Luiza Vilanova is a high schooler from Brazil. The definition of multi-talented, Luiza is a writer for the publication Around the World and is also the founder and CEO of the community outreach initiative Gotinhas do Bem. In addition, Luiza is also a skilled writer. Below is an excerpt from a narrative that she wrote, detailing the racial polarization of Apartheid through the eyes of a white highschooler.
From my bedroom window, I could see through the darkness and gaze down at the hoards of fleeing people. The new policy of “good neighborliness” had come to fruition, and the first signs of the nightmare to which blacks would be subjected were already beginning to blossom.
The next morning as I walked to school I took an inventory of changes I observed. My few colleagues of color were not present and something told me that they would never return to this school again. The first words uttered by any teacher were about last night’s announcement. When my principal came and spoke to us, I remembered the strange feeling that ran through my body when I heard the Prime Minister’s speech last night; a mixture of fear and insecurity invaded me. Through this apartheid measure, the government not only legalized racial segregation, but it turned racism into a social norm. Despite the apparent immorality of these current events, I believe that I was only one of a few in school that believed that apartheid was fundamentally wrong. I saw in the eyes of my colleagues and the director’s speech that everyone seemed satisfied with the new law. My own parents said they were relieved to note that they did not have to worry anymore about a school where blacks were “supported.”
At break time the tenseness of the day seemed to melt away and things functioned with a business-as-usual type calm. But as I walked to the lunch line I witnessed something that startled me. It was normal that no one looked in the eyes of women who served in the cafeteria, but today few people waiting in line just pointed to the food and left. I noticed that the student’s jaws were pointed higher, and the employees’ shoulders were left bent. When I reached the front of the lunch line, I greeted the clerk and asked for my lunch, causing everyone’s heads to swivel towards me. To my surprise, the black lady began to tear up. Before I knew what I was doing, I pushed past the cafeteria counter and wrapped her in a warm embrace.
“You do not have to feel lesser than. The politicians who’ve approved of this system are so small that they need to use others as tools to feel better about themselves.” I whispered.
I felt her tears stream down my shoulder. Though I held her, my good intentions couldn’t even begin to heal the hurt she must have been feeling.
“Luiza!” the director shouted.
When I finally broke from the kitchen worker, I turned to a sea of eyes all staring at me. Everyone was perplexed by the scene playing out before them; they did not seem to understand my reason for this sudden gesture of compassion. My director shot daggers at me and whisked me off to her office.
“Why do you do it? ” she interrogated me.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I understood your question. Do you mean why I hugged that lady in the cafeteria?” I scanned her face for some explanation to her confusing question.
“No, I am referencing your dishonorable behavior. Do your parents know that you are the main reason why those blacks continue to attend this school? You make them feel welcomed and equal to us!!” she uttered the last sentence with such an immeasurable dose of disgust that I was afraid, that I almost jumped in my seat. “Why would you do such a thing?”
I paused for a minute and stared at her. She was blonde, tall with blue eyes and white skin. Like me. But her words made me feel like we were oceans apart. I would never hold the hate that this woman carried. I focused back on her face and realized she was still waiting for an answer. And that is when I took the courage to utter the words that could lead to my suspension. “Because we are all equal.”