It was just like any other Tuesday — I did not think much of it when it began, but by the end of it, I was obviously different. We had just started learning about the genocide in Rwanda that morning, as the tears pooled in my eyes I tried to explain to Mr. Poppas why I was crying. I could not stop crying for the life of me.
The genocide proved something to me, something that had been lingering in the back of my mind for who knows how long, however long I have been aware of my racial differences I suppose. I can still remember seeing a photograph of a coal black body in white clothes hanging from a tree. I remember seeing white faces looking into the camera and smiling. Smiling as if that body on that tree was meant to be hanging there lifeless; a strange and bitter fruit.
I could not get it through my head that people could hate so much that they are willing to kill for it. The people who inflicted genocide upon the Tutsi people and their Hutu comrades had so much hatred and animosity that they could kill one million people in three months. That is absolutely insane. What is even more mind-boggling is the fact that no one helped. The Red Cross and personal volunteers that stayed in Rwanda — even after everyone else was evacuated — chose to help. The rest of the world turned their backs and covered their ears, even when lives were being lost and a nation was being divided.
The genocide proved to me that certain human lives hold a higher value, I knew it was true but it had never hit so hard, it had never affected my mental health. The people that had a say chose not to do anything, and rather than using the word “genocide,” refer to this event as “acts of genocide.” I could not stop picturing that man hanging from the tree as I watched the footage of black bodies in pools of blood laying on the streets of Rwanda.
When I learn about these atrocities in 2019, I get a rush of anger and sadness. How could this world be so cruel to my people for so long? It seems like it is never-ending. It becomes difficult to sit in these classes and not think about the world outside and all the wrong it is doing to my people. They expect us to be able to handle it, but how do we handle this nation that has given us no respect? How can I not be frustrated and annoyed by my peers’ privilege? No one has a say as to what body they are born in, and privilege comes in all forms, but there is a universal privilege that white people have, that is power.
No matter how much I wish this wasn’t the case, white people currently hold the keys in America, not because they deserve it any more than people of color, but because they got a head start. Not many people like to hear that opinion but I have a feeling it’s because it is so true that it causes a guilt reaction, which then sparks defensiveness, as if what I’m saying isn’t understandable.