Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write something AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL (10/02/14)
- TITLE: White Girl in a Brown World
By Tracy Nunes
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Pan American Flight #763 landed at Honolulu International Airport on a muggy Hawaiian afternoon. The impact was hard and we bounced down the runway. At the terminal, the smiling stewardess turned the large red lever; a hiss of compressed air signaled an exchange of elements. The cool, cigarette smoke-filled cabin mingled with topical flowers, plane exhaust and damp heat; a complicated brew. With that, it was confirmed: life would never be the same for me again.
Weíd driven cross country to California to catch the transpacific flight; each mile taking me farther from what Iíd known, leaving everything in the second month of my kindergarten year: grandparents, cousins, our house, even our dog, to move to the most remote island in the world.
Hawaii; a land of beauty and contrast, of legend and myth; where a conglomeration of mostly Pacific basin races had merged into what islanders called local: dark skin and a tropical way of life.
Despite my parents being part Native American, they passed for white and weíd lived a white existence. Unrest hadnít left our Indiana town untouched, but I was largely ignorant of the social turbulence our country was embroiled in and completely unaware of how the tables would turn for me.
The first day of school in Hawaii set the tone for what was to come. The only blonde girl in my kindergarten, I was surrounded by an assortment of brown heads. That was the day I found out what Haole meant. Originally meaning foreigner, it evolved to mean Unwelcome White Person.
My unwelcome party was a group of kids who filled me in on where I stood. I was the odd girl out, the blot of white on an all brown page. They initiated me into what it meant to be Haole and explained Kill Haole Day that occurred on the last day of the school year when white kids were terrorized even more than a regular school day. It was an accepted tradition at that time; even much of the school faculty looked the other way. No one actually died, but the point was made.
I went home that day determined to never come back, sure that my life depended on it. Iíd hide, run or threaten to hurt myself if they made me go. My mother dragged me to school kicking and screaming and once there I would climb out of the bathroom window and run home. It escalated to me being guarded on each side by a teacher and not allowed to go on the playground at recess. It came to a head when my father threatened to take a utility belt with metal rivets and beat the living daylights out of me. Comparatively, school was the better choice.
I lived the next forty-six years in various states of Otherness. When I developed breasts much earlier than the other girls, unchecked sexual harassment was layered on top of racism; one more reason to be set apart. I learned to inhabit the culture and had friends of every race. I learned to appreciate the beautiful side of this place; I danced hula and dated Hawaiian boys, eventually marrying one. I adapted to a culture that insisted I become like them to be accepted. I adapted, but I didnít conform.
Inside, I yearned to be free from a culture that found me wanting. Yet, Iíd had been given the gift of experiencing minority status that most whites donít get. I learned what it feels like to be on the outside looking in, faced with a choice to be who I am, or be swallowed by another culture; to rise above my circumstances and live my life forward.
Years later, now redeemed, I know that Iím part of a chosen generation and a peculiar people; Godís children. Growing up Other prepared me for being set apart in a world gone mad. Itís removing from me the misguided idea that Iím defined by those around me.
2014; the year I starting writing the story instead of letting the story write me; Godís girl in a crazy world.
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