And she’s black

My first memory of oppression came when I was in the second grade. I knew that I had brown skin, but my parents never discussed what the difference my skin would make. Their emphasis was always on getting good grades and being respectful. The only true difference my father use to say was that I was made to be a girl, and then there boys. We sleep, eat and cry the same but learn life lessons and experiences differently. Whatever you put your heart and mind to, you can achieve.

This particular day in class I learned that I was the only black student in my class. The way the teacher implied it was like she thought I already knew that fact. I can’t even remember what we were talking about in class only that she said “we’re white” while pointing towards me “and she’s black”. As everyone turned to look at me, I turned too and then realized she was pointing at me. My feelings hurt and confused, I thought is this better or worse than whom I was five minutes before this conversation began. I thought did I do something wrong as the entire class turned and stared when she simply stated “and she’s black” and why was being black different or important? I thought I was a pretty shade of brown, when did I become black? This was the first thing I mentioned to my mom when I got home. Both her and my father was livid.

In retrospect the teacher could have said more to make me feel less uncomfortable and discussed what similarities we shared. I don’t believe that her intention was to be malicious or prejudice, but at 7 years old I don’t believe I could make that judgement. The next day in class after a discussion with my parents and the principal, we did have another class discussion specifically about race and an apology was given. As educators of young children it is important to know their background and home life. It provides us with valuable information on what our students know and how to approach them without making them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.

From that moment I learned two valuable lessons. First, I still needed to make good grades, give respect and earn respect. Secondly, the color of my skin had nothing to do with achieving the first.

5 thoughts on “And she’s black

  1. That’s awful, I grew up in a similar situation where I was the only person of color in my class and my whole school. I’d always feel alienated by my teachers more then by my peers, and would hope that now in this day and age teachers are better equipped with the ability to interact with diverse populations. “Unraveling our internalized privilege and internalized oppression frees us to be better teachers.” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010 p.27)

  2. I enjoyed reading your post. I agree with you my question I opposed why do we as individual see the color of each others skin before, we see the person/persons. Why must society focus on the way we look or our ethnic background in order to be given the same opportunity to learn or be accepted in today’s society. I believe that your teacher had a issue with the color of your skin and so therefore she decided to includes other in which it happen to be your young classmates. She was very unprofessional and I truly believe that you did the right things by talking with your parents concerning this matter. I also believe the way it was handle was the right decision because the students were give a lesson on how we should accept and appreciate each others differences.

  3. I really enjoyed you post. I had experienced this type of behavior when I was younger. It didn’t make me feel good but I most certainly because aware of my race. What really disappoints me is that why do society chooses to see individual race first instead of getting to know the person. Just because a person is of a different race doesn’t mean they are incapable of being successful. I truly believe that your teacher had an issue with your race and therefore she decide to engaged others( classmates). However, I am glad to see that it was handle the way it was by your parents, and staff. At least the children was able to received a lesson about race. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. I really enjoy reading your post. It also reminded me of my experience as a child on race. I just wonder why in today’s society why do we as individuals always seems to acknowledge or notice a person race first. Instead of accepting the fact race does not play a role in how intelligent a person can be. I am glad to see that your parents and the principal handle this situation the way they did because you along with your classmates were able to received a lesson on acceptance. As for the teacher I truly believe that she had and issue with having to face something out of the norms for her. So therefore she thought it would be appropriate to express her feeling aloud. Either way she was wrong to involve her students with her issues and beliefs.

  5. Wow, what a heartfelt post. I am so grateful that you had a support system that helped bring this issue to the table to be discussed. For children I believe it is ok to talk about differences, but it cannot be presented as an us vs. you or them situation. We all have things that make us difference. That is one of the most important things I have learned from this class. Our family culture and social identities make us all special and unique with individual assets to bring to a classroom, group, job, or community.

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