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I never thought I’d be in prison by age sixteen. I’m not a troublemaker. I actually avoid trouble at all costs, to set the right example for my little sister, Fern.
I have black hair and green eyes, which, apparently, according to the majority of the nation, are bad things. I’ve dyed my hair and colored my eyes my entire life in order to stay out of society’s radar. I’ve stayed in my proper place and been a good little boy and listened to what all my elders had to say.
Some part of me knew, for a long time, that it was all wrong. That discriminating against someone for their hair/eye color combination was just plain stupid. I mean, there are all kinds of people in this world. We’ve got light-skinned people, dark-skinned people, men, and women. We’ve got men who like men, and women who like women. But none of that matters, because there is no history attached to it, because there was nothing for all those ignorant bigots to latch onto, nothing to justify discriminating toward those groups of people. I’m not saying they should be discriminated against. I’m against all types of prejudice. I just don’t see why they aren’t, and we are. And I just don’t see why humans feel the need to oppress and hate other humans, just because they look different.
Their reasoning is stupid. The Aryan bigots who don’t approve of Attras in society, I mean. They claim dark-haired, light-eyed individuals are all witches or warlocks, or a part of the Illuminati because that was the case historically. Their theory is wrong because, for one, magic doesn’t exist, and I’m not even sure what the Illuminati are. Secondly, the fact that I was born with dark hair and light eyes has nothing to do with whether or not there were so-called “witches” in my ancestry. Thirdly, their theory completely excludes those with dark hair and dark eyes as somewhere in between “good” and “evil” depending on exactly how light the hair is, and how dark the eyes are. I’m not sure they even understand their reasoning, themselves.
“Don’t forget to re-dye your hair, Andrew. Don’t forget to put your contacts in, Andrew.” That’s all Dad ever says to me. He’s obsessed with fitting in, with making sure we all fit in, because my mom was killed for not fitting in. She was the one who cursed Fern and I with our naturally black hair, with our light eyes. My dad’s hair is blonde. His eyes are brown. He has never had a problem, and he has no idea. He has no idea how hard it is to pretend like I’m blonde, to pretend like my eyes are dark, to pretend like I’m someone I’m not.
I had my epiphany at a random moment in school. I went to an all Aryan school called Tritus Aryan Academy before they sent me to prison. I was in history class one day, listening to the blonde teacher lecture the class about the history of Attras in society. She kept making snide remarks about how we’re still on the loose, about how it remains ambiguous whether or not we’re all evil, and the students all shouted comments about how Attras might blow up the school one day, and the teacher only laughed at what they said.
Enough was enough. I said to myself, screw higher education. I’m not actually like these bigoted morons, I’m tired of standing by and being discriminated against, and I don’t want anything to do with them. What kind of message am I really sending to Fern by attending an Aryan academy and pretending to be one of them just to make things easier for myself?
So I stood up, and revealed to the class that I, Andrew Smith, am an Attra, that my hair isn’t actually blonde, that my eyes aren’t brown, and that the country should be more accepting of us. Needless to say, I was expelled from the school. So I decided to go out with a bang. It was unlike me, but in the moment it made sense. Before I went home that day, I set fire to the wooden sign outside the academy using one of the Aryan stoner’s lighters that I’d found on top of a locker. I watched it burn, and it felt good, and I felt fulfilled.
Now I’m staring up at the ceiling of my prison cell, but I wouldn’t take any of it back if I had the chance. The image of the words “Tritus Aryan Academy” going up in flames is stuck like a poster in my head, and I like it there. It’s all I have to latch on to. It’s all I have to remind myself that even though I’m in prison, I’ve retaliated against true evil, and I have a reason to feel proud of myself.
I may never get out of here. I may rot in a cell until humankind changes, which will be eternity, for sure. But even if my new life is here, at least I’m with people who know. Most of the inmates of the Tritus County Prison are Attras who were thrown in for no reason. So they know. And they probably won’t be like my Dad. They’ll probably wish for equality, and have a hunger for change. Better to live around these folks than the idiots at my old school.
Hopefully Fern got the message, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way she is. She’s a beautiful twelve-year-old girl, and the fact that her hair is dark and her eyes are light only adds to that beauty. I worry that Dad won’t give her the right message. I can’t trust him to let her know that the only reason I got expelled and went to prison was because I was fighting for equality. I’m not one hundred percent sure he understands the concept. He’s content absorbing whatever society throws at him and playing by all the rules because it keeps him safe.
I slide off my mattress and walk across my cell. Staring at my black hair and sea green eyes in the small rectangular mirror on the stone wall brings a smile to my lips. Because I’m proud of myself, and I am proud of my hair, and of my eyes, because this is who I was meant to me. This is how I was made.
This is me.