Racism in Schools a Thing of the Past?
What do you remember about grade school? I can recall my favorite teacher – Mrs. Faison in first grade. I can remember that playing in the band concerts made me feel special and the fun I had in high school getting ready for the prom. But, I can also recall my parents never being asked to enroll me in accelerated or gifted and talented programs. It wasn’t until high school that I enrolled in honors classes, when I could sign up for them myself. Even then I experienced discouragement from teachers or guidance counselors: Was I sure I was ready for honors classes? My parent’s response: Did they ask every student this question? My mama and daddy, thank God, were able to come to my rescue. They told the school they believed I could handle honors work and they showed up again when I dared to sign up for AP level biology. These school experiences wouldn’t strike me as odd if it weren’t for the fact that there was an average of maybe 2 African American students in my honors classes and AP biology class, including me. My experiences as a student and now as a parent have led me to believe that children of color deal with more than just learning ABC’s and 123’s at school. Racism is still a factor in schools, yet today it is often very subtle. This is clearly evident in the many 2013 school news reports related to racism. One child was allegedly told the US doesn't need another Black president. While three little African American girls were told their naturally kinky hair, one an Afro puff, another locks and lastly an Afro, were not school friendly, code – well-groomed - hair-dos. But the one story of the year that clearly illustrated racial bias: Alabama schools, joining Florida and Virginia, in imposing lower academic standards for children of color [see more 2013 racial school news here]. African American parents have always seen education as the great equalizer. Before the Emancipation Proclamation to the Brown v. Board ruling in 1954 and still today there has been an intense desire for African American children, and students of color in general, to have access to not just an education, but an education that will lead to opportunities for eventual financial advancement. Unfortunately, the hope of schools as the great equalizer still remain to be seen with the current achievement gap, a threatening end to Affirmative Action policies and disproportionate numbers of children of color on the receiving end of disciplinary actions. As parents of African American children my husband and I want our children to have positive educational experiences that will foster their sense of intelligence and success. We know, just because the school/teacher may not request for our children to enroll in gifted and talented/honors classes that it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be in there. But, just like our parents did for us growing up, my husband and I will still need to come to the rescue to make sure it happens.