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Illustration for article titled Intersections of Race and Gender in Education

Just came across this article posted on a friend's Facebook about how black boys fit in better in suburban schools than black girls.

I didn't go to a suburban school, I went to a pretty racially and socioeconomically diverse school in one of the largest cities in New England. However, my school used academic tracking to separate students and I was in the highest academic track beginning in middle school and continuing until graduation. Because of this, even though I was in an extremely diverse school, I was more often than not the only black person in my classes, let alone the only black girl.


Throughout my high school career, I didn't really think my racial background affected me much. It was only after going to college that I realized how much of a factor it played in my socialization. For instance, I almost never dated anyone at my school. The guys who were in my classes were so put off by me it was kind of hilarious. For instance, I would get into multiple heated exchanges with guys in my classes where they would accuse me of being "aggressive" even though I was making logical and supported points without raising my voice. My (white) girl friends would sit silently in class and watch me get pummeled by these guys and later whisper after class, "Yeah, that was so weird that he would get that defensive. You were right, but I didn't want to say anything."

When I did interact with black men outside of my classes, I got called "uppity" or an oreo, or told that I just needed to get laid. I felt rejected by those in my racial group and felt like I was perceived as a threat to those outside of it. Though I dated outside of my high school, I knew that I was seen as being "exotic," a departure from the normalized standard of attractiveness and I learned to exploit that in order to get the attention I wanted.

It didn't stop in college either, in fact it became more apparent. At my school it seemed that there were very few aesthetic ideals for female beauty and I didn't really fit any of them. I certainly was not a tall, willowy white girl with long hair. I also wasn't one of those cute vaguely ethnic girls with a beautiful halo of curls and grungy style. I felt even more out of place in a way because I was no longer "exotic," I just felt plain. As many of the men of color on campus actively tried to disengage with the POC community, I felt far more drawn to it than I had in high school because I felt so rejected from the school community at large. I left college with a small circle of mostly non-white friends, and with a very different perception of myself than when I had begun college.

It's interesting to think that there are negative personal consequences of what seems to be such a no-brainer idea, having integrated education systems. However this article and others seems to suggest that we should really think about what is going on with these students of color in mostly white institutions. For me, it has not been an overwhelmingly positive experience and I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I decided to attend a HBU/C instead.


I'm going to stop now because I'm mostly just rambling. These are really just my thoughts upon reading this article, but does anyone relate?

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