America Is Not For Me
An open Letter to all Educators
I am compelled to write this letter to shed light on the different forms of adversity I’ve faced as a Person Of Color (POC) in the American schooling system. Black, in American academia, is in constant correlation with pain and failure. If one tries to disrupt this correlation between Blackness and failure they are seen among their peers and community as weak and are accused of “acting white” or being “whitewashed.” The teachers greet this student’s resistance to oppressive curriculum with labels of “trouble maker” or “problem child” inferring that school just “isn’t for them.” However, as I began to research the numbers, a question emerged: If “school doesn’t work for me” what in America will?
Considering that without a high school diploma my life, freedom, and opportunities diminish, what could my future possibly hold?
Without a diploma my life expectancy substantially drops, and my propensity for crime skyrockets. Seventy Five percent of crimes are committed by high school dropouts, and 7,000 high school students drop out every day in America; That’s 1.2 million children each year.
I soon realized that the all too common trope “school isn’t for you” belied teachers’ willingness to rely on a broken system to decrease their workload. To tell me that school did not work for me with no actual diagnosis as to why was to implicitly tell me that I, and every other student of color, were destined for failure. I began to realize that, in theory, the world was against me. My teachers telling me that schools didn’t work for me compelled me to view my people’s failure therein as an inevitable force of nature. Rather, I’ve come to realize that these conditions are unique to American academia and corrigible.
Without knowledge of the legacy of racism and injustice embedded in this country, it is easy for young black men to believe that their oppression is their own fault. Yet when one is taught their history they are then able to recognize, and give shape to, their discomfort in schools. In his text Between The World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates begins to speak on the importance of knowing one’s history saying,
“Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years Black people were born into chains — -whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.”
Coates speaks to the systematic oppression that greatly created inequitable access to education. Yet, Coates fails to include the ways the oppressors’ methods affect themselves. In the same ways that slavery produced generations followed by generations that knew nothing but chains, slavery also produced generations followed by generations that knew Black as nothing more than free labor. The descendants of those generations are the teachers of today who view Black students as nothing more than disruptions.
In this same sense America has created a culture of disregard for the Black body and schools have created a culture of disregard for the Black mind. Thus it is illogical to ask the oppressor to see the oppressed when they themselves were born into psychological chains. It is a nearly impossible feat, after so many years of abuse and disregard for both the black body and mind. Even though the injustices were a result of their ancestors’ actions, the current ruling class assumes it as default. They blindly accept it. This system has never “worked for me” and it was never intended to. The alternative is not to say that students are not working for schools, but more so to say that schools were never intended to work for the students. Until this deeply rooted truth is acknowledged and accepted we will remain stagnant in America’s man made society.