Besides getting a workout, the gym has become a place where I can go to find peace and escape from the everyday hassles of life. On yesterday, however, my peace was greatly disturb by the ignorant and racist remarks of one man. And, yes he was a white man.
Feeling like I needed a little energy boost, I thought I’d pour myself a cup of coffee before starting my workout. Not more than a couple feet from the coffee machine sat three white men. I’ve sat at that same table at least a hundred times since joining this gym. It’s a great place to sit, enjoy a cup of coffee, chat, read, or just catch your breath after working out. So seeing them sitting there did not raise any red flags for me. However, that would quickly change. Not only would I see red flags. Those flags would be damn near hitting me in my face causing my blood to boil.
By the time I finished pouring my coffee, I overheard one man say “Why would anyone eat a snicker and coke for lunch? I mean that’s toxic. Who eats that stuff?” He then proceeds to explain to the other men that the students shared with that sometimes they can win coupons from the principal to get McDonald’s for lunch. As an educator of twenty-six years, the flags are starting to wave ever so gently. I’m all ears, because I’m sensing some foolishness going here.
Now, this next remark is the kicker. The man goes on to say “These are intelligent students. Their black, but they are intelligent. Mind you, at this point, I’m stirring the cream in my coffee ever so slowly while at the same not believing, but BELIEVING what I’m hearing. I’m not naieve. I know there is a toxic mindset out there about black and brown students. I’ve been in education a long time. I’m also a mom too. However to hear someone so blantantly spew such garbage (in my presense) was emotionally and physically overwhelming. I literally stood there stirring and stirring my coffee, trying to decide whether or not to say something to this man. My sneakers felt glued to the floor. I just couldn’t bring myself to move.
After what seemed like two to three minutes, I noticed there were a couple of people waiting behind me to get coffee, so I left and made my way to the stretching room. There I laid on the mat staring blankly at the ceiling, beating myself up for not speaking up. I was angry. I was hurt. I was disappointed. In. Myself.
There was so much wrong with this man’s comments. First, the obvious. Most black people are not intelligent, at least according to him we’re not. Second, only black kids eat snickers, drink cokes, and eat McDonald’s. Now, you know that’s BS.
Mr., all kids like junk food. – Black kids, White kids, Asian Kids, Latina kids. Most kids given the opportunity to eat junk food will jump at the chance. That’s what kids do. This is not a club to which black kids exclusively belong.
Now, I don’t know what this man’s relationship was to the black kids he was discussing. I hope to God that he’s not their teacher. This is just the kind of person that does not need to be working with kids, because he has already made up his mind that not all black kids are intelligent. It’s this sort of racist, deficit thinking about black and brown students that contribute to the racial and socioeconomic divide in this country. It’s why we find America to be as fragile as it is today.
Grow your mindset. Change the world.