What it’s like being a black person in a predominately white school – Nylah L.


Nylah Lloyd


Among many high school experiences, being a “minority” in a predominately white school can be exhausting. Between racism, stereotypes, and biased opinions from many closed minds in Waterford High School, it can be chaotic trying to defend your culture. There is a low percentage of non-white people, but there has been a increase in ethnic people attending Waterford High since 2020. Erica Baumgartner, WHS health teacher, is one of two black teachers and has been either the only or one of a few people of color her whole life, even while attending a small private school for high school where she was one of three black students in her class. “I feel a huge responsibility to represent and educate students on how everyone is human and the difference between equity and equality”. Being a black teacher in a predominately white school makes clear that her goal is to bring awareness of issues that POCs go through. She added that being one of only two  minority teachers  is both a blessing and a curse because she gets the opportunity to educate, open up people’s eyes, and break down stereotypes, but also she doesn’t have anyone who looks like her or can understand her point of view in the building. I have not experienced any racism specifically in Waterford High”, but she added that when dealing with racism she handles it by suppressing it and not discussing what she’s feeling unless she’s around people that she trusts and can empathize with her about the situation. She hasn’t often done or said anything, but over the past couple of years, she has realized she cannot sit back and do nothing while those who are being racist about her or her race share their wrongful ignorance.  As a teacher, she feels like she can address the situation with her words and find out why and educate. “In all honesty, I get angry and often do feel that I have to suppress it and not discuss what I am feeling unless I am around people that I trust and who can empathize with the situations.  I have often not done or said anything, but over the past couple of years, I have realized I cannot sit back and do nothing.  I feel like I can address that situation with my words and find out why and educate.”

Being a Black teacher in a predominately white school has its struggles, but imagine being a Black student who doesn’t have as much authority as a teacher in general. When students  want to make a difference, those see it as a “threat” and a “touchy” subject. Alizae Guston, WHS senior, is one out of a handful of the black students who attend WHS. She explained how she wishes people would understand that discrimination against African Americans in this country or in general has run deep and is vile. “We’re expected to “stop complaining” when issues such as poll discrimination, prison slavery (peonage) and school segregation still exist.” She explained how the racism in Waterford is covert and the kids expressing it often don’t view themselves as racist. She realizes that although she may say something, it’s still not much. If she tells them to stop, they’ll get aggressive/defensive and say “I’m triggered” or that “you think everything is racist.” She chooses not to report them to anyone because they’re smart enough to keep it quiet in their inner circles. But she questions herself daily, even if she did, what could the school even do? She shared that in more open places, it’s easier to shrug off the racist comments because she continues to also remind herself that they are uneducated: In Waterford, I feel alone and disrespected constantly. Violence against black people is made into a punchline by my classmates and I’m constantly spoken over in any context. I overhear little comments and I just stay quiet because the fight is impossible.” “They didn’t mean it like that” is a common excuse she’s often told when encountered with racism from others.Some incidents that impacted her was the 2020 election and the murder of George Floyd. She saw a lot of ugly sides come out of kids that she thought she knew her whole life. She vividly recalled an older girl saying, “They’re always tearing up sh*t and people wonder why they get shot.” All the racism Alizae has experienced became white noise to her. 

Alexah Napoles, WHS junior, is also a part of the handful of black students. She wishes Waterford High School would educate themselves about race and racism and be aware that educating themselves should not make white students and teachers feel guilty for being white; it should just allow appreciation to Black history and culture more and help students understand themselves better in the process. It also shows Black people that our historical narratives matter. Alexa shared that she has had multiple run ins with racism in this school and deals with it by putting the person in their place: “If I don’t, it just becomes a recurring pattern for the student or teacher. All we can do is educate”. She explains that she can’t force history into their mindsets but she can make them aware of the cruel history that follows black people. Racism is repetitive but stereotypes have impacted her the most: “I feel as if I have been labeled as this one person when there are countless black folks who have lived past those stereotypes.” It frustrates her to think that although our people have came so far from discrimination and brutality in general, we are still “colored folks” living in a modernized version of how it was throughout history. She hasn’t gone through racism every day but microaggression pops in from time to time: “It honestly shocks me when I face racism in school because although we have a month dedicated to Black history, culture, impact, and knowledge, students are still comfortable with showing their true colors and it has left me with the question of “when will they learn?”.

Racism in towns like Waterford who pride themselves on being “inclusive” tries its best to hide itself. It comes in the form of quiet exclusion, being followed in stores, surprise at a Black student speaking “properly,” being eyed up more firmly by police. It all is a form of microaggressions. So before trying to share your opinion on Black lives and what we endure on a day-to-day basis, be sure to educate yourselves.http://https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm#inbox/FMfcgzGpGTHKTqLzMphPPKVxgXvJLBKq?projector=1&messagePartId=0.1