musings, problems.

A Letter to the Only Black Kid in Class

You sit in history class patiently waiting for the teacher to begin the lesson, feeling carefree with a small glimmer of anticipation because you love learning new things. Your teacher walks to the front of the room and says something along the lines of “Let’s talk about slavery”. You feel the hair on your arms and the back of your neck slowly begin to rise, one’syour heart gives off a nervous flutter and your eyes remain trained on the wall, the floor or the ceiling. Anything except the eyes of the twenty white faces that have all turned to you, now patiently waiting for a reaction from you.
If you’ve ever been the only black kid in class ones for you.

At my school, which is situated in an affluent suburb filled with mostly white kids, it’s rare to find a classroom with more than 4-5 black kids at one time. When you take honors or AP courses the number drops to maybe 1 or 2. I was the only black girl in my AP Computer Science class,one of two in Honors American Lit and the sole minority in Honors U.S History. I made friends quickly though, adapting to my surroundings easily-but the lack of diversity which was startling at first became commonplace,expected even.

I spent most of my high school career only seeing friends during lunch or in passing in the hallways.Sometimes it bothered me, never being in classes with friends because they didn’t take them or because we didn’t have the same class period. However for the first time during my senior year, which will come to an end in 50 days or so, I had the privilege of taking AP courses with friends. It was an interesting change and a welcome one, as I’d become tired of feeling awkward when teachers mentioned certain topics.
I felt weird talking about slavery, when someone mentioned Jim Crow I shut down, I dreaded reading Huck Finn but I no longer had to feel that way anymore because now I had someone with me who could relate and ease the tension.
Of course there’s also benefits to being the only black kid in class, being able to have a relevant perspective on many of the issues being an important one for me. When teachers ask for opinions or stories relating to social issues, etc. the other students can give their opinions on things like racism or discrimination but until you’ve experienced these things the opinion looses value. For example, if a man argues over issues with a woman about menstruation, it seems futile. Because no matter how much he argues or how much evidence he tries to rake up to support himself, until he experiences menstruation, the opinion has no foundation.

Reflecting from where I now stand, I’m almost grateful for the experience. Being the only black kid just made me want to stand out more,try harder and make them notice me even more than they did before.I can laugh about it now, with  friends as we talk about our experiences and what we’ve learned from it.

You keep your eyes locked on the floor as your teacher begins to describe the “horrors” and the “shame” brought on by slavery. You’ve heard the story, you won’t be missing anything if you choose not to pay attention.You retreat into an impenetrable layer of your mind. But the uneasiness of knowing that several eyes are bearing down on you, penetrating the bubble causes you to look up. Directly into the eyes of a person who could never understand the way you feel, whose lack of depth is very apparent. You lock eyes with the person, but this time you refuse to look away, refuse to hide yourself.They quiver under your observant gaze and subsequently look away. A slight smirk creeps across your face. Yeah, you’re the only black kid in class and you couldn’t be happier.

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