I didn´t understand what was happening. Why was everyone treating me differently? What had changed? School started just like always. Mom drops me off and I rush over to meet my friends waiting at the door. Only today they acted like I didn´t exist. I said hi, they said hi and promptly looked away. What was going on?
I walked into class but as I was going to sit down the teacher said to me to sit at the back like a good girl. What did she mean; I always sit up front or where I wanted. Class started and since I loved math I was very excited as I knew everything the teacher would ask that day. But every time I lifted my hand she just ignored me. After my morning class had finished and repeatedly feeling like I was invisible and undesirable, I went off to the cafeteria. As I got in line, the kids in front of me gave me weird looks and tried to not get too close to me. As I got my lunch and said thank you to the nice African American woman who served me and getting a nice smile back, I ran off to sit with my girlfriends. But when I arrived at the table they all suddenly went quiet and looked away. So I asked them if they could make room for me and Lisa said that I should sit at the table for people like me. Then she pointed to the back of the cafeteria where I saw two tables where only children with dark skin color were sitting. I slowly walked in their direction and they made room for me in such a natural way that I suddenly realized that I was not white Jenny Coran today. That overnight something had happened and my skin had changed.
I sat down slowly but could not eat. I started to listen to the conversations around me. There was a boy who was retelling a tale of how yesterday it was raining so hard and that the only way to get home was walking, as the white bus driver told him that his bus didn´t allow kids of color on it so to get the hell out. He started walking home and was so wet, miserable, and cold that he started crying. How a car passed him so fast that a big puddle of muddy water splashed all over him and that as he looked up he saw a white girl looking out the back window laughing at him. The car suddenly stopped and a woman got out with an umbrella rushing over to him, saying how sorry she was, to please forgive her and to let her take him home as he was so wet. Without waiting for a reply she ushered him into the car next to the girl who had laughed at him and drove off towards his home. The silence between the two in the back seat turned long and uncomfortable. The mother asked her daughter what was wrong and she answered. “We are tainted now Mom, you have let a colored boy into our car. What am I going to say at school tomorrow when they ask or maybe even shun me for what you have done?” The mother stopped the car slowly and looking back at her daughter, very sadly, said. “I hope that you never find yourself in the shoes of people who are shunned for their race or religion. I hope you never have to feel their despair or sadness. And I also hope that you will always open your heart to others no matter whom or what color their skin is.”
The other children looked at the boy with amazed faces at his story. But Jenny Coran could only cry over every horrible thing she had experienced that morning. Jenny finally understood what her mother had said yesterday… she was in someone else’s shoes today.