said something about always sitting there.

“Move”, ” No”, “MOVE!”, “NOT A CHANCE!”
good guys against bad guys.

i started to feel people staring. i never really noticed people staring before.
the bad guys were getting nowhere and they knew it. the blonde girl looked at me again, rolled her eyes and said clear as day:

“move, you fucking nigger

i heard nothing else after that. i looked at my friends and they looked back at me. eyes wide. mouth open. shocked like they had seen a ghost.
silence.
they didn’t know what to say. i didn’t know what to say. no one knew what to say. why didn’t anyone know what to say? i felt isolated, alone, angry, embarrassed, confused. i did nothing…wrong..?

i grabbed my things and left. feeling numb.
“how could she say that?
“why didn’t i do something?”
“why didn’t my friends do something?”

moments go by and i found myself in the principals office with one of my friends. she’s upset. almost more upset than i was. we explained what happened and we were told it would be taken care of.

she got a detention.

hey jenny,
wow jenny, you still hanging in there?

X

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