Growing up, I lived the Black middle class family dream. My parents were (and still are) unapologetically Black, in every way possible. In fact, Dead Mike’s song, “I’m Black Y’all”, from CB4 loops in my head every time I see one of them walk into a room.
My dad, a retired Baltimore City School teacher born in 1935, is super old school. He marched with Dr. King, fought with Malcom X, and is an avid reader of the Honorable Minister Farrakhan. He has seen, first hand, what many of us have only read excerpts about in history books. Culture and travel were of great importance in my household; my parents believed these to be two of the main contributors to a great upbringing and fundamental to my development into a well-rounded Black woman. We went to plays, operas, and every African American History Black Wax monumental memorial site on this side of the U.S. My parents took me around the world on educational trips and showed me how people in other countries differ from Americans, who, according to them, aren’t as civilized as they think. I was taught a different history lesson than what we learned in school—at a very young age, I learned that America was built on savagery.
My parents even had their own business—a photography studio at the Avenue Market on Pennsylvania Avenue, located in west Baltimore. They chose this as their place of business because, even though we lived in the county at this time, they needed to be close to the community they grew up in. At the time, there were no professional photography studios in the hood, so they built one.
I am very proud of my parents and the knowledge they instilled in me at an early age, but only seeing life through their Black-colored lenses, they did me a huge disservice. They were so proud to be Black, and felt such a great sense of Black superiority that they forgot about white supremacy, and the way it’s ingrained into every aspect of American life. My parents sent me to an all-girl’s prep school, and it went downhill from there. Now, I wouldn’t dare blame my parents for my downfalls, but I wasn’t ready for this; I wasn’t prepared. They didn’t teach me this part of the game.
Maryvale Preparatory School for Girls has got to be the whitest place in the world. There were about five Black people in the entire school, including me. Throughout my four years there, from the 6th to 10th grades, I was always an outsider—singled out, never invited to sleepovers, always asked about my hair, asked how my parents could afford my tuition, got in trouble for the most trivial of things—the list can go on. I was miserable.
See, my parents taught me the history of white supremacy, but never told me that it was still very prevalent. I didn’t know that some white people, especially the adults, would actually bully a child because they are uncomfortable with having me in “their space”, a space they thought a little Black girl didn’t deserve to be in. I was confused. Unable to piece together what was happening in my life, I mistook their discomfort for my own inadequacy. There was something wrong with me. All these issues eventually led to my expulsion from school. I labeled myself the “bad kid” and I was determined to live up to that title. A series of unfortunate events followed and it took me 7 years to even begin to piece my life back together. Clearly, one must understand all aspects of white fragility and white supremacy in order to move around it.
It’s easy to say that I’ll just be more supportive of my son and make sure no one is messing with him. I’ll teach him about white supremacy, white discomfort and fragility, micro-aggressions, “accidental” racism, etc., which I fully intend to do, but it goes deeper than that. There is something special and empowering about being around your own people, at least for me. I want my son to feel the sense of belonging I never felt attending a predominately white school. My being the “minority” was too much of a distraction for the faculty, staff, and students, and I did not get what I needed out of my education. The psychological damage I experienced in school isn’t something I’m willing to expose my child to. So, for now, he will be attending predominately Black schools. Right now he’s still in pre-K, and attends a nice private school that is 60-70% Black, though the faculty and staff are about 95% white—but it’s a start.
In her article, “Dear White Racists, Apology Not Accepted”, Stacey Patton writes that a central facet of white supremacy is “denying innocence to Black children.” Children, naïve and new to this world, should not be expected to undergo any type of abuse, especially at the hands of an adult. What I experienced in prep school gave my antagonists great pleasure, and I’m sure they felt triumph following my expulsion. Therefore, again, I refuse to expose my child to such fuckery.
Yes, I’m raising someone who will eventually become an intelligent Black leader, but today, tomorrow, and for years to come, he deserves my protection—white supremacy cannot have my baby.