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“She is ugly and black.” I heard kids laugh at a joke someone made about me while I was sitting very confused and shocked. I didn’t know how to handle it without thinking I was going to get beaten up for telling on them. One day I finally found the courage to tell my guidance counselor.

Imagine being afraid to tell an adult about being bullied by your classmates. I always thought if I told, or as kids called it, “snitched,” I would get beaten up. One day I saw my counselor and finally told her that I was being bullied about my skin complexion, but before telling her, I told my art teacher. I always told my art teacher first because I knew I could trust him and that he wouldn’t say anything. I always wondered what was wrong with my skin complexion. Was I too dark to be accepted as a human being in a public school called Ivy Hill Elementary School? That's what I figured. I was a bit scared realizing people didn’t like me and would clown me for my skin complexion. This made me feel like the world would deny me. I went home crying almost every day because I felt less fortunate.

Growing up with a darker pigmentation wasn’t always the easiest. Going to class and being called a “burnt biscuit” and being asked where I was when the lights were cut off hurt me. It made me feel like I was entirely too dark to be friends with anyone. Eventually, I got fed up and tired of what was happening to me in school and kept quiet and tried to leave it alone and forget about it. One evening, I saw my designated counselor. I asked her if she was busy and if it was possible if I could talk to her about what was going on in classes with other students.

Eventually, I spoke with her and she asked me what was happening and told me that she realized I was looking sad lately. I told her that I was being bullied about my skin complexion. She asked if I wanted to write a statement, and I stressed I was scared that I was going to get beaten up if I said something. For two weeks the process continued with the bullying and my counselor and I going back and forth about adding names to the statement. It was so hard, but I eventually gave in. As we moved on with the concerning issue, she called down the student who had been bullying me and I immediately tensed up and got scared; my hands started sweating and I even went to sit behind her desk. Before I left she explained to me what melanin meant so that I could have a better understanding. She stated, “Melanin is a dark brown to black pigmentation in the hair, skin, and iris.” This was important because she wanted me to know and understand that it was okay to be the complexion that I was and that personality doesn’t only stop at skin complexion.

I’m not afraid at all anymore. We concluded the situation and they apologized to me. Now, my skin complexion is the prettiest thing there could be. In any situation of that nature - being bullied about your skin complexion - use it to boost your self-esteem and run with it like I did. No one can tell me any different. I’m not afraid anymore; it helped me connect with people going through the same struggle. I enjoy holding conversations about my skin complexion. That incident helped me grow as an individual and help others. I'm not afraid anymore. And neither should you be afraid.

© Larissa Knight. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.