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Personal Essay + Poetry

High School Musical: But make it black

  I remember watching Disney Channel when I was younger and building my perception of high school from there…everyone was separated into groups: the jocks and cheerleaders, the nerds, the artists, etc. People would get shoved into lockers and there was always that one bully who would come and try to steal your lunch money. I remember watching the popular girls strut through the school doors with their pink, sparkly, outfits and blond straight hair. But the one thing that I never saw was a black girl. We were never part of the story…well unless you count the stereotypical loud, overweight, boy crazy and obnoxious girl who would tail behind her white friend all day, every day….

   Where was our place? 

Reality hit me when I started my freshman year at a majority white school in Westerville, Ohio, and believe me when I say it was not like the movies. There were no popular cheerleaders or jocks, there were no kids getting shoved into lockers, but one thing did stand out to me, and that was that the majority of people were around people who were like them. The black kids would be around the black kids, the white kids were with the white kids, the Nepali and Hispanic kids were always with their own. Even theTrump supporter kids were in their own little group. People were around others that were like them because it made them feel wanted. So naturally I gravitated toward the black kids. But believe me when I say it was nothing like Moesha or One on One.

   There I learned that colourism was a real thing. I saw girls who were a shade darker than me get hated on and dismissed, and the excuse was always “ I don’t date dark skins.” I would see the most beautiful and intelligent black women get treated like they were trash simply because they were dark-skinned. The hatred for black women in a group of black kids was so strong that nobody was ever fazed by it because it was a regular occurrence. I would hear constant stereotypes made about black women on the daily whether it was that we were bald headed or that we all had to be smoking weed. There would be people gawking at our bodies and people who would tell me my body didn’t match my age, almost as if it were some sort of compliment…Another thing that confused me was that even though we were all black, and as much as people tried to hide it, there was a distance between the African American and African kids at school that was unspoken . If I could count how many times an African boy would pretend he was African American because he was ashamed of where he came from I’d have probably discovered a new number by now. 

   But even if I spoke, there was nothing I could do because I also found a home at school, with all the kids that looked like me. I found who could relate to me, kids who always had my back. I found kids who taught me more things about what it meant to be black than my mum ever did. I was too scared to speak because I didn’t want to lose this home I had built for myself. 

Being a black girl in our mini black community also had it’s problems outside. A lot of the time if something happened between you and a non-black student, you were definitely getting in trouble; the lies that could be fabricated against you were believable to the staff and we don’t even need to speak on why. Teachers at school could expel you for a fight but brush off a racist remark with a stern telling off. 

   But anyways that’s enough about me… 

   I want every black girl going into high school to know that it will be hard for us and a lot of the time you won’t even notice until you become an upperclassman–I’m not going to say it’s okay because it isn’t. You are amazing so don’t let anyone try to dim your bright shine, don’t let anyone downplay you. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad because of your perfectly crafted body and skin. These things were gifted to you by God and so you will cherish them. You are a black queen with war scars scraped along your heart and painful bruises blotted through your blood…that is what makes us so strong. There is beauty in our multiplicity. Besides if I can make it through these 4 years so can you…you just have to make it your own coming of age movie!


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