By: Akosua Amankwah-Ayeh
I’ve been at B-CC for my whole high school career, and, much like most students of color who go here, I’ve experienced my fair share of racism and injustices from not only students but from staff and administration. I heard it all the time from my other BIPOC friends: “this teacher said this”, “x student said the n-word”, “some race realist in my class was debating the merits of slavery”; it was always something. That was why I was so confused when the Black At B-CC stories surprised me.
I saw the Whitman page first. It was maybe three days after it had come about, I spent the large part of three hours reading through all the stories there, and I was unironically sick to my stomach. Sometime later that same week, I started seeing posts pop up on my friends’ stories, so I looked through the page, and I was shocked. The number of stories from that page that I had experienced as well but hadn’t thought about was astronomical. I kept thinking about the interactions I had let slip by because I didn’t want to rock the boat, all the microaggressions I’d tolerated because I didn’t know how to stick up for myself, all the times I’d overheard a white student saying the n-word without fear of repercussions; it was eye-opening, to say the least. Hearing from people you’re close with that an incident occurred is one thing, but hearing from hundreds of students who were either at the school or had gone through the school was a whole different ball game.
Seeing the class numbers is what did it for me. Seeing people from the class of ‘18 and class of ‘19 was interesting because I have many friends from those classes. But seeing students from the class of ‘10, ‘03, hell, the one from the class of ‘84 dropped me on my behind. The facade that I’d been spoon-fed from my days in Westland to my experiences at B-CC was cracking, and that was extremely difficult to reconcile with. It shook me to my core, because if things hadn’t changed in 36 years, what was I doing trying to change the system? What chance did I have? It was a disheartening time.
This was less than a month after the murder of George Floyd and all the protests that came up after it. All the pain that video caused me and the trauma from having to relive it over and over again for a while knowing that at my school was breeding people who would justify his murder was immeasurable, and if trying to complete the year wasn’t hard enough, that was taking up rent-free space in my brain for weeks. I watched virtually all the white students who’d called me slurs or told me that the only advantage I had in the college application process was affirmative action sit behind screens, post-black squares, and go back to beach pics three hours later and I was livid. I was hoping that some students who had never experienced the awful things people wrote would see it and be as disgusted with the people that they go to school with as I was, but for so many people that I know, that just wasn’t the case. I have cut so many people off in my life, and it has been liberating. I watched people who loved parts of black culture: they’d come to a predominantly white school blasting Kendrick and using AAVE for fun like they don’t live in a $3M house with two loving parents, but the second there were protests, the second an injustice happened, the second that at the very least there a call to check yourself and have basic introspective skills, they didn’t want to participate, or didn’t have time, or came up with any and every excuse not to do the work to support the black community. But then again, I’m not sure we’re all ready for that conversation.
In conclusion, this is a message for all the incoming freshmen: I know how scary it is coming into a new school. You guys have some incredible challenges facing you, from distance learning to the current climate of this country. It can’t be any easier having a hundred stories of the black experience at the school thrust into your face. The last thing I want from you guys, though, is fear. Fear is what these racist kids want. A distinct and overwhelming lack of repercussions is what these racist kids want. Complacency is what these racist kids want. I know how scary it is; I’ve been here for three years, and some of those deeply upset me. But I want you to be loud about how against that behavior you are. I want you to be nauseating with how much you call out your peers. I want you to scream and yell and complain and be obnoxious about it, from every uncomfortable interaction to somebody calling you a slur. You’re going to do just fine, and there are a bunch of support systems that are in place to help you. If you ever need anything or anyone, I am almost always available.