7th Grade… or maybe 6th?
In our reading class text book was an excerpt from Huckleberry Finn. The teacher had scanned it and found The N Word in the text. Class was stopped and I was, to my feeling, singled out in being asked if it would offend me. This was my first time coming across the word, so I had no context for it. But as we read these segments, any paragraph containing this word was left for me to read. I asked my mother about the word when I got home, she flipped. Of course, her first thought was that someone had directed that word at me, but I told her what we were reading. The history of the word was then explained to me. I already had an interest in the power of words back then. I understood it, and chose not to use it myself.
To the credit of my life, this was literally the first time the word came across my path. Additionally I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word used in reference to me, and rarely used in my presence since then. While the teacher asked to genuinely find out my feelings, she had no way of knowing I had no context for the word. As such, I felt singled out as I did in cases above. But in hindsight, I see it for what it was: caring, compassion, consideration, and sensitivity. Also in hindsight, if the teacher had pulled myself and the other minority students separately aside and asked us that would have been better.
There was another sacrament, but my memory of this is hazy at best. I cannot recall exactly what grade it took place in. What I do remember is a lengthy, multi-month choral preparation. My voice had some depth, placing it after 5th grade, and I was assigned many of the lower sung parts. On one hand I was not looking forward to this event. Being an outsider in churches for thirteen day stretches for years had worn on me. However, it was important for my Catholic friends and classmates, and so I was happy I could help them celebrate it.
This is the part that is really uncertain as I have not thought on it a lot. However, something barred me from attending the event. But it wasn’t some disaster. I remember being at mothers’ that weekend, either by happenstance or design. My inability to attend was a last minute development. Maybe I was told at school the day prior. Maybe a note or call came home. I do not know, but I remember bawling my eyes out. Crying for hours because I wouldn’t be with my friends when we all thought I was going to be able to. When I had worked so hard with them.
I do not have the healthiest relationships with my emotions. Intense feelings tend to leave my memory disconnected later on. Case in point.
My anger was buried, but did not subside. I know this because, and I remember this more clearly, the next time some big event came up I called out pretty much every authority on the matter.
“The last time there was some large event I worked with everyone for months only to be told last minute that I couldn’t participate because I’m not Catholic. If that is going to happen again, you may as well pull me from practices now, because I am not going to repeat that.”
My homeroom teacher, music teacher, school principal, and head priest convened and ruled that the same held true. As such, I was allowed to gain music credit by completing selected essays. Writing. Who would have imagined that to be my preference? The same offer was extended to the other unbaptisized classmates of mine. They chose to earn the music grade via the practices. This experience really nailed the coffin in associating with groups that saw me as an Other.
I care about my friends and their milestones in life. They cared for me. Being excluded not due to some particular malice, but simply because “Demz Da Rulez” is galling to me. I understood and respected them. I still try to as best I can.
This is one of the last times I cried over anything. The lack of control due to emotions is not welcome by me. Emotions make me get stupid, though I acknowledge those brave enough to feel. What I learned from this are that what I feel belongs to me. And even in rage, I can respect the bounds of others. This ties into the topic of discrimination as I know I can Love from Afar. This is especially useful when the focus would hate me.