She told me that some people, ignorant people, were going to give me trouble some day and that I shouldn’t let it bother me because those people’s opinions didn’t matter. Growing up I always knew I was different. I’m not blind, right?” I said, laughing.
“But one day in my freshman year of college it hit me. I was the kid wearing a green shirt in a room full of orange shirts. I began to see a slew of what people now call micro-aggressions and some bigger ones too. As you know, Scottsdale wasn’t a very diverse place, still isn’t. I went through bouts of depression and social-anxiety, and when I brought it up in conversation, friends and family members would ask me, ‘Why does everything have to be about race?’ or ‘Why are you so focused on race?’ It was like, if I didn’t have someone shouting nigger in my face, it didn’t have to do with race.” I winced at that word.
“Now, thank god, we live in an age when people are able to circulate ideas easier and faster than ever. I can’t tell you how many times over the last three years that I’ve read an essay or post from someone in New York or Carolina or Utah that has brought me to tears. Years later, I’ve realized I’m not alone, that I was never alone. I hate this idea that people are just angry nowadays. It’s a half-truth. People in neighborhoods around America have been pissed off for years but they’ve never been allowed a voice. White culture could just look away. Worse than being met with anger, all that’s been given is a cold shrug.” I stopped, feeling as though I were floating above myself; it was a subtle ecstasy. Slowly I came back to the ground.
Aaron gawked at me as though realizing he was in the presence of a stranger. His eyes were heavy with remorse in the way a driver might look in an accident. His lips quivered and he massaged the inside of his left palm with the thumb of his right hand. For what felt like several moments, small gulp sounds escaped his throat.