November 4, 2008: Election Day. I woke up, put on an Obama 2008 t-shirt that looked like a dress on me and headed to school. I was young and didn't have a firm grasp on politics, but I knew that this particular election day was historic, regardless of who won. Barack Obama had the potential to be the first African American president of the United States. I was fascinated by him, and I remember trying to read any magazine or newspaper articles on him. I wanted to learn his story, and at least attempt to understand what he stood for. I went to a rally of his in Charlotte a few months before, and remember hearing the words "change" and "yes we can" being chanted. I admit I didn't know much, but I did know that Barack Obama seemed like a kind and decent man that could do something in this country.
When I walked into class, I sat down and proceeded to take my jacket off. My desk was right next to my teacher, and I remember feeling her hand touch my back. She knelt down and began to whisper in a condescending, yet calming tone. She said something along the lines of: "Jaya sweetie, I don't think you should take off your jacket. Your shirt may cause some issues, and I think it'd be best if that wouldn't happen.". I had heard the things people said about Barack Obama on the news. They were spiteful, evil, rude, and full of hatred. I didn't understand why I needed to hide my shirt, but I also didn't want to get in trouble, so I kept my jacket on.
Throughout the rest of the day, I was self-conscious. I hid my shirt. I didn't want to get laughed at or mocked. I distinctly remember going home and crying because I was genuinely frustrated and confused as to why my Barack Obama shirt was such a big deal. My parents sat me down and explained that sometimes there will be people in life who don't want to see certain people succeed. They will say ignorant and hateful things, but that does not and should never mean that you hide your beliefs or opinions. They told me to stand up for what I believe in, no matter how many people will laugh. I was asleep, but a few hours later, Barack Obama officially became the 44th President of the United States of America. The first African American president.
November 5, 2008: I walked down the hallway of my elementary school wearing that same Obama shirt - but this time, there was no jacket. I had nothing to hide. I sat down next to my teacher, smiled at her, and went on with my day. Some of my classmates said insulting and silly things to me, but I simply responded to them by saying that Barack Obama was the president, and he deserved a little respect. Ever since that day, I don't hide my opinions. If I hear something unjust or ignorant, I'll speak up. I stand up for what I believe in. I'm a passionate head-strong person, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that.
For anyone who is wondering, the shirt actually fits me now. I've had for 10 years. I wore when Obama ran against Mitt Romney in 2012, and again the day after Hillary Clinton lost. It's a reminder to me that even in the darkest times, hope still prevails. If you stick your ground and hold on tight to your core beliefs, that stands higher than any ignorant or hateful comment.