To The Kids Who Made Me Feel Bad Because Of My Ethnicity, Thank You
Politics and Activism

To The Kids Who Made Me Feel Bad Because Of My Ethnicity, Thank You

Today, I am proud of my tan skin. Today, I will never let racism change me or make me into something I am not.

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I was raised in a Spanish speaking household. Where my traditions and culture was different from that of our neighbor’s. At a very young age, I was made aware that my skin, my name, and the way I spoke was not “normal.” I would question why it was a big deal? At the same time, I would think of ways I could change myself to become more acceptable to the people around me.

When I started preschool, the only English words I knew were "hi" and "bye." It was not until about first or second grade that I began to understand the English language and was able to communicate fully to people. I remember going home some days from school and asking my parents how to say certain words in English so I could communicate to my teacher. I remember that kids did not want to be friends with the little girl who had a weird name that they couldn't understand. As a result of this, the older I got, the more I changed myself to be like everyone around me.

Every first day of school I had, the teacher would always get stuck on my name. So when I knew my name was coming I would say “My name is Valerie, but Val is fine.” This way it would become something “normal” that everyone could pronounce. Looking back now, I can honestly say I was embarrassed about my name. I wanted to just fit in. I wanted friends like everyone else had. The older I got, I never found my spot within the groups. I distinctly remember the day a girl told me, “You think you’re a white girl trying to act like a black girl.”

Those words have never left my mind. They are like a scar on my brain that I look back on from time to time. When she said those words to me I was stunned. I just thought to myself “No? I know I am Hispanic. I know my skin is tan.”

I was left in a state of confusion. Although after I settled down and took some time to think about it, that is when I said to myself never again. I still may have those memories, but today I am a different girl.

Today, I am proud of my tan skin. I am proud of my beautiful name. I am proud that I can speak, read and write both languages fluently. I am proud that my parents came from another country. I am proud to be born in the United States with El Salvadorean blood pumping through my veins. Today, I will never let racism change me or make me into something I am not.

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