It Doesn’t Come Naturally This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 10, 2011
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. hoped this idea would have a great impact on us. I had this dream, too, but one day it was dampened by the insulting words of a young boy.

The April breeze swept across my face on this cool, sunny day as I stood on the baseball field waiting for my brother. I stood there as the wind blew tiny dirt particles in my eyes, with the smell of freshly cut grass carried by the whistling wind. It was his eleventh birthday, and my family was picking him up from practice to take him out to eat. They sat in the car while I went to get him on the field. Most of the team had gone; there were only two kids left. I walked up the hill to the parking lot to tell my parents he was coming. A couple of minutes later we saw his tall, dark frame coming up the hill. He was covered in dirt with his cleats stained with mud and sand.

My mother asked, “How was practice?” as she handed him his ice cold water bottle.

He looked at his feet and then back at the family, and said, “it was all right, but I got in a fight.”

As with all mothers, panic flushed over her face and a twinge of fear ran in my heart.

“What happened?” my parents asked in unison.

“Oh, I got in a fight with some kid who was talking junk to me,” he said as he rolled his eyes trying to keep the tears from coming. “He always bothers everyone.”

I could tell he was not telling us something. The coach came to the car, and shook our hands with his chubby, pink fingers. He said a kid named Matt had called him a racial slur, and my brother had knocked him to the ground. The coach told us not to be too upset, he would handle it. He left and then all eyes stared at my brother.

At this point, he was upset and we asked what Matt said.

“He called me a n-----.”

Our faces dropped and I felt like I had been stabbed in the heart. He kept speaking, but soon as he said that word it was as if I were removed from my body and I couldn’t hear what people were saying. The word kept appearing in my mind, you n----- … you n-----. I couldn’t think; I was mad, upset and scared all at once. This wasn’t the only time someone in my family was called that name. I kept asking myself why, but could not find an answer.

Everyone was upset. Today my brother was supposed to be happy. It was his birthday; this wasn’t supposed to happen. We moved here to get a good education, we didn’t think we had to go through this in the process.

A few long April days passed, but the anger held on. One day we went to his game. It was a beautiful, cool starry evening, but the thought of Matt ruined my peaceful thoughts. I got a good look at him that night. He was very small, about 4 feet, 3 inches. He had crystal blue eyes, and his hair was the color of brown autumn leaves. He walked very slowly with his short, lean legs. He looked harmless, but looks can be deceiving. I kept thinking of him as I walked toward the concession stand where I smelled of freshly baked pizza and sauerkraut. The fourth inning was over and I could hear the baseballs hitting against the metal and wooden bats while the team practiced for the new inning. I was in line waiting for my pretzel when I saw Matt nearby. He looked at me with fear in his eyes, while I glared with mine lit like fire. We stared at each other as if everyone else had disappeared. I wondered if I should keep walking. I did not want to lose my temper so I walked right past him with my head held high, as I felt a breeze and heard the conversation of the birds behind me. This ignorant child is not going to make me lose my dignity. I did not turn back. I had become a new person. I would forget him; he was not worth my time. He cannot be blamed for his ignorance. His racism is taught.

It doesn’t come naturally.

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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