Blackie, Ape, Monkey, African Booty Scratcher… Sounds familiar? Probably not. These are just a few chosen words used to describe people from the continent of Africa. Majority of Africans who migrated to the United States when they were just a child say they experienced being called by these names and were treated unfairly by their then peers. These treatments started as early as in elementary school and ended as late as in high school. I am not surprised since I went through this myself.
It was a bright and sunny morning at John Muir Elementary School and all of us students were waiting in line for the bell to ring, indicating that school would be starting soon. I was just standing in line when all of a sudden a girl came up from behind and shoved me out of the line. Her name was Vanessa. She was a short, medium built girl, and her dark black hair was tied up in a neat ponytail. After she pushed me, I almost fell to the ground, yet she did not even say “Sorry.” After this unpleasant incident, she cut ahead of me to talk to her friends. They all smiled. I felt like an outsider; isolated because no one tried to help me and nobody looked concerned.
The incident was quite challenging for me because I was out of my comfort zone, I was in a different country. I did not know how to handle the situation but the best way I could think of was to inform my teacher. I notified the teacher about the confrontation I had just experienced and I also thought she was going to make Vanessa apologize, but then again, I was wrong. My teacher did absolutely nothing.
A friend of mine shared his experience with me: for many years, he was bullied and called different names by his peers. However, unlike me, he grew tired of it and took matters into his own hand. He got into a fight with one of the kids.
“Fighting him not only got me in trouble with the school but with my parents as well AND I was suspended! I got schooled by my parents. They told me being aggressive is never the answer to any situation but it sure was the answer to my situation because those damn kids backed off and stopped bullying me! ”
I believe he was one of the lucky ones.
It doesn’t matter which continent we are from, we can all agree that moving to an unfamiliar place and meeting new people is hard on its own. Why make it even harder for us to cope by calling us names our parents never named us? I don’t think there will never be an answer to that question.
By: Francisca Eniola Afolabi