For many teens, getting up in the morning for school—sometimes even before the sun comes up—is a hard task. That task is even harder when you attend a school where most of the students do not look like you or share your cultural identity or live in the same neighborhood as you.
No one should have to feel isolated just because your parents want to send you to the best school they can afford. Going to a predominantly white school is not easy. You can’t relate to anything except the basic things every teen knows, such as social media or current rap songs on the radio.
Throughout the years, I have found it strange that throughout the whole month of February, nobody—including the students and administrators—cares to recognize black history in any way. I know that for most students at my school, that may not be a big deal, but it would benefit them as well because black history is American history. The majority are being deprived from this historical standpoint.
Another hard task about going to a predominantly white school is finding balance between the polar opposite worlds of home and school. When I go to school, I feel like I am in a totally different world because coming from Boston, the things that are important to me aren’t the same as the things important to my classmates. People are constantly getting shot in the city and the students in the suburbs and private schools couldn’t care less, but when someone dies in their community the world is supposed to stop. It is definitely a cultural shock to go to school in this environment.
Luckily, I have the most loving and supportive parents who get me through the good and bad times. When I get down, I get back up because what is the point of listening to people say stereotypical things that you know aren’t true? Yes, I know that is easier said than done. Over time, you come to learn that high school doesn't last forever and the storm will pass.
Two Boston teens who go to predominantly white schools have a similar experience to mine. Unfortunately, their experiences were so terrible they would like to remain unnamed. My sources agreed on one thing: they are treated unfairly every day, and nobody cares to even ask if they are okay. People constantly say disgusting phrases to them, such as, “Why do you exist?” “Go back to Africa,” and “Go back to the jungle, you monkey.” On top of that, these two teens and I have all experienced the everyday use of the n-word. While only some students actually use the term as a direct insult, many people use the word in casual conversation, most likely due to its heavy presence in rap music. These students don’t understand that the term is still offensive even when it isn’t intended as a racial slur. It’s truly awful that all we want is to get a decent education without being afraid of what people are going to say.
Kyler Sumter, a current Boston University student who wrote an article for mtv.com about her experience as a person of color in a predominately white institution, says her experience in college with racial slurs was “uncomfortable.” One experience stood out to her in particular, when a “sexist, racist, homophobic guy” said some awful comments. When the people in one of her clubs were playing an icebreaker game where they had to say their least favorite crayon colors, he apparently said “N-word Black.”
In every school, there is the good, the bad and the ugly, but it is your personal experience that makes your high school experience what it is. Ask other kids of color about their experiences, and depending on the predominantly white school they attend, it could be better or worse. That is why perspective matters. From my perspective, no situation is perfect, but being more culturally aware would be a great place to start. It wouldn’t take much. Maybe if we had cultural clubs, acknowledged African-American history month, and talked about the histories of minorities’ cultures in class, our schools would be a more comfortable environment for everyone.