My Children Will Be Represented

Did you know that black students are 3.8 times as likely to be suspended than white students?

My son was expelled from two preschools before he turned four. He was targeted and viewed as more aggressive than his peers for developmentally normal toddler offenses. We kept him out for a while, but ultimately when the time came we still enrolled him in a pre-k program. He was one of two black children in a classroom full of 18 kids. Being one of two black parents in a room full of white children and parents can make you shockingly aware of yourself. I remember how awkward and out of place I felt. The sweat beads forming in my hands. My heart was beating a little faster. Not only because of the racial divide I sensed, but also because I was significantly younger than the other parents. I tried my best to “fit in” and be involved, but I did not make a single friend the entire year.

After my son’s private pre-k class did nothing to acknowledge black history month, I got antsy. I am not writing this to blast them. They are kind and well meaning people. But privileged people. I think most people who are completely unaware of their privilege are well meaning. They are just blind. As February started to end, my anxiety grew. I spoke to my friend about my disappointment and she encouraged me to say something. I slept on it, and then I decided I would say something.

I worked up the nerve to ask his teacher if they had planned anything to celebrate black history or diversity this month. She said no.

I went to the “principal”. Her response was that they “never really had to think about it before”. She went on to say that pre-kindergarten age is so beautiful because they are completely unaware of color.

I stared at her in shock. You didn’t need to think about including diversity in your curriculum until now? It took me, a black mom, to confront you about the lack for you to realize this? How could someone be so insensitive?

My heart dropped into my stomach and my eyes started to burn as I processed this response.

My son is fully aware that he is brown and of all the rich and beautiful complexions on this Earth. He may not know what it means to be black, but he knows it is there. Since he could form words he would talk about how he is brown, his mimi is peach, and his pop pop is chocolate.

I gently told the “principal” that my son was fully aware that he is brown. And he is also fully aware that he is one of two brown children in his class.

I was six years old when I ran home to my dad asking why I looked different. Pleading with him to tell me why I was the only brown girl in my entire school. Begging him to tell me why one little boy said I looked like I was pushed in mud. Crying because my hair was in a frizzy ball of curls and didn’t lay straight down my back like everyone else’s. I didn’t have the privilege of being completely unaware of my color.

So, don’t fool yourself. Black children are aware of their blackness. They may just not fully understand what it means.

The “principal” then asked if I would take on the task of throwing together some sort of black history month activity for my son’s class. I said yes. But as I drove home all I could do was feel exhausted and sad. We pay you to teach our son. You have not had anything in this entire classroom all year that looks like him. Now you’re asking me, the black mom who called you out, to help you fix the lack of black related education in your school. As if you don’t have access to a library. Or google. Or a teaching degree.

Again. I believe they meant well. I truly do. But I wish people would stop and think about what they are really saying to black people before they say it. Try to imagine. I’m obviously uncomfortable and fearful of rejection, confronting you about something that I should not even have to confront you about, and then you tell me to fix it for you.

I cried as I threw together a brief lesson on diversity, building community and highlights of a few famous black inventors. I emailed it to them and brought in a few books that they could read to the class. I was upset but proud that I was contributing something that would hopefully inspire future change.

They didn’t even use it. Instead they did their own thing. I’m not sure what. But it certainly wasn’t enough.

This was my breaking point. 

This is why my son is not and probably will not ever be enrolled in a traditional school. This is why I am currently homeschooling--which is something I said I would never do.

My children WILL be represented.

My children WILL be represented.

My children WILL be represented.

My children WILL be represented.

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