Over the past several weeks I’ve been extra fatigued. I figured it is the time of the year and the extra energy I’m expending during the school day with teaching and coaching. That coupled with my intense powerlifting training in the evenings, my body and mind are fatigued and sore. During times of extra fatigue, I’m intentional about three things: increasing both carb and water intake and sleep. I have been good about those for the most part and thought until last night I would get over the fatigue hump.
Last night after sleeping soundly for about three hours, I awoke from a vivid and distressing dream. I was at a school like any other day. While walking with my son on a school campus, someone (I couldn’t see their face) called my son a “cute, colored boy.” The words “colored boy” oozed off their tongue with such grotesque, condescending whiteness. You know, the condescending tone of white superiority and black inferiority experienced by Black people for years and depicted in films like Hidden Figures, Remember the Titans, and 42. I’ve never been so infuriated in my life. Calling my son “colored” is almost as harmful as calling him the n-word. Both of these terms exude anti-black, otherism that creates trauma and mental damage that sometimes cannot be repaired. To have my five-year-old experience some potentially irreversible damage at the hands of a white person, just pushed a parent anger button that I didn’t know existed. I left my son and attempted to chase after the person who called him “colored” but they disappeared. Then, I proceeded to go ballistic all over the campus for hours, furiously calling out any and everyone for any whiteness they exhibited and anti-blackness they indirectly expressed to me, my kids, or others. This tirade went on for hours and I had to be escorted off the school grounds and home by my husband.
Suddenly, I awoke and jumped violently from my bed breathing heavily. That dream just seemed so real. I walked to the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face, and wiped the sweat that had built up on the back of my neck and upper back. I returned to bed and stared up at the ceiling. My dream really shook me to the core, unlike any other dream I’ve had in recent memory. This dream shook me so much because it felt like an unfortunate formality. Because to me, the question is not if this will happen to either of my kids, but when. When will my son or daughter be disrespected, shunned, and/or ostracized because of the melanin in their skin? No matter what my husband or I do we cannot protect either of them from their first experience of being the Black kid called a derogatory name.
Being in a new school environment has really stretched me as a veteran educator. As the only full-time teacher of color in the lower school, I’m still trying to find my niche, figuring out who I can really trust, while also being worried about my own two children’s adjustment to the school academically, mentally, and socially. Being surrounded with very little diversity this year after being at a very diverse school for the past five years has been more of a shock for me mentally and emotionally than I expected. I’ve been spoiled somewhat in recent years being apart of a heterogeneous school environment, I forgot what it feels like to be just the one Black person or what tokenism feels like. Working in and seeing my own children experience the same extremely homogenous environment has triggered a variety of emotions. I am well aware and very familiar to being one of the few or only Black females in extremely White settings. Growing up in attending a majority White high school and a PWI for undergrad, I was regularly one of the few (less than 5) or only Black girls in a class or on a team. In HS as a freshman, I was the only Black girl on the varsity basketball team and only one of two on the varsity soccer team. In college, I was the only Black person who took Latin. However, it has not dawned upon me until the past year and more intensely the past few months, that being the token Black in my schooling experiences has actually scared me more than I realized.
I know this drastic environment change and currently being engaged in adjustments was a major trigger for my dream. I honestly hope to be able to process these rather raw emotions. I’m optimistic I will get better adjusted and find my niche soon. Just know, cold sweats are a constant reality as a Black person in a homogenous environment where we and/or our children are the token ones.