I Sat with Nikki This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 10, 2011
Over the years, one thought has haunted me: Why was I thought of as a sell-out? A few years ago, I was a new student at another high school. I made it my duty to observe my surroundings and the people to see where I could fit into this ecosystem. Immediately, I noticed something peculiar. I realized how segregated it was. During lunch, the tables were either predominantly white or black. Nothing like this occurred at my previous school. Everyone mingled. But when I sat with a white student during lunch, the defamation of my character began. My choice of whom I sat with affected the black population. The appellation they gave me was a “sell-out.” The more I thought about the black students’ reaction, the more it affected me. This was all because I sat with Nikki.

Nikki and I were both new. We were in the same grade, we had a class together, and met at orientation. Nikki was very nice and we immediately became good friends. I realized we shared the same values. The only problem was that Nikki was white and I was black. This was a taboo with the black population. They taunted me. No black person talked to me. People would stare and tell me that I did not know where I came from. When they heard the argot-type lingo absent from my speech, they ignored me – all because I sat with Nikki.

I experienced animosity from the black students. It happened many times that year. Once there was a group of students standing outside school. The area found a way to segregate itself, once again. The whites were on one side and the blacks on the other. Nikki was sitting on the “white side” where she always sat, not to segregate, but because of the ledge that she found comfortable. She waited for her step-father to take us home. As I approached the double-doors, there was a group of black students. I summoned courage to go over to my white friend and kept on saying to myself, I do not care. I am going to do what I want to do. It relieved me not to hear gasps or see stares. Instead, I heard clapping hands as they continued playing their game. However, I realized later, the situation had yet to reach its climax. The conversation turned to chocolate. They talked about white chocolate, and how white chocolate was still black. Another incident happened when I entered the lunch room. Three guys said, “There goes an Oreo – black on the outside but white on the inside.” I mustered up all my courage not to cry. All this happened because I sat with Nikki.

One might ask if I tried to socialize with the black students. Yes, but only resistance greeted me. First I tried talking to them in my classes where there was a maximum of two black kids in a class of 25. They did not address me. However, one day I did happen to talk to one black girl because the teacher paired us together. She invited me to sit with her and her friends during lunch. She said she hated seeing me sit with “them.” They all looked at me as if I was from another planet. Their facial expressions said, “So, and who asked you?” When my friend came and sat down, one of the girls derided me by saying “Angie, this is Micaela,” in the same tone that I introduced myself. Her other friends giggled. They said nothing to me the entire lunch period while I tried to engage them in conversation. However, from their response it was obvious that my input did not interest them. This all happened because I sat with a white girl named Nikki.

I do not understand. A person would never believe that I experienced this today, not 1963. The media inundates us with materials urging us to take steps toward equality and to promote racial harmony. Am I the only one who listens? Did the train pass every black person at this school? Why are we going backwards? Did Martin Luther King and Malcolm X die for things to go back to the way it used to be, or worse? This is not 1963 when the prejudice occurs from the opposite side of the spectrum, but, today, when the prejudice comes from your own people. They did not even know me! I do not understand. They made me an outsider because I sat with Nikki.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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