My father spent most of his adult life serving the United States Air Force. Even though he spent most of his teen years living in Washington, D,C, he ran across racism quite frequently. My mother is from West Texas and she also experienced racism first hand throughout her life. Both were determined that their children would be raised that their character should matter more than the color of their skin and not to see skin color when interacting with people. In the mid 1960 we relocated from Andrews Air Force Base to MacDill Air Force Base. Andrews AFB is on the outskirts of Washington, D,C, and MacDill is located in Tampa Florida. When I started grade school I attended school on base, It was in the second grade that I experienced racism for the first time. My teacher was teaching social studies and was discussing race. Although I didn’t think it was her intention to make me feel uncomfortable but she did. She made a matter of fact comment that the whole class was white except for me, I was black. My parents had never explained race to me and I was taken aback as I really didn’t know exactly what she meant only at that point did I feel different from my classmates. I went home and told my parents, At six years old in the second grade, how do you explain that the color of your skin is different? I don’t remember exactly how my parents explained it to me, but I do know that I’ve always judged people by content and character and not the color of their skin. I don’t make pre-judged conceptions at first glance. It generally takes two to three conversations before I make a general opinion about someone. I hope that I have instilled these same principles in my son.
I recently read an article that even though we’ve made great strides in integrating our public schools through redistricting, racism still exists and occurs on the most “subtle levels” (Kuznia 2009). As educators we cannot afford to pre-judge or stereotype our children based on race, economic means or gender. We must instill pride and nurture our children to know that each is important and has something to contribute to our society.
Kuznia, R.(2009). Racism in Schools: Unintentional But No Less Damaging. Pacific Standards. Retrieved from: http://www.psmag.com/culture-society/racism-in-schools-unintentional-3821/