Today was going pretty darn well. I’d murdered two finals, did my video for Huffington Post’s contest for citizen journalists, and I was on my way home for a week with no homework for the first time in 13 weeks. Life was good.
That is, until my mother told me about her day.
She’s an English teacher at a public school in the Rochester City School District (RCSD), where almost 80% of the students live in poverty. RCSD is not known for its graduation rate, and when students do graduate most of them go to the local junior college, Monroe Community College.
Today, in one of her classes, she brought up Jada Williams, a local student who was allegedly persecuted by her school’s faculty because of a controversial essay she wrote in response to The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. My mother posed to her students, “does the skin color of your teacher matter?” The discussion had just begun when one student raised his hand and said that it did because:
White people are smarter than Black people.
She went on to tell me how much sense it made for that particular student to think this because he was not doing particularly well and it may be because he believes he has “already lost the race.” Also, most of the class did not agree with the young man.
But I didn’t care about any of that. It hurt my heart to think that someone, especially a black person, could think this.
While I understand that maybe he thinks this because there is statistically more white people in upper-level positions, this is only because white people typically have more opportunities. A larger portion of us deal with poverty, and therefore subpar education. Without a quality education, there is not much hope for a quality future.
Remember that one quote, “Believe in yourself or no one else will” said so many times, I doubt many of us really attach much meaning to these words? This is one of those rare instances that nothing but an overly recycled quote can fit perfectly. And it shouldn’t only be said to this one student but to all people of color…I think with such devastating statistics it can become very hard to remember that we can be more than those numbers.
For the sake of our past (those who fought for us), and our future (do we really want to maintain first place for all of the bad statistics forever?) please, let’s work collectively to prove this young man wrong.