As I wrote this essay, I was thinking of the ways my story affected how I write in general. My goals for this essay were to display my earliest experience with literacy and how that solidified how I would go about writing throughout my life. Up until quite recently I thought what I’d experienced was unusual or out of the ordinary, when really this was only the case because of my elementary education system. I'm proud of being able to voice my opinion and use my memory to help better myself as a writer. What I can improve on is my descriptive writing. Broadening my vocabulary and being able to phrase my ideas will create better writing pieces.
I smiled, sprinkling the last bit of glitter on my paper. Beckoning my friend over, I asked her opinion on it. A girl with black braids skips to where we were sitting and crouches, locking her eyes on me.
“Why do you talk like that?”
I sat still, unsure of how to answer such a question. Nobody ever asked me why I speak. Why wouldn’t I speak?
“What do you mean?” I replied.
My classmates were silent, I could tell they were listening even though they weren’t watching me. The girl in front of me folded her arms across her chest, waiting for an answer I didn’t have. I told her I didn’t know what she was talking about. She rolled her eyes and replied,
“You talk like a white girl!”
I didn’t know how to reply. I didn’t even know what it meant to ‘Talk like a white girl’. Did they speak differently? I thought about all my white friends. I thought long and hard, attempting to isolate something about them that I didn’t have because I wasn’t white. I became nervous and felt the pits of my arms start to prickle. The girl stood, giggling, but unmoving. What more could she want to ask?
“Is your mom white?”
This time, I didn’t hesitate to answer. I felt my face contort itself into an annoyed grimace.
“That wasn’t a very smart question to ask,” I barked. She looked around and realized our classmates with their full attention on the both of us.
“You aren’t grown! I’m six, your’e only five. You are just a baby.”
I heard laughing. I turned my seat away from her and proceeded to do my work, knowing she would leave if I let her think she “won.” I was right. She spun on her heel and skipped across the room, her pink barrettes clacking against each other.
I thought about that girl for the rest of the day.
We both had the same skin colour. We both SOUNDED like normal little girls, as far as I was concerned. It was only then, though, did I realize I would always be different from the other brown girls.
At first, I didn’t really let what my peers said get to me, they weren’t my friends anyway. Come to think of it, I don’t particularly remember taking an interest into having friends until I was 8 or 9. This was coincidentally around the same time I started to pay attention to the speaking patterns and behavior of the kids who I never really did connect with. I felt as if I was trying to crack some code to becoming “normal”, so I could quit worrying about if I sounded “too white” when I said something. In Everything's in a Name, Annie Yang admits her feelings of self-doubt and her feelings towards her ethnicity as a child, stating “After six years in Iowa and New Jersey I had decided that my success in emulating my white peers would involve complete assimilation, including the adoption of an American name.” (Yang, 11)
I was in a class for “gifted students”. I and about 6 other children were given extra work during an extra class, and we eventually gained the nickname “brainiacs”-- as if I didn't have enough kids teasing me about talking white. I eventually ceased raising my hand or engaging in class activities in fear of being judged. It was only then when I stopped to listen to what my classmates had to say on a daily did I realize just what it meant to “act white”. It seemed like every single one of my peers had subconsciously created a rule that stopped them from doing things white kids could do because they weren't white, even if it included enjoying to learn.
For so long they had wanted me as a partner in every project and suddenly became my “best friend” whenever the teacher looked away from us during a test but refused to accept me as one of “the normal kids”. These type of situations made me think about Annie Yang and her school experience, especially when she says, “I yearned for membership into the next level: the Asian kids with the American names. They were the ones lucky enough to hang out with the white kids on the jungle gym while Soo Young, Min Jung, and Yin Yin played Korean jacks on a bench by the fence.” (Yang, 12) There was always something that was going to hold me back from ever being exactly like my elementary school peers; Though what mattered (and coincidentally what took me so long to realize) was how much I decided to let such circumstances affect me. Despite it all, I remembered what it meant to create thoughts that couldn't be compared to anyone else's.