I do not like spending too much time wallowing in things I have zero control over. Today I found myself knee deep in thoughts about a topic that sends chills up and down my spine. It is not my favorite topic, but after reading Carolyn Meyer’s book White Lilacs and an article about Darrel Brown, I felt compelled to write about my least favorite topic: Racism.
Reading Meyer’s book and the article about Darrel Brown forced me to think about my own experiences with racism. I tried my best to suppress the dormant feelings, but human nature prevailed and steered me in a direction I did not want to go.
Carolyn Meyer’s book chronicled a very dark part of American history. The novel is about true events of a black community in Denton, Texas. The white residents wanted all the blacks to relocate to a new location so they can build a park. The whites did not care that they were destroying the lives of the black people. The worst part is the blacks had no choice but to relocate to the worst section of Dillon Texas. How degrading.
The article about Darrell Brown is even more heart wrenching. A young African American male determined to be the first to integrate football in Arkansas met nothing but one defeat after another.
“Players and assistant coaches freely used racial slurs, a fact denied by none of Brown’s half-dozen teammates interviewed. Some even recalled chants and catcalls. And there was always the kickoff drill to knock him down.”
Racism is a very complex thing. It eats at you like a cancer. It demoralizes you. You have to be very strong to recover from what it does to you mentally.
I have so much respect for Darrell Brown for not giving up, but it gets to a point where one must re-examine ones motives. Darrell reached that point when he got hurt and no one came to his aid.
“Three weeks into practice, during one drill, Brown jammed his thumb and tore the cartilage. He howled in pain. No trainer came to him. They never did. Brown tried to block out the pain until his knee bent awkwardly during a hitting drill, causing a sprain and some torn cartilage. He hobbled to the side, again, he said, without a trainer paying him any mind.
For the first time he was not just hurt, he was injured. He couldn’t stand up. His thumb was killing him. His knee was beginning to swell. Practice ended with no one asking his condition. There was no medical attention. Brown limped to the locker room, undressed and eventually hauled himself up the hill to the campus infirmary for treatment. It was the only place that would see him.”
After getting hurt Brown realized it was time to move on.
As a black female in America, I too have experienced my share of racism. I remembered my first encounter with racism came about as a freshman in high school. Enrolled in the college-bound program, my English teacher made it a point to never give me the “A” I had earned. I worked very hard and made 100% in every test I took. She gave me a “B” instead of the “A.” I went and asked why I got a B on my report card. Her response: “I want you to continue to work hard,” she said. I walked away feeling totally baffled and confused.
Well, I continued to work hard and kept getting high marks, but much to my dismay. She continued to give me a “B” on my report card. The final blow was when I learned she had given my white classmates “A’s” even though they did not earn the grades.
I think she wanted me to drop out of the college-bound program. I was one of the two blacks in the program. I am not a quitter; I did not let this mean-spirited teacher deter me from achieving my goals.
My second encounter with racism occurred during college. Many of my professors routinely used racial slurs. The one that really cut me through the bone: “You know studies have shown that blacks are inherently inferior to whites in intelligence”
This is what my professor said during a lecture. Being the only person of color in the class, everyone turned and looked at me. I wanted to slap that professor, but I realized I should not stoop down to her level of disrespect.
Then came the debacle with my name not appearing on the honor roll list. I spoke to the dean about why my name was left off, his response: “Sorry it was an accident. Truth be told, it was done intentionally.
I endured every obstacle thrown my way. I graduated with a bachelor of arts in French and Spanish with a minor in psychology. Proud as a peacock, I opened and looked at my diploma and discovered that the official seal of the president was missing. I knew right away why. Of course, I checked the diplomas of my white classmates; sure enough, all of theirs had the seal.
I must also be honest and mention that some of my professors treated me with the utmost respect. I quickly learned some people are just plain mean, but others do have a heart. I will never, ever forget my French professor who was originally from France. Lucky for me she really liked me a lot, and with her guidance, my self-esteem soared like an eagle. She wrote a glowing recommendation for me. Because of her, I got a full ride scholarship to study abroad with Syracuse University in Strasbourg, France. I lived with a French family and got a chance to travel all over Europe. That experience helped me expand my horizons. I learned through firsthand experience to appreciate other people and cultures.
What I learned while living in France helped shape the person I am today. As I ponder upon events of my past, I cannot help but be thankful for the men and women who have made many sacrifices so racism is not as bad as it once was. America has made much progress, but there is always room for improvement.