Before she’d even finished speaking about racism in southern Utah at April first’s Action St. George rally, I knew I wanted to run Arabella’s story in the Indy. I knew it needed to be heard by as many southern Utahans as possible. When I asked her if I could publish her speech, she graciously said yes.
There are many, many reasons you should read Arabella’s speech. The most important, I feel, is to raise our communal consciousness about the very real struggles we have with racism in southern Utah. That can be a disheartening fact to accept, but we need to accept it if we are going join people like Arabella in that fight. And we need to join them. Our community needs to find racism more offensive than it does being called out on its racism.
There is another important reason to listen to what Arabella has to say. Knowing that young people like Arabella exist, knowing that our community has such powerful, courageous voices, the kind of voices that can change our world for the better in any number of ways, should give us each some hope.
By Arabella Washington
Hi, I am Arabella Washington. I’m am in seventh grade and go to Hurricane Intermediate. I have been asked to talk to you about the struggles of being an African American in southern Utah.
So I have always struggled with my hair since I moved to Utah in first grade. I have always had the nickname “Poodle.” When people say it, some of them are just messing around, but some of them just like to make fun of me, and my hair is an easy target. When I shaved my hair, people bugged me about “being transgender,” which was not the case. They say that I must be having a “bad hair day” or that the style is “ugly.” Every morning, I wake up at 6 and do my hair and makeup and get dressed. My hair takes the most time, and I am always really self-conscious about it.
The next thing is that in second grade, a boy and some of his friends called me a “black bear.” That was my nickname through second grade.
In third grade, I moved to a different school and got bullied there, too. A boy told me that he was going to come to my house with the gun he had gotten for Christmas and kill me and all of my family, including my pets. He kept trying to find out where I lived for about two or three months. Finally, one day in class, we were learning how to write addresses, and the teacher called on me to say my address. I told her that I couldn’t say it. She asked why and I didn’t want to tell her so I didn’t.
That night, I came home from school and told my mom. She was scared that the boy might come to school with a gun. It was two weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. So we went to the principal and to the administration. They said that the matter didn’t have to be handled and that if my mom was scared for my life, she should never let me get in a car and that there’s a higher chance of a plane falling on me than the boy coming to school and assaulting me.
So the next thing happened was my mom and I had watched the NetFlix documentary “13th,” and I posted on Instagram about how it was so sad and sickening to watch the movie. Someone from school that comments on everything I post about politics and always has something rude to say commented. He was mad at me for posting it, saying really rude things and saying that blacks and African Americans are trash and are dumb. I told him that a lot of African Americans and blacks are underprivileged and struggling. He came back with, “The sports world is ruled by blacks so they can’t be under privileged.” While that is true, that is not what I was talking about. I explained to him that that’s not what I was talking about, and he said, “Maybe they should get a job, Oh yeah the mexicans stole them from us real americans.”
Recently, I had asked my mom to buy me a Black Lives Matter pin, so she did, and I was so excited that I wore it to school. The kids came up to me and read it as a question like, “Black Lives Matter?” They all thought that it was funny. Three kids told me to take the pin off because it was a “gang symbol.” Some people said, “What did you, like, lose a bet and had to wear that?”
I would like to see more compassion over hatred and acceptance of people who are different.