By Nicole McGowan
I became conscious that I was Black when I was 5 years old.
Surrounded by pink bodies, I was ashamed of my brown skin. All the dolls in school were White along with the children in our textbooks—laughing, happy, smiling faces that didn’t look like me.
This is how I begin my personal statement, which explores my identity, self-worth, passion for education and ultimately my future contributions to society. It’s safe to say I’ve been thinking about race for a very long time.
Today I received an email from a professor sharing an article on Huff Post that again forced me to take a critical stance on race and its implications for achievement within the United States. The Difference We Haven’t Overcome: Why the Color Line Endures in America introduced me to the perspective of viewing race as the “different difference”. Robert T. Carter points out “Other historically oppressed groups in the United States have seen dramatic improvement in their circumstances”. In an attempt to not undermine his argument, I strongly suggest reading the entire article.
What I would like to point out is his attention on the inferior status of the services provided to people who are oppressed due their skin color and how these services are not improving. The reality is that people of color in the United States suffer and the injustices aren’t making marked improvements. The hands of institutionalized racism are killing black men and women. And as Carter points out these aren’t “isolated events”.
As an educator, it’s difficult to comprehend what this means for my Black and Brown babies I encounter in the classroom. How can I trust this world to support, uplift and foster my kindergarteners’ education when I can’t trust that they are being treated fairly based on their character rather than their color? I don’t worry about myself. I worry about my babies. I am overwhelmed with a sense of guilt— wishing I could protect them from the evils and dangers that attack and vilify children of color.
My wishing and hoping won’t change the fact that race plays a very important role in shaping the lives of my young learners. Until we can get everyone on board with this understanding and proactively working to change this heinous reality, I will continue to be plagued with fear.