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Blue Eyes Today

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Once when I was little – about 5 years old, I think – I made a really special friend. I do not really remember her name, and it’s not that important, but what is important is that we were really good friends, and we did everything together in pre-school. We played, ate and slept together, and we were inseparable – until her parents met me and my mom. One day the preschool we attended had a family get together and we both attended. It was a fun-filled evening at Jacobson Park and we played and ate, played and ate – and then we played and ate some more. I remember that my friend’s parents had forgotten their blanket, so they shared ours and the whole time they gushed about how their daughter was always talking about, “Lyric,” and how she couldn’t wait to get to school to play with “Lyric.”

The following Monday after school, I came home really confused. I asked my mom if I could have blue eyes and blonde hair – because those were the only people my friend could now play with. I guess her parents never realized I was black. I guess a name like Lyric doesn’t really fit any race so her parents, I guess, just assumed I was white. I wasn’t, so I didn’t fit their description of the ideal playmate, which apparently, for them was someone with blond hair, blue eyes and white skin.

This incident for me was an eye-opening experience. I wanted to bend myself, to conform. I wanted to “FIX” myself and I asked if I could be white. That’s when I learned people are different: that we are not all the same. I also learned that I could not be white. This really tore my mom up - how torn up I was over losing a friend. So, she spent days pouring over ways to help me celebrate the beauty of all races. That’s when I discovered Cinderella – the new Cinderella.

Unlike the original Disney version - this one featured a Black princess, an Asian prince, stepsisters that were black and white and a wicked stepmother who was a petite Irish lady. After watching this version of Cinderella I was enthralled and fell in love with it. I watched it continuously, and it made me realize that black girls with braids could be beautiful. I was one – a black girl with braids – and I was not only OK, but I could be a princess. This influenced my love of cultural fairytales, my love of different cultures and especially my love of languages.

My view of race has also been changed drastically. I began to see the negative stereotypes that were portrayed in the media in movies such as the Lion King and Dumbo. In the Lion King the hyenas are supposed to represent blacks and they are loud, evil and ignorant. In Dumbo, it’s the same thing. The crows speak in a dialect that is ignorant and almost unintelligible. I have located these stereotypes and had them explained to me, so I now realize that they’re not true – and more importantly, they’re not me.

Beyond these things, the new Cinderella gave me hope, hope that one day all races will be able to get along and be able to eliminate discrimination. I want to learn different languages to help achieve this goal. I’ve begun with fairy tales. Every culture has them and I love retellings of the classic Cinderella story. I read them all; the Irish Cinderella, the Jewish Cinderella and many more. That one incident, almost eleven years ago, has fostered an understanding and a love of many cultures, in me – not just mine.



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