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The Day I Found Out I Was “White”
I stand stagnant in my backyard the smell of forest green grass fills me up as I
inhale the summer breeze blowing in from the lake. Living in stereotypical Midwestern
Indiana had its joys, but the small town life was not for me. The summer after sixth grade
my wish for an exhilarating change came true.
“Kayla,” my mom sang in a happily high pitched voice, as she always does when
there is good news to be said, “how do you feel about Arizona?”
I immediately sprinted to my room and began to pack everything in my path. A
week later we were on a plane to Goodyear, Arizona.
School was about to start, I had never been so thrilled in my life. I could not wait
to start this new adventure, with new friends in a new setting. This particular setting was
known as Desert Thunder, a kindergarten through seventh grade school that in the end
would teach me much more than the intended curriculum.
As I practically skipped across the newly paved campus my pony tail bounced side
to side, and my smile grew larger with every step. The blaring school bell rang through
every students’ ear, it was time for my first class! As I pushed open the door and strutted
to my seat I could feel my classmate’s eyes burning through my skin to the bone. This
flame of tension I felt from the beginning did not dwindle. The feeling of being a pariah,
like I did not belong in this society, was given off by everyone day after day.
Three weeks into my seventh grade year and announcement came over the
school intercom system.
“Are you a leader?” an excited man’s voice asked deeply. “Student council
elections begin today! Sign up with your homeroom teacher and start campaigning.
Good luck eagles!”
This was my chance to get my name out there and show everyone who I really am,
“I would like to run for president of student council.” I spoke, trying to sound as
dignified as I possibly could.
“Fabulous,” my science teacher, Ms. Ellis, said as she clapped her hands together
with delight, “you would make a wonderful representative for our school!”
I beamed my grandest smile and finished out my classes for the day. The next
morning I announced my candidacy and began to campaign. I could tell something was
up, the nasty glances and whispers that followed me gave their macabre feelings away. I
tried my best to ignore them and keep my spirit up.
“Vote for me, Kayla G.!” I sang as I distributed candy bracelets with my slogan on
“Don’t vote for me, I’m a stupid whitey!” a group of Hispanic girls mimicked as
they strolled by. From the very start these girls have been nothing but evil to me, in turn,
I was determined to find out what their problem with me actually was.
“Betsy, what is your problem?” I asked the leader of the dark posse.
“We aren’t the problem, you are!” Betsy practically screamed as she backed me
into a corner next to the girls’ bathrooms.
“I haven’t done anything to you!”
“This is our school and we don’t want some stuck up white girl running it! You’ll
never win and if you do you’ll wish you didn’t!”
Wow! My heart was beating so fast I had a feeling they could see it rippling my
uniform shirt. I was shocked and tongue tied so I didn’t speak. I could imagine my pallid
face fading whiter. The girls began to laugh and Adriana, a rough, hefty Hispanic, shoved
me hard into the concrete wall. As they marched away my throat began to close up and
my breathing quickened. I tried my hardest to choke back the salty tear drops forming in
the corners of my eyes, but it was no use.
Once this happened I wasn’t about to withdraw my candidacy! I’m in this to win
and I’m determined to prove them wrong. Over the two week election three more
students signed up to run against me, Liz the gossip master, Adriana, and Betsy! They
tore down every poster I made and threw them in the garbage. But I still did not give up,
I stuck it out! Finally election day came and our principal’s voice echoed throughout the
“I am very proud of each and every student that ran for a position on student
council! Although, there are only a choice few that have the honor of holding a title
representing our school. For treasurer the winner is, Carlos Salazar, for secretary, Crystal
Inzunza. Your vice president winner is Eddy De La Torre, and for Desert Thunder’s
student council president…,” my heart stopped beating as she paused and then she said
it, “Kayla Garbison.”
The sound of applause did not fill the classroom as I dreamed it would, silence banged on my ear drums. This unwanted reaction didn’t stop the grin creeping across
my face, I won! My felicity was soon diminished by the sound of one boy’s accent.
To the beat of our national anthem he sang, “I’m glad I’m not American, and I’m
glad that I’m not white!”
The hush was broken by the whole class’s burst of angry laughter, but I just sat
there, my smirk still lighting up my face! I am the winner and they can not do anything
about it so why be furious or depressed?
My first day as student council president excelled my thoughts. The principal
approached me with a stern expression and spoke almost in a whisper, “I just wanted to
let you know that some candidates requested a recount of student votes. After recounting
the ballets you won by a large margin. Congratulations, Ms. President!”
From that moment on the group of Hispanics made my life as horrifying as they
possibly could. I have always had a passion for school, but the threats and verbal hatred I
experienced scared me to tears everyday. This event brought racism to my attention, I did
not understand what was wrong with me. I was so confused and unsure why they were
causing me this agony. After a while I realized it was not my skin or me at all it was their
fallible mindset. They were taught, unfortunately, to judge and spread hatred onto the
things they did not know. I pray my wish will come true, my wish to make sure no
person or race ever has to endure what I did. But I know now racism is an incurable,
This was an awful lesson to learn but I always ponder, ”If I would not
have run for president, would they have treated me with the same anguish?”
Unfortunately the answer I have concluded is, yes. After two years of constant abuse I
moved away. But the things they said and did to me left a scar that will never fade away.
I will never forget my life at Desert Thunder.