Unlike my public school, it had a beautiful garden out front, a gym that didn't double as a cafeteria, an art classroom and two playgrounds.
I was one of three people of color in a grade of nineteen children.
It was hard for us to fit in--one of the reasons being that these kids had been together since Kindergarten and we were all new.
But I quickly learned there was more to it than that.
In Science, for example, I realized that the teacher favored my White classmates' opinions over my own. He'd consistently call on others before me. As in every single time I raised my hand, he'd ignore me. Unfortunately, his view of me profoundly impacted how well I did in the class.
One day, I took my White male crush to the side on the playground. I looked down at the ground nervously and then back up to the freckles dotting his cheeks. "I really like you," I finally said.
“I like you too," his voice came through the sounds of children playing. I met his brown eyes with hope and anticipation in my own. Was I going to have a boyfriend here? Could I finally feel connected to this family they've built?
A sharp pang of shock sliced through my gut.
I could've dealt with the rejection better if he'd said, "Because you're Pentecostal" or "Because I like Calleigh more."
He said "never… because you're Puerto Rican."
For the first time in my life, I felt as if the weight of my culture were a burden and not something to be carried with pride.
It's not as if I hadn't encountered racism before. But somehow this incident really showed me I was different, that as a woman of color, I simply wouldn't be able to connect to some people.
This realization hurt like all hell. It still does today.
This post is also linked to Pour Your Heart Out with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop
and to Thought Provoking Thursday.