Misogynoir is Taught in Your Schools
For many people, elementary school was one of the best times of their lives. They reflect back on these formative years fondly as they reminisce on friends made and friends lost, teachers they loved and teachers they didn’t, fun activities, games and most importantly: nap time. For these people, elementary school taught them the social skills that allowed them to reign supreme on top of the social hierarchy while also teaching them how to read, write and count. It validated them and who they were.
If only I could say the same.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certain moments about my childhood that I look upon quite fondly as well. There are times when I find myself thinking about how nice it would be to return to that point in my life where my responsibilities-and my workload- were smaller. But those thoughts are always halted when I remember how school did a better job of teaching me that my blackness was inferior than it did teaching me to read and write.
As I look back I realize that the only difference between the two was that my lesson in antiblackness didn’t come with a Promethean board, a pen and planned lectures. It was immersive. It surrounded me from the time I woke up until I went to sleep. Luckily for me, this racism wasn’t kids calling me the n-word on the playground. It was more potent, more subtle. It was the feeling of being an outsider in a sea of white. It was feeling light eyes stare holes into me as I walked into the room. It meant having my white classmates turn to look at me during lectures regarding slavery and Jim Crow. It meant having my curiosity be misinterpreted as aggressive and defiant. Being the only chocolate chip in the cookie meant being hyper visible and invisible at the same time while also having the whole world telling you you’re too insignificant to matter but too significant to not pay attention to. Such is the ambiguity that is racism.
To many of us, school is the place where our children go to fill their heads with lessons and learn the skills necessary to succeed in the world. But for black children, school is the one of the first institutions that teaches that our place in the world is at the bottom. Even though many schools would like to reject their role in reinforcing white supremacy onto the impressionable minds of black youth this is not something that is easily done.
Here, within the four walls of a classroom, we find our history reduced to struggle and oppression with a few victories once every century or so. We’re overlooked as potential participants in gifted programs and are underrepresented in advanced courses. Stereotypes that promote the idea that black people are naturally dispositioned to carry out criminal behavior fuel the school to prison pipeline as we’re more likely to be suspended, expelled, and sent to juvenile justice facilities. The crazy part is that this is not even close to an exhaustive list detailing the ways in which the education system fails black children.
We are told that in order to be successful the first thing you need is an education. But what do we do when the institutions that are responsible for administering that education are trying to destroy us? What do we do when these same institutions are teaching how to destroy ourselves? Anti Blackness is at the cornerstone of misogynoir which continues to have real life consequences on black women. For many black children, they learn their blackness is rooted in more trauma than triumph alongside their arithmetic lessons. But black girls not only learn that their blackness lacks value, they also learn that their gender does too.
If the black boys are taught to see themselves and those who look like them as inferior what hope is there to create allies out of those boys? If black boys get away with assaulting or harassing their femxle peers, when do they learn that that behavior isn’t ok? The fact of the matter is that we shouldn’t be surprised when black boys exhibit dangerous levels of anti black misogyny because it’s learn and reinforced within the same institution in charge of educating them.
While I believe that learning begins in the home there is no denying the influence school has on the children of society. Excluding higher education and assuming they graduate high school, kids spend thirteen years of their lives every nine months of the year in this system. If we really want to encourage allyship with black women amongst black boys we can’t just do it at home. Change needs to happen at every level of society. Our schools need to encourage and push pro black curriculum initiatives that are acknowledging and welcoming towards black vernacular and culture. We need more representation in our history books portraying black people’s roles in the founding and establishing of this country beyond slavery and civil rights. We need to hold boys accountable for their actions when their behavior is threatening or intimidating to women and girls. Finally we need schools to be held accountable for allowing anti blackness to fester. Only then can we begin to dismantle white supremacist patriarchy and the misogynoir that it gives rise to.