I’d like to share a lesson that I learned in kindergarten about character. My very first social experiment if you will.
I grew up in Mississippi. I loved my kindergarten teacher. We also had a teaching aide. She was a very southern, Caucasian, red head with freckles. She wore her hair in an afro style and she was very mean or stern. As a kindergartener, I really can’t be certain of which that she truly was but I don’t recall her doing anything malicious to any of us. This may not be significant but you can be the judge of that. Our kindergarten class was mostly comprised of Black students. There were two White students; one male and one female. Just for the purpose of anonymity I’ll call these students Brittany and Matt.
Brittany was my friend and she was a very well behaved student. I was not always a well behaved student, in fact, usually I was not at all. Matt was some where between the two of us. Of what I remember of him, he liked to talk a lot and help out even when he was not asked which is what often got him in trouble. I remember a lot of things about the students in my kindergarten class. I have a really good memory like that. I recall that my cousin was in my class as well, and she too was a very well behaved student. Perhaps irrelevant but like I said, you be the judge.
Any way, back to me not liking the aide. I didn’t like the aide because after lunch everyday, she’d spank us in our hand for talking in the cafeteria. Everyday without fail she’d line us up; just after lunch and right before nap time every single day. Then one day I noticed that she told Brittany that she wasn’t going to spank her today because she was very quiet and not talking during lunch. After that, I noticed it happening more frequently. Now, I’m not sure whether Brittany had been talking in lunch or not. I was more focused on the fact that I didn’t want to get any spankings after lunch. Bare in mind that I was in kindergarten and I was not usually a well behaved student, it took a little time for me to catch on but I was finally able to associate the two. If I’m quiet at lunch, I won’t get a spanking. Easy peasy right. So I decided that I’m going to be quiet during lunch so that I wouldn’t get a spanking like Brittany.
I went to lunch one day and I did not talk. Not related to this lesson but I also learned that I have a lot of self control when I’m willing to exercise that. I did not talk at all. My friends attempted to talk to me, I’d just look up at them and then look at our aide. I suppose it was for reassurance or just to make sure that she saw that I was not talking.
When we returned to the class, we all lined up the same as usually. I was particularly excited because I was quiet today so that meant I wasn’t going to get a spanking. Brittany had not been quiet that day. She got a spanking. When the teaching aide got to me she said, “Victoria, you were very quiet today, I didn’t see you talking at all, so I’m not going to spank you very hard.” I was confused. I was quiet, why did I get a spanking? It was easy to conclude that her spanking me had nothing really to do with me. She had shown me in that moment that whether I was quiet or not, I was going to get a spanking.
What I learned that day is that people of a certain character, regardless of what that character is, good or bad, are going to treat you how they want to not because of who you are or what you do or don’t do, but because of who they are. If a person has an abusive character, it doesn’t matter what you do or what you have done, they will abuse you regardless. The same goes if a person has a racist or sexist character; they will treat you according to their character and not yours.
Needless to say, after discovering this, I gave that lady hell on the coldest day, everyday. After I discovered the truth about her character, I decided that if I was going to take an ass whooping for nothing, I wasn’t going to take it lying down. This has been my philosophy to this day, I’m just not a turn the other cheek kind of woman (unless it’s my butt cheek inviting you to kiss my ass) . Right, wrong, or indifferent; regardless of the outcome, I have never had a single regret about standing up for myself in any situation. I could not care less about your title, your age, your sex, race, years of experience, who your mama or daddy is, what kind of socio-economic, educational background you came from or what any group of people think of you. The Divine has given me my own mind, I will decide for myself based on my personal measure of merit. Respect is given until it is unearned.
I am very proud that my mother raised a woman of impeccable character.