Communication Studies at Edmonds Community College
Kaitlyn was worried about her friend Sara. "So it wasn't much fun going to your family's home in Taiwan?" Sara answers: "No, it wasn't much fun. I felt like the boy and his father in Abiyoyo - remember that story? - they were ostracized and had to live on the edge of their village." "I feel like that most of the time too" said Kaitlyn. "Here?" said Sara, surprised. "How can you feel that here?" Looking at her, Kaitlyn answered slowly: "Oh, like in English class today. We were all supposed to write a paragraph about where we lived. I wrote about Everett. When the instructor returned the paper, she asked what part of Everett I was from. She acted as if no Black students live in Everett. I felt ostracized - as if I had been banished to some 'other side of the tracks.'"
Kaitlyn had been born in Omaha, Nebraska. She is used to the city. She likes the Seattle area, but didn't feel safe there. She had heard about gang shootings and feared for her life some days. That didn't happen in Omaha. Now she went to school at Edmonds CC. It was okay, but it still wasn't as safe as Omaha. In her high school in Everett, her senior year, there had been some graffiti on the bathroom walls - hate messages: "Go back to Africa" and stuff like that. The school principal called an assembly about discrimination and asked a number of Black students to talk about themselves. Kaitlyn was one of those students. She spoke about how afraid she was for her little sister and brother and how she hoped things would get better soon, because she didn't want them to go to a high school where they weren't wanted. She wanted people to know how she felt, but she also felt singled out - again - for being black.
Her best friends seem to be foreign students like Sara. She wondered why she had more in common with them than with the other American students. This fall she was asked to join the International Club. She had enjoyed that and felt flattered that she was asked. In high school she wasn't often asked to join groups.
Sara leaned over and said: "Did you hear the news yesterday? Some researcher just discovered that our I-5 corridor has the biggest concentration of hate groups anywhere in the United States." Kaitlyn shook her head trying to think about what this meant and answered without humor: "I thought they all lived in Hayden Lake."
Sara seemed worried. "Doesn't that just terrify you? I'm afraid." Kaitlyn looked at Sara, really saw her and her features. "What did Sara see when she looks at me" she wondered. Out loud, she replied to Sara with "No, I'm not afraid. Not during the day. This place is good and safe. But sometimes at night - night comes much earlier here, especially in the winter. I'm used to more daylight."
She had talked to her parents about her fears particularly after the graffiti at school.. They just told her just to be cautious. Her parents cared about their children. But Kaitlyn's father was a highly respected hi-tech engineer . Her parents had never been in the high school here. They didn't know how dangerous it felt. Kaitlyn's parents both grew up in Omaha and their families were professional families. Kaitlyn's mother's parents were both teachers and her father's father was a professor at Creighton University.
Kaitlyn wasn't sure she could measure up to her parents' expectations. And she was terrified that if she didn't, she will end up on the streets not knowing how to behave. She had one cousin who got pregnant while she was in high school. The entire family had seemed to shun her. The last Kaitlyn knew, she was living with her baby boy and a new boyfriend in the hills in Montana. Kaitlyn knows she couldn't survive that kind of life.
Maybe that's why she is so fascinated by Josh. He's the only other student at EDCC that she knew from high school. She admired Josh' courage. He never seems afraid. He looked as if he were more comfortable on the street than at school. In fact, he was talking about quitting school just the other day." Where will this degree get me? Everyone's just waiting for me to trip up." Kaitlyn tried to reassure him: "You need to do this for yourself, Josh. School is too hard to do it for anyone else. You've got to believe that things will get better." Josh seemed to think about she said, then replied. "I think I am doing it for myself. But then I feel guilty. Like I should be doing it for my mom, my grandma. My little sister. How's my going to school helping Tiara? She needs me around home - at school - to protect her. How is my going to school helping her?" Kaitlyn hadn't known how to respond. Some days she felt just like Josh. She didn't know why she was going to school. She suspected it was because her parents expect her to.
But she didn't know what she really wanted. She wasn't good at math and while she liked reading, she wasn't spectacular at English, especially writing. Her parents encouraged her to be creative, and they assured her that she would find her interests and abilities soon. But Kaitlyn was beginning to lose faith in that. And it seemed that her parents are more insistent lately that she decide what she is going to do with her life.
She felt she could decide, if only she could stop being scared.