Brown Girl Blues

The best way to protect young black, brown, men of color, women of color, is to actually stop profiling, stop the prejudice, and stop the judgment first. – Hill Harper

 

Sigh.

There are too many battles with my beautiful brown babies going on. As a brown girl with a brown boy, it affects me. Personally. The latest issue outside of the “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” movement is the piece I read about how black girls are disciplined harsher than white girls who commit the same crime. Worse than that…darker skinned black girls face harsher or more severe punishment than lighter skinned blacks. WTH?

Yep, that was my reaction. WTH is happening to our brown babies in this country. Really? Are we doing the brown paper bag test on our children? I thought that kind of slave mentality had ended. Apparently not. I am too naive for this country. For those of you unfamiliar with the brown paper bag test it was a test that some blacks used to determine whether admission would be granted in certain circles such as sororities or admission into colleges. If you were as light or lighter than a brown paper bag, you were admitted in. We (blacks) actually used this as a way to determine whether we were beautiful. Based on our complexion. Now others are using it. Today.

A New York Times article¬†entitled “Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differ by Race and Hue” earlier this month just added another piece in a puzzle of growing social issues in which I’m monitoring. In short, the article stated that researchers found that black girls were punished harsher than white girls accused of the same crime and that throughout darker skinned girls were three times more likely to be suspended than light skinned black girls. Excuse me? Yep. You read that right.

To deny that there is such a thing as white privilege is to ignore that racism doesn’t exist. I’m not saying that you are a racist, but let’s be real, you can’t say that you don’t see color and that all these injustices to people of color are a figment of a nation’s imagination. They are not. We need to address the issues of disparity and then try to formulate ways to prevent these kinds of injustices. What about our children? What about our girls?

The fact that the school system is systematically treating girls of different races and then hues differently is a sign that there needs to be change. We can’t continue to hide the fact that racial injustices are occurring all over this country. Even in our schools.

As a black woman, I was fortunate to not have to experience racism in school. I went to a predominately white school at the time (60% white) and my favorite teachers were white. They were the ones who never gave up on me and encouraged me to do better. They inspired and nurtured my love for reading and writing. They helped me pass Chemistry and Physics (by blatantly giving me the answer) because they cared about me. They believed in me. Even when I doubted myself.

There was no color. Just love. Yes, I knew they were white and they knew I was black, but their genuine belief and support in me mattered more than anything. For that, I am thankful.

No, my situation wasn’t the same as these young girls, but that’s because I attended a great school with great teachers and even a great principal. They took the time to learn their students and they treated us equally. Fairly. I couldn’t talk about experiencing racism at school because I didn’t know what that looked like. I never experienced it. I thought everyone had the same experiences as I did. It wasn’t until college that I realized that the world was bigger than my town in Maryland. It was a lot bigger.

College and life shaped my views about the injustices outside of my circle. I grew more aware and socially conscious. I became someone who wanted to seek solutions to the problems that plagued our community. An activist. An intellect. A feminist. A mother. Many titles, but deep down inside…I’m still a little brown girl who hurts for everyone.

One of the best comments I read was by a reader named Kinsey Clark in Athens, Georgia who said the following:

I am a white female, and I was in Georgia’s public school system my entire life. Anyone who argues with these studies is simply wrong to do so. I know I got away with things that my black classmates did not, or I was at least punished to a lesser extent. I hate my white privilege, but I have learned that the best hopes for eradicating it are to accept it for what it is. By denying it, by pretending that I am not lucky to be white in this country, I would be ignoring the problem. I feel too many people don’t speak up against these types of inequalities. I wish I had when I was in school. Racism is still rampant in this country, in ever nook and cranny. It’s simply become so institutionalized in the most subtle of ways, that many of us privileged white folks don’t even notice it. I won’t try to pretend to understand what it feels like to be one who is forced to suffer through it. Yet I will always do my best to put myself in another person’s shoes. I thank the NYT for publishing this article. While protests are roaring nationwide against racist practices by the police, we must continue to shed light on ALL forms of discrimination. The first step to fixing any problem is to let people know the problem exists. I hope school systems will listen and take action.

Insightful huh? Let’s hope that the school systems will listen and take action. For everyone’s sake.

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