This is America was considered an award winning song, but what about those that feel the pain of what the video depicted. Racism, adversity, and segregation of our people in a collective is very prevalent in our present moment. People like to think of this as a thing of the past, however the story remains the same, just different characters. As I have stated on multiple occasions I am a single mother to a six year old BLACK boy. I am learning that as his mother I can’t prepare him or protect him from everything this unfair world may throw at him. Today, his innocence was broken to fear of an instutuionalized system we believe is for growth, but actually stunts growth. As a black woman there are things that I will not experience that my son just may. Today was one of them, and all I could do was hold him and let him know he was supported.
Growing up black the ideal thing to do was get out the “hood”. Uproot your family and upgrade to the suburbs where they will experience culture shock. As a child, we were taught that predominately white schools were “good schools”. They had the best of everything, due to the fact that the school could afford the proper resources to enhance the education experience. Anything that was “White” was right. If you move to a “white” neighborhood, that is considered a “good” neighborhood. As black people, we would work our asses off to award our children an education that does not consider their heritage or background. No one ever really talks about the affects on a minority child in a predominately “white” school. This is a very sensitive topic because many fear losing their token or golden ticket to the “American dream”. For me, today was the last straw of being the token black girl as I seen my little black boy in fear of what his future may hold at the hands of his school’s administration.
In my 33 years of living I have never been to a principles office. Never. However, I got a phone call today in reference to my son that they love to call the “Mayor of Royersford”. They love to be entertained by his unique personality but that is the very light that they are trying to dim. My cousin brought this to my attention many years ago, but I was oblivious to the fact since it wasn’t currently happening to me. Oh, how we love to disregard or empathize until something happens to you. Well that day has come, and my mother bear instincts went through the roof. We woke up this morning with the school district having a two hour delay. Which meant that my son would be heading to school around 11am. My son wasn’t even at school for a full hour, and my phone rang. “Hello, is the parent’s of Micah? I have Micah here in the office and your son has himself in some hot water.” She stated. That hot water statement alone had sent me through the roof. I had no clue as to what could have transpired in less than an hour. She proceeds to tell me that Micah had exchange a Nerf gun with a fellow student in school and was being disciplined as a result of bringing a weapon to school. “Wait what?” I replied. “You have got to be kidding me, you’re telling me you’re reprimanding my son for a Nerf gun.” She proceeded to tell me that according to the SpringFord School District policy, weapons are defined as even toy guns and could lead to my son being suspended from school. First off my son never even put the Nerf gun in his back pack, his Godmother gave it to him as a gift from our recent travel to our Hometown. Prior to leaving, I had stuck the gift in his backpack in a compartment of his bag and completely forgot about it. The Principle tells me he exchanged it with another student, and that student returned it today. I was confused as this was something that children do. However, from the principles perspective this was considered an act that a 6 year old should have known better or made better choices or decisions. This was not the first time I had issue with the school, as the third day of school my son was called a Gorilla. A racial slur from a fellow student. The counselor called and spoke to me about it a told me the student and his parents would be addressed. The following day, that same child punched my son in the stomach and I was in the school once again. How innocent was it for the little “white” child to say what he said. But my little black son with a nerf gun was considered as a school offense of bringing a weapon to school?
Rules are funny and so aren’t the policies of the Springford school district. There are so many gray areas and many times rules are not enforced until circumstances occur that require them to be reactionary as opposed to proactive. Also the handbook is for all ages across the board within the school district, which is very interesting to me. The principle stated to me that toy guns were considered a form of a weapon however the policy does not directly state this. According to the Policy:
Springford school District Weapon Policy
- To obtain possession of weapons or other objects deemed to be dangerous in the judgement of the teacher and/or school authority.
Spring-Ford Area School District Board Policy 218.1
The term weapons shall include, but not be limited to, any knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool, nunchaku (stick), metal knuckles, poisons, drugs, ammunition, firearm, shotgun, rifle, replica of a weapon and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of or designed to harm, threaten or harass students, staff members, parents and patrons of the District.
I had to define the key term here as this would be the only reason as to why the administration would even pursue this level of disiplinary action towards a six year old.
Replica: an exact copy or model of something, especially one on a smaller scale.
She told me she wasn’t going to go back and forth with me over the phone, and I told her neither was I. I made my way up to the school in a flash with my girlfriend to keep me sane. Between the phone call and the ride to the school I could not hold my composure. Upon my entry to the administrative front office, I realized my son was in a back room standing in the door. I told them I was there to speak with the Principle, and I was directed to her office. I asked who was in the room with my son, and she proceeded to tell me no one. My son was in a rear room, alone, with no school work, no book or no additional school staff. What the fuck does this remind you of? She attempted to ease my concern that her office contained a door linked to that room. I proceeded to ask her was it open and she stated she just closed it. She claimed that she was willing to work with me and not submit or input my sons incident into his school records. She didn’t realize she wasn’t doing me a favor. The schools lack of documentation, awareness of bullying, and non existent representation of diversity really concerned me. How did such a light in the school from an excited six year old boy turn so dark by a Nerf gun.
I have worked in Law enforcement, and was laughed at by a Montgomery County judge during a custody hearing while mentioning my concern about the lack of diversity in the school system. This is America! Where your child is being taught to be institutionalized and preparation for jail or employment. Where a toy, phone, or hair brush can give people in power the authority to take your life or condemn you as a criminal because they felt threatened by the presence of an object that could be observed as a weapon. Parents of all children especially minority children, you have to advocate for your children and their education. I didn’t cry the first day of public school for my son because he was beginning a new chapter of his life. I cried because I was feeding him to the wolves of the world. His sense of innocence will be broken in a class room where showing too much enthusiasm for learning needs to be turned down, and too little needs medication. Schools are teaching our children to not be themselves. That the very things that make them unique they need to rid themselves of.
After the conversation with the principle, I called Micah over to me and he wailed out a cry on my chest. I felt the anger, fear, and frustration release from his body. I shed a tear myself as he experienced another adult moment in his childhood. I was glad that I was able to console him, but thought about the many young black boys with little to no support. Our job is to protect our children. I wish I could save him from what life may throw at him but all I truly can do is help him prepare. My job is to build him strong in his character, to be reminded that he is not who others say he is. That he is allowed to be strong and have a voice. You see in America a black woman with a voice is angry or bitter, and a black man is a threat. This is the land of the free, where or children are being taught to prepare for danger in schools, and people are justified to shoot at the shadow presence of what they believe could be potentially a weapon. I think I’m more excited about the school year ending so we can relocate toward a more diverse school system. No it won’t be perfect, but representation is key and fundamental to children’s success. At 33, the impact of seeing someone that look like me with a title or life I desire empowers me. I have many more years of parenting to go, but don’t want to have a talk with my child about how he should handle himself around law enforcement, or the fact that his 6’2 football figure may intimidate someone to the point they may believe he may cause them harm. This is America where all men are created equal. Behind every rule or policy there is a gray area. Only those in power have the ability to manipulate it and become numb to those who remain powerless.