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Back in 5th and 6th Grade, at Mareeha's school, everyone was just friends with everyone. There were students and kids of every color, ethnicity, from every culture, and all religions, and nobody cared - they all played together and they were all friends.
Mareeha had a best friend named Caitlyn - a real best friend forever, and they did everything together. And she also had other friends, best friends too, but maybe just not quite as close as she and Caitlyn were - the two of them had something special.
But, when they moved up into higher grades and got older, things began to change. It was like the kids turned meaner, and starting forming cliques, being exclusive and starting to leave people out.
Even Mareeha's wider group of friends started acting differently, just meaner and looking down at other kids, not the way they all used to be at all, and it was upsetting. It made Mareeha sad.
One day Mareeha and Caitlyn were playing at the park, and one of Mareeha's "other" friends came over to her and told her that she shouldn't play with Caitlyn anymore because she was black. She never considered her her black friend or her African American friends, just her friend, her best friend.
This totally confused Mareeha because after all, she herself was brown skinned, but she was scared of these girls who used to be her good friends. There were a bunch of them, and they were kind of mean, and on the other side there was just Mareeha and Caitlyn. Mareeha felt all that peer pressure, and back then at least, well, she didn't have the guts to stand up to them, she just went with the crowd - that seemed like the least scary thing to do.
So she did it. She went up to Caitlyn and said "I don't want to be your friend anymore because you're black". She chose popularity vs true friendship. Later, the reality of what she said hit her hard. She was a bigot who made a racist statement to her best friend. She felt so guilty and lonely and bad, because really, Caitlyn was her best friend and she just succumbed to peer pressure in the worst way.
After a few days it got to be too much for her, and she went to Caitlyn's house and rang the bell and apologized. She admitted that she was just trying to fit in with the other girls, and it was wrong, and she felt awful about it. Caitlyn accepted Mareeha's apologies - they were best friends again.
Later, those other friends, the racist mean girls, came up to her and asked "why are you friends with that black girl Caitlyn again?" and finally, Mareeha had her chance to stand up to them. She told them "no, Caitlyn is my best friend and I don't care what you say!"
And that's when the racist mean girls turned on her. Mareeha started getting ganged up on too, bullied, made fun of for being "the brown girl with the black girl." But still, she didn't care. She knew that all that mattered was that in the end she did the right thing, and in the end, had her best friend who was a good person and a perfect friend! It became mean girls versus best friends. Discrimination is a terrible thing but a friendship this strong is a true gift. Their experience together make their friendship stronger.
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