Would I have been punished for talking out of turn, or would my behavior have been interpreted as boredom and warranted additional attention? Would I have been placed in a more rigorous academic setting without having my parents fight for teachers to recognize my abilities?
If I Were White
Talynn Kel

In my experience, with myself, my little brother, and my son, the only way such behavior is recognized is when it’s fought for by the parents.

It wasn’t until I came home crying from kindergarten, literally bored to tears, that I was evaluated for skipping ahead grades. Then again in second grade to get into the “gifted program” that lasted all of one year in third grade. The only reason I wasn’t formally punished for how I dealt with the boredom was because I did my work (and it was correct) and I was quiet (as an introvert, I tended to read, write, or draw, instead of acting outwardly and disrupting the class), so they didn’t really have any grounds to do so, though the less-understanding teachers still called me out in class for it, attempting to publicly humiliate/embarrass me into conforming.

Then, there was the bullying, which my mom fought against for a little while, but that stopped after the end of second grade, and I was left to my own devices for dealing with it for the rest of my school career. There were several times when I was punished for defending myself, even as the teachers watched me get cornered.

My little brother nearly dropped out of school, because he was so bored and found more stimulation working at a catering company and tinkering with bikes and electronics.

My kindergarten-aged son has ridden the edge of suspension and expulsion (and sometimes crossed it) from numerous childcare facilities for the past three years, and is only not in the same situation at school, because we fought to get him support after an ASD diagnosis (which now entails being his advocate at his IEP meetings). At the other facilities, it’s a constant back-and-forth of working with the adults to literally teach them to recognize the overstimulation and letting him do what he needs to do to self-regulate, to recognize that his acting out is rarely actually unprompted, and to solve the underlying issues instead of punishing him for natural reactions to his surroundings.

In one case, before his diagnosis, the manager at the daycare center flat-out told us, the day she essentially expelled him, that we were bad parents and implied that we were simply ignoring bad behavior at home, despite the fact that we never had the problems they were having (it eventually came to light that the environment was overstimulating him and he had no coping mechanisms at the time).

So, while the grass may seem greener on the other side — and in some ways it may be — we’re not all handed things or our needs magically understood simply because of our skin color.

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