Julia Jomon, Grade 11
The lifeless prison walls stare back at me with sympathy. The unwanted attention of the white guard watches me with disgust and curiosity. The same look I received many years ago when I was seven years old, held in a compound filled with kids like me. Different. Unwanted. With that, the feeling of loneliness pushes me back to those memories…
The pale-skinned officer nudged me to keep walking. I passed the others in the compound - a palette of colours. Some were dark like the Earth, a rich brown colour that reminded me of the landscape I had grown up in.
“Too dark,” the man in uniform said, gesturing them to the left. He moved on to the next group. These were pale, a milky complexion like the officer behind me. He pointed them to the right, towards the expectant faces of a dozen white families who stood beyond the gate. And then, there was me. The official observed me, seeming unsure what to do. Dark - but not too dark - white, but not white enough.
“We’ll send this halfie to the mission,” he said, nodding at his clipboard. And with that nod, my fate was sealed. The officer turned me around, away from the warm faces of my aunts and uncles on one side, and the pale gazes of strangers on the other.
“Halfie.” I repeated the word to myself - a whisper. Halfie. I didn’t belong.
My feet slowed to a trudge. I’d heard whispers of the place they called the mission around the compound. It was where they ‘reformed’ people that didn’t fit in, they said. That was a good thing, right? It would be okay.
Brown fingers curled around the dark bars that walled in my spirit. In contrast to the black metal, they seemed whiter than usual. I was trapped inside a cell...and inside a body. Not black enough, not white enough.
Several years later, they led me back to meet my family. A change in policy, the mission leaders had said. I didn’t know what that meant, but I did know how I felt about seeing my family. Heart thudding, I waited at the gate that circled the mission grounds, hands gripping the railing. They were coming - I could see them getting closer. I stretched out my hands in invitation, smile wide. Then I faltered. Something was wrong with my aunts’ expressions. They were whispering, brows knitted and face tight with uncertainty. Weren’t they happy to see me?
As I walked closer, they shuffled back as if I was the devil in disguise. One of my aunts stopped to whisper in another’s ear, “She’s a real halfie. Look how they’ve trained her. She’s no black person no more.”
Hope dissipated like a dying fire into the ground. I had been waiting years for this moment, and once again, it was ripped away from me. If I didn’t belong in the mission, and if I didn’t belong with my family, who was I?