We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Throughout my elementary school years, I was bullied due to my race and culture. In Kindergarten I felt different. I realized I didn’t look like the other girls with blonde silky hair and light colored eyes. I had  brown thick hair and dark brown eyes. I was too Mexican to be “American”. All I wanted was to fit in, instead my childhood was defined by my differences which excluded me. I remember a day when everyone was playing tag and I wanted to play too. I wanted to be included and feel like I was part of a group of friends. I was too scared to ask if I can play tag because my bullies, in their actions and the way they looked at me and whispered, told me I wasn’t like them and didn’t deserve to be their friends.  As the years passed, I felt more excluded and different from everyone else. I was exhausted from the kids at school with white privilege who would treat people who were different from them like trash. The teachers turned a blind eye when someone got bullied. By 5th grade I hated school and my grades were suffering. My mom observed my attitude change and would try to get me to talk to her about what was wrong. She saw her happy positive daughter become a quiet anti-social girl.  One memory that stands out was a day in October after school when a mean girl that always pushed me around came up and handed everyone around me a bright orange card. I realized it was an invite to another party I wasn’t invited to. I was so used to being ignored that I didn’t even care anymore, but one of my classmates asked, “What about Yasmine?”. Her response was, “She can’t come. She’s not like us”. I realized this wasn’t just a mean girl that didn’t like me. She didn’t like my skin color or my Mexican background.  Tears rolled down my face as I got into my mom’s car. I felt so small and wanted to run away and go somewhere I felt okay. Somewhere where I be- longed. That night I told my mom everything and she gave me a big hug and said, “Some people are like that. You can’t change them or their opinions, but you can change your life.” After that she made a decision that changed my life. I was moving schools.  I transferred to my new school and saw people like me. I saw all different skin colors and people with all different backgrounds. I felt like I belonged and I didn’t have to act like someone else. I could be myself. Over the next few years I gained friendships and lost friendships. What I now know is that being excluded and feeling inferior as a child has made me who I need to be in life. It made me realize I have a voice and that I deserve to be heard. I’m no longer the quiet girl in the corner. I’m a strong person now.  Today, at the age of 15, that part of my life feels like a blur that went by so fast. I will never forget my childhood because I now know never to be quiet if a person looks at me weird, or if I encounter a racist waiter, or if I’m excluded because of my differences. I use my voice to say what needs to be said. I hope America can change because this is my America too, regardless of my skin color. 

© Yasmine Perez. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.