All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
"Scars are souvenirs you never lose, the past is never far. Did you lose yourself somewhere out there?
Did you get to be a star?
And don't it make you sad to know that life,
Is more than who we are…"
I listen to these lyrics all the time on my ipod every time I feel like the world has spun in the opposite direction. Back against the wall, I sit in my bedroom and look out the window that overlooks the backyard fountain and ocotillos surrounding the outside of the textured wall. Music may sooth the troubled heart, but I may never heal the permanent marks on the soul. Slowly, I close my eyes and imagine my soul on the floor of my carpeted bedroom; the illuminating scars coating the surface and bringing back burning memories from the sharp knives that were used to carve them.
One scar in particular cuts a long a jagged line down the middle of the milky whiteness. The yellow light reflects an image I can clearly remember. Taking it in, I peer into the keyhole like structure and watch the event replay itself.
First grade. I can recall moving from my old kindergarten to this mysterious world of other teachers and students. From the start, I was bullied. Not just the children, but the teachers as well. Was I hated? Yes. Why? Who knows. Maybe because I was the new kid who wore the big bow in her hair…or the only Latina in my class.
I had to deal with it. Every scar surrounding the jagged once began to dance with light and pour in the memories of the things such horrible peers did to me: taunt me, make the rumors, shove me around. You know, the usual. I keep my mind focused on the large scar though, my eyes not averting to the small shallow scars.
It was a late afternoon class with Mrs. Devlin, the creative writing and social studies teacher. Today, it was another art project in class.
However, it didn’t seem like every other day when I entered the class room.
Large sheets of paper were still stacked with boxes of crayons sat fresh and brand new on her creaky metal roll-away desk. She was sitting poised on her giant desk chair, looking down at us as we took a seat. I could immediately tell she was up to something that didn’t seem right.
She began with roll call, her voice monotone and her pen moving swiftly over the paper, her blonde hair and blue eyes bursting with color against her pale skin. The students shifted in their seats on the carpet ( a hideous shade of canned spinach), all eager to begin coloring another picture to take home or, if they did a good job, to be placed on the giant cork board.
I looked around, watching the white walls enclose us as the ticks of the clock sounded around the room.
“Alright class…” Mrs. Devlin said as she put her class book down. “Today we are doing self portraits. You remember your Jr. High buddy?” We all nodded.
First and second graders were assigned 7th and 8th grade students we called “Jr. High Buddies”. We exchanged gifts during the holidays and produce projects for each other in order to have a friend in a higher grade level. Mrs. Devlin watched the nods and continued.
“Well, these will be given to your Jr. High buddies as a special gift for Thanksgiving. Now, we need to make sure these look very pretty when we’re done.” I noticed her eye me and some other children in the classroom.
“ So, why don’t we try to help some people get their portraits done correctly?” She stood up and pointed her red fingernail at me.
“Diana, why don’t you come up here? And how about (insert two other names here), Kate,and Jacobo too?”
I shook and stood up, wondering about her motives. I lined up in a row with Kate, Jacobo, and the others, all of them looking as confused as I was. The white walls seemed to enclose us now into an in-escapable box. My classmates watched us, their eyes shooting lasers through us as Mrs. Devlin began looking over us in the row one by one.
“Ok, let’s help Kate get the right crayon for her portrait.”
I watched Kate look at Mrs. Devlin with a surprised look. The students at her feet began calling out colors.
“White with orange freckles!”
“Vanilla Ice Cream!”
“You don’t need to color in your face! The paper is the color you need!”
I watch Kate stand perfectly still, her dark orange hair falling over her face as her cheeks turned bright red. The other students became silent as Mrs. Devlin held up a hand and nodded.
“Alright Kate. There you have it. Ok, how about Diana… You come up next.”
She grabbed my arm and pulled me over. I was shocked, terrified as I stood in front of my peers as watched the white school polo become brighter against my dark skin.
“Now, who can help Diana with her portrait?” Mrs. Devlin sounded evil as she said those bitter words. The other students were happy to join in.
Each word stung. I felt the tears coming to my eyes as I looked down at my arms, the tan skin becoming darker next to the white polo.
“ You need the light brown crayon!”
“No, the dark brown crayon! You need to use the dark brown crayon but you need to shade it lightly!”
The walls were collapsing. I was sinking smaller and smaller into the classroom. Fire burnt against my back. I felt the knives digging into my back and felt the invisible blood flow.
White. All I could see is white. White walls. White polos. White skin. White chalk. All of it was white. I felt alone and confused as my classmates continued their game.
I could feel Mrs. Devlin smile to herself, evilly like a super villain as she tapped her dark red fingernails on the desk. She finally held up her hand, all in the while smiling at me.
“Alright Diana. You understand what to do now, yes?” She spoke slowly like I was mentally ill. I nodded slowly, feeling the heat rush to my heart and sting like acid. I looked at my arms and was about ready to cry.
“Ok, you can sit down.” She shoved me back to my seat as she pulled Jacobo over to where I was standing.
I sat there wondering about what had just happened. Why was I this color? I looked at my other classmates and saw their pale and peachy complexion. I had been humiliated publically. How could that woman call that, “helpful”? I was silent for the rest of class as I colored in my portrait with the light brown crayon, fearing I would be yelled at if so otherwise.
I returned home that afternoon and went over to my aunt’s bedroom. I looked at her pale skin and put my arms on her lap.
“ Why are you so much lighter that me?” I asked. I watched the tan skin become dark against her pale legs.
“ We’re the same,” she told me in Spanish. “ You just go out into the sun more and I don’t.” She was trying to cheer me up, but it didn’t seem to erase the image from my mind.
I suddenly pull myself out of that vision and hear the song starting to end. My soul rushes back into my body and snuggles back where it belongs. I sit there, the sun beating down on my worn jeans as the memory continues to run through my brain. I sat there and listened to the song replay itself.
You grew up way too fast,
And now there's nothing to believe,
And reruns all become our history
Now that it has been nine years since that incident and I still think about it. Racial profiling at a Catholic school? I wouldn’t think that cruel thing would ever happen to me. Since that day, I learned to stand up against that. I fought if anyone insulted my skin, my blood. I was born with this skin; this skin holds the the color of my heritage.
That was a day I lost some of my innocence. That school did make me grow up way too fast. I understand now that there is poison in this world and sometimes, we need to stand up to it. I have seen what such cruel things people do and I still wonder why I didn’t stand up to her, why nobody stood up to her.
This song, my song, keeps replaying my past over and over again. These scars are the souvenirs I will never lose. This tan skin that covers me doesn’t shame me any longer.
I cannot afford to forget.