Being the Black Girl at a White School…What Parents Should Know

When I graduated from the 6th grade my parents finally had enough money to move us out of “our hood” it wasn’t “THE HOOD” but it had just enough gang violence and drugs for my barely middle class parents to say “ It’s Time to Go.”

So we moved to Escondido, a small city just outside of San Diego.

We mowed our new yard with a rider mower. We had orange avocado and pomegranate trees, and a nice old house. We also happened to be in the district with some of the best schools in the county.

The first day after leaving our new school I told my mom “ There aren’t any Black kids at this school.” My brother and I doubled the Black population, overnight it went from 2 to 4, out of a few hundred students.

Not only was it mostly white it was also mostly rich, I remember the poor white kids asking their parents to pick them up down the street from the school, so the rich white kids wouldn’t have to see their beat up cars. In my old neighborhood most of my friends parent’s didn’t even own cars, so there was no such thing as being embarrassed about one.

At my new school we instantly had to battle stereotypes. My mom had to fight to put me in a math class that would set me on the college tract. My first year I was in a math class that I could pretty much teach myself, my math teacher even told me “You don’t belong here.” I was placed in that class because I was black from a poor neighborhood, not because of my academic ability.

Academically I ended up making a smooth transition, socially I don’t think I ever really adjusted. The kids didn’t listen to the music I did, they had crushes on “Hanson” and sang “mmmbop”. I had Tupac hanging on my wall, and sang songs from SWV.  My hair was different,  at sleep overs I wouldn’t wear my scarf to bed because I didn’t want to have to explain it. I’d wash my hair in the shower just like them, even though it wasn’t “wash day”.

Overall I knew that my black skin and hair made me different and unattractive. No boys from my school ever had crushes on me, in the 8th grade I told my mom I was never going to prom, even though it was years away. She thought I was kidding or would change my mind. Senior year came and went, I didn’t go. I knew in the 8th grade NO BOY from my school would EVER ask me to prom or even on a date. It turned out to be true.

In some respects that was great, no distractions and I learned early how to deal with different types of people. In other respects it put a big dent in my self esteem. I saw absolutely no representation of myself anywhere and even when I got to high school and there were a few more black kids the self hatred was evident. My friends said things like “ I’m going to marry someone white or Mexican so I can have light-skinned babies with good hair.”  We were all suffering.

My parents really wanted to give us a great education and that’s what they did, but it came at a cost.

I write this as a warning to parents who are doing this same thing. For some of your kids this will be wrong the choice, I didn’t have teachers saying my hair was stinky or suffer violent attacks from my classmates but I was pushed and shoved by my white male peers because I was black and called a “Bitch” in front of an entire class for achieving better grades.

For others it may be the right choice, but I implore you to talk to your kids about what it means to be Black, Asian or Chicano. Make culturally relevant education a part of your home life. Go out of your way to put them in diverse settings. Tell them that they are different, not less than, but different and they will be treated differently. Even if you don’t see it, it’s happening. Help them to love themselves, their skin and their culture. They will need your help probably more than you can understand.

 

7 thoughts on “Being the Black Girl at a White School…What Parents Should Know

  1. Faith Morris says:

    So crazy, I was going to write about my experience too, completely different from yours but nonetheless not ideal to grow up in a non diverse community. Love that you wrote this. Love it. Sorry you had to grow up missing diversity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. delliesallnatural says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read this, I honestly hope it does help parents, because I just don’t think my parents knew what they were getting into, I don’t know that they would have changed their mind but perhaps been able to support me in different ways or start conversations that I just didn’t have to tools to. Thank you for your encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Being that I did attend a diverse high school, I did not have your same experience; however, I can only imagine how challenging it must of been. I currently work at a very diverse high school and now from the outside looking in, I am able to truly appreciate my high school experience. It’s great to see that you can identify the pros and cons of your experience, and are able to give parents something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. delliesallnatural says:

      yes, diversity is beneficial to all. Hopefully politics involving education will lead to all schools becoming ” the best” schools, so some parents don’t have to make the choice between diversity and academic excellence. I know schools like that exist and perhaps yours was one of them, I just feel like there are too few of them.

      Like

  3. David. says:

    I had a similar path and in many ways, it mirrored yours. I’m sorry is so minimal. My intent ,may have not always been guided w/wisdom. But always with love.

    Like

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