How My Experience with a Racist Teacher Forced Me to Learn About Racism at a Young Age

By: Khrystiana Howell

Growing up in a small Illinois town that lacked diversity, being a minority definitely had a lot of ups and downs. Unfortunately I experienced a lot of the the downs early on in my life. My story starts on first day of 1st grade as my teacher stood outside waiting for us to exit our buses.

As we all filed into the school excited about the new year she greeted each student with a smile and a  high five, but as I approached, my new teacher didn’t smile at me nor high five me. Of course being 6 years old, I had no reason to believe anything was wrong and I began my day.

As the days progressed, her treatment towards my white friend and I became more blatant.  For example, when my teacher would seek class participation and I would raise my hand she would intentionally look over me. She would make harsh remarks such as, “put your hand down you don’t know the answer” or “does anyone else know the answer?” Although I was in first grade, I began to wonder why I was not being acknowledged in class or allowed to participate and felt as if she did not care to hear what I had to say.

I knew something was not quite right with my teacher but did not fully understand the problem and assumed it was my fault, but what had I done?

Another vivid memory from her classroom was the no-tattling rule. The no tattling rule meant students were not allowed to tell on one another for any reason. When students picked on me; which now today is referred to as bullying; I was not allowed to inform her what had occurred.   When I tried to make my teacher aware of any issues she dismissed me by saying “brush it off”, however other children were allowed to tattle which resulted in me being disciplined.

As I got on the bus to go home every day crying, the only thing I would think of was why she hated me so much. What had I done to her? My previous teachers liked me, called on me in class, and handled situations when kids bullied me, but this 1st grade teacher wanted nothing to do with me.

I came home everyday with stories of what was going on and after a month my mother had enough, and contacted the school and requested a conference with my teacher to address not only my concerns but hers as well. I was not present during their conversation, but knowing how my mom was I knew that my teacher could never have  prepared for the conversation that occurred.

After their meeting, my mother spoke to me about what was going on during school and I learned something I will never forget. I learned the importance of being an African-American girl and what comes with this responsibility.

I learned that not everyone I interact with will like me for who I am, and at times they will assume I am unintelligent, and not  capable of comprehending a conversation simply due to the color of my skin. What I could not understand was why my teacher did not like me, because in my mind it could not be as simple as her not liking me because of my chocolate skin.

Clearly I was not her first African-American student as she had been teaching for a long time. As my mother continued to explain and use examples to define racism and prejudice, it was still a little difficult to understand why this teacher was at my school and was a face I would have to see each day.

My mother also taught me about courage and how I needed to accept this teacher and other adversities I would face.

This event has created the person I am today, because I know who I am and my worth. I still encounter various people today who treat me differently because I am viewed as a threat because i’m an educated young African American woman.  My mother teaches me everyday about how being a black girl is not something to be ashamed of and to be proud of the skin I am in.

I used to want to be like my friends, blonde hair and blue eyes as I assumed that was the definition of beauty, but today I am proud of having curly hair and brown eyes. I am proud of who I have become. I am proud to be an African American girl. I am proud of my background and hope that other girls that look just like me feel confident too. It may be a challenge to find confidence but once you find that confidence nothing and no one can take it away.  

I tell myself everyday that I am beautiful and being a black girl is much more than my skin color. I am intelligent, I am loved, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am here to take the world by storm!

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7 Comments on "How My Experience with a Racist Teacher Forced Me to Learn About Racism at a Young Age"

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Sunny
5 years 7 months ago

What happened to the teacher? She should’ve been fired

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Latoya
5 years 7 months ago

This was awesome Khyrstiana. I’m so proud of you.

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Anonymous
5 years 7 months ago

That’s my granddaughter. I’m so very proud of her. It’s such a shame that kids have to deal with such ignorance! The very sad part is that it still continues in today’s society. When will we as a people stop judging a person because of the color of their skin? I’m also proud of my daughter, who was able to deal with the situation, on an adult educated level. I know it took all the strength within my daughter, not to cause a scene at the meeting. That would’ve given the teacher more ammunition to prove her point. I’m sure… Read more »

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Joseph M. Madlock, I
5 years 7 months ago

You have taken the WORLD by storm; leaving a trail for many others to follow and admire. Beautiful and strong black woman!

Guest
Monya
5 years 7 months ago

Nice job Khrys! Stay strong! It is a privilege to be Nubian Princess such as yourself! Always wear your crown Sweetie!!!

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Tish T.
5 years 7 months ago

Very well spoken! You have exhibited a level of maturity and pride that take some people a lifetime to gain.

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Anonymous
5 years 7 months ago

VERY PROUD you’ve shared your story!! Congrats to your courage, your confidence, and understanding just how important you are. Kudos to your mom as well… Sounds like a strong woman raising a strong daughter.

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