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“I was constantly mocked”: being a black student in one of the whitest areas of Indiana | Race

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I. I don’t remember when I first realized I was different from my white classmates. I don’t even remember when I first realized what race is. But I remember the first time I was made to hate myself for being black.

I was 10 years old when I was first called N-word.

We were released from classes that day, so I went to get my backpack from the booth in the corner of my elementary school classroom. Before I could throw it over my shoulder, my classmate made an announcement.

“Look at everyone, it’s Tiger [N-word]».

I was the only black girl in the room, so I immediately realized he was talking about me. If that wasn’t obvious enough, he made sure to clarify by staring and pointing at me while he said it.

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The shock of the blow did not allow me to fully comprehend what had happened. All I could think about was asking if I heard it correctly. When he said it again, he took care to remove all doubts.

One incident, one word: that’s all it took me to understand that I was considered “different.” My innocence and naive childish hope disappeared when I was put into a position of submission.


MThe Carmel County, Indiana, is home to some of the best public schools in the United States, where I was educated from the age of five until I graduated. Also that less 4% of black students the school district consists of white hallways, white teachers and white students.

Historically fair-skinned black people have received privileges from white people. To me, as a fair-skinned black woman, they were not given in Carmel. Ever since my classmate called me an N-word, I’ve been constantly making fun of my Blackness.

The self-hatred that followed slowly sowed in my face. When students and sometimes teachers made fun of my “exciting” running ponytail, I got braids. When I braided my braids, they said I looked like Whoopi Goldberg. When I finally resigned myself to curling my hair to make them as smooth as theirs, the teasing still didn’t stop.

Amulad Ajas (right) talks to Haley Watson about his experience in Carmel.
Amulad Ajas (right) talks to Haley Watson about his experience in Carmel. Photo: Tom Silverstone

I quickly realized that Carmel was not a place for people like me. They made sure we knew that too. You can be as smart as Albert Einstein, and as charismatic as Denzel Washington, and it doesn’t matter. Every time I walked into class, I carried an extra burden, knowing I would have to go higher and further. In high school, I had to work 10 times more than my white classmates to get the basic recognition they received for much less money.

Sometimes I try to convince myself that if my white classmates and teachers knew the true history of this country, then perhaps my experience would not be so. Perhaps administrators will see their choice to dismiss a black student for drugs for a year without punishing a white student (who was caught with more drugs), in parallel with the “war on drugs” in America. Perhaps they would see that additional security in an area dubbed the Black Spot mimics profiling and excessive policing across the country.


My The 16-year imprisonment in the school system ended in 2016 when I received my diploma. After the world was forced to fight retribution and the police in 2020, Carmel now claims they are ready to change, but I can say that nothing has changed. Scrolling through social networks, I look with disgust, but not shock, at the use of “[N-word] it’s “and”[N-word] that ”in the comments.

But instead of tackling this very real racial abuse, teachers, administrators and parents are more afraid of the stuffed animal in the corner: a critical theory of race.

White parents and families across the country are in a panic over the thought that students are critical of the dark history of the United States – especially the lessons that shed light on the outrageous actions of white people over time. The goal of critical racial theory is to contextualize the history of racism and systemic oppression that we see today. But Carmel’s parents don’t want their students taught because it can make their children feel guilty about their whiteness.

School is more likely to satisfy white comfort than to deal with the skeletons of America.

I never found out about Black’s injury: it was an expectation. At a young age, images of slaves with scars from whips on their backs and the horrors of reaction against the civil rights movement were already burning in my mind.

White students can express whether they want to know their history. I don’t.

In the Carmel school district, 4% of students are black.
In the Carmel school district, 4% of students are black. Photo: Tom Silverstone

Throughout my education, I sat in silence while teachers sprinkled white history. I vividly remember sitting in class while my teacher glorified the actions of white people: how brave they freed freed slaves, how good they were for giving rights to blacks, and how trusted they were when releasing Japanese from internment camps.

Parents are also to blame for not teaching children racism. Their refusal to educate their children shows that they are all right with the functioning of society. By their deliberate ignorance, they are cultivating a future generation of people who will not change the prevailing culture because they believe that everything is the sun and the rainbow.

Carmel’s parents and administrators are patting themselves for doing the bare minimum – for finally interfering with the racist culture they have allowed to unfold. Suddenly the school claims to care all students. Their new concern is to better train teachers and administrators, revise policies and hire staff on diversity, equity and inclusion to make the school fairer and more inclusive.

It wasn’t worth killing George Floyd to think about dealing with students like me. If George Floyd had not died, Carmel would have continued to live in her ideal utopia with her eyes closed and her ears closed – completely indifferent to the trauma that surrounds them.

I refuse to believe that Carmel is ready to change. Their new diversity, fairness and inclusion initiatives smell of performative progressiveness used to alleviate white guilt.

My pessimism comes from the bitter aftertaste that haunts me to this day. I may not know how to fully handle the racism I was forced to experience at a young age, but I refuse to let my child’s hopes for the future break, as I do. The only consolation I have is to know that I will never subject my future children to the suffering I have had to endure.

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