Last week I published a piece talking about my experience as a brown woman on Long Island. To my surprise, it did really well. I didn't expect many people to read it and it was an even better surprise to see how many people connected and related to my story. Because of this overwhelming amount of support, I feel I can't just leave it at that one piece. It's also forced me to think about why I wrote the piece and what I wanted to achieve by writing it. After thinking about it for a week, I think I have my answer.
I know for sure that the article was not written out of spite or to make anyone feel guilty. Yes, I wanted people to realize the effect they have on others, but it was never meant to the paint North Shore as a bad place. I also want to point out that though there was little acceptance for others, I still made some of the greatest friends I've ever had. So with that being said, no, North Shore is not the worst place on earth. It just has some people that haven't learned what tolerance, respect, and acceptance look like.
I'm not looking for an apology. I just want people to be better.
The world around us is made up of all kinds of cultures, so we should be able to act appropriately. I understand that North Shore is predominantly white, and people here haven't really been exposed to other cultures. But this shouldn't be an excuse for the closed-mindedness that almost everyone exhibits here.
I hoped to open the eyes of those who made me feel uncomfortable so that maybe they could think about their actions, and change them, and honestly, I think it worked. One of my old friends from school who I don't really talk to much anymore commented:
"This was really incredible and eye opening to read and so beautifully written.. you are and always have been beautiful exactly the way you are! its terrible that our town didn't allow you to see that sooner."
I love this. I love that she now knows about my experience. And I hope she will be better, along with the rest of America.
One thing I realized was that many people have experienced exactly what I have experienced. Too many people, in my opinion. I was shocked to see so many of my family members commenting saying that they also felt unworthy at some point in their lives because of their skin color.
Honestly, this made me sad. I've looked up to these woman from a very early age. To me, they were always so confident and comfortable. They are hands down the smartest, most hardworking women I have ever known. To see that someone has made them feel anything less than that angered me.
"We in the family have all learnt to walk the path that you have and yet you were the first one to write it out, for you want to change the path for others that come after you."
Many comments like this flooded my emails, texts, and Facebook. I'm proud to have so many resilient brown women around me. Because of their achievements, I know I am worthy.
An even greater shock was perhaps the amount of POC from North Shore that also agreed with my sentiments. I always thought that since I was one of the few brown kids at the school, I was the only one that felt out of place. This was completely wrong.
"wow!! I love this!! I've never felt more connected to a story...thank you for sharing. It's comforting to know that other poc had a similar experience at north shore, although it was brutal. thank you so much."
Though I learned a lot from my piece I can't help but feel like it was kind of lost on a lot of people. The audience I was trying to target were those who made me feel the way I did. Unfortunately, those people are too blind to realize they've done anything wrong. They'll never know that they messed up and that they need to change.
If there's one piece of advice that I can give to someone from this point on is to be open and willing to learn about new things. Ask questions, be curious, try new foods, get to know other cultures.
We want open conversation and change.
I'd like to also point out that no, I did not feel institutional racism at North Shore. I had the same opportunities to excel in academics and extracurriculars, which is something not many people can say. But this does not mean that the social racism I felt isn't valid. Any form of prejudice or intolerance matters. North Shore did a great job making sure everyone had equal opportunities in the classroom, and I am proud of that.
I'm really glad I wrote that piece. I'm never one to get political but this didn't seem political. It was just me, finally telling my story. And now, I want to tell other people's stories. The overall positive reaction inspired me to want to write about others experiences at North Shore, as a POC, or as someone who has ever felt unworthy for any reason.
I want to write about these things so that when my little cousins grow up, they know they are always loved and that they always matter. I want nothing more than to build an army of body positive, confident, strong brown girls to rule the world.