SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2015       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Shanae Goode

A Black American Fight in American Education

The high school I attended looked like a locked down courtroom with two doors used for I n and out. My first thought was wondering why there was barbed wire on top of the gates. When you walk into school, you can only go left or right because the school was built in a circular design. A few instructors treated me according to the stereotypes with which society viewed black girls. I had a few instructors who truly wanted to see me succeed, and one instructor who wanted me to fail. My first English teacher Mrs. Oakley helped me get to where I am now. Mrs. Oakley was helping me build proper English skills without using Ebonics and writing the way I talk. The positive influence the instructor had on me was being noticed in other classrooms as I advanced.

Being in Dr. Hens’ personal development class allowed me to realize that my theory was right Dr. Hen felt some way towards colored people, or perhaps I just jinxed myself. Dr. Hens’ actions were noticeable and I felt that he was stereotyping me, by society or by an experience, he may have encountered. I could not stand being in his class nor asking for help. It was as If was standing before a judge, who did not intend to listen or allow me to defend myself. I never felt comfortable, I always felt ashamed with the outcome he would suggest to me, what made me dread every moment of my circular walk to his classroom. Dr. Hens created that feeling that I would have to look past his judgmental remarks, negativity, accusations and criticism towards me in order to move forward. For instance, he would return graded work back with incomplete or with a D/F letter grade.

The moments that I spent at school, every day without a day missed, was the feeling of the beginning and the end of affirmative action. For me it was the end of the intent of the instructor exhibiting racial biases in the education settings. Although the instructor might not like me, I needed to make sure that I kept copies of all my work. This allowed me the opportunity to prove to the education board that I did have all assignments and why I should have passed. Having to prove that I am unarmed and educated resembled the unarmed black man that hoped for the police to protect him only to experience discrimination or the officer’s assumption that he was armed and dangerous. This is how the instructor made me feel eventually, by giving me a failing grade and not protecting me.  

I notice that he was being harder on me than on the other students in my class. When I realized that, I knew I needed to keep track of my work. I started to compare other classmate’s homework and record the similar responses that were on their homework after grading. The whole time I was in Dr. Hen’s class I felt embarrassed and felt that my chances of graduating a year early would not happen, knowing that Dr. Hens had the capabilities of allowing this grade to determine my future graduation date. When I was notified of my final grade, it made me feel as if someone kept switching out my cold Dr. Pepper for a hot sugar free Dr. Pepper without any reason why. I know I tried my hardest to make sure that every assignment was turned in and completed. However, now when I attend school I look at instructors differently. I worry more about what a particular instructor might think or say to me. 

When the instructor gave me a failing grade, a parent- teacher conference meeting was arranged with the principal and student board. At first, I was worried that I was not going to win this fight for a passing grade. I provided every paper work that I turned in and those not meant to be turned in, as well as perfect attendance. I also was able to provide a statement from other classmates that were able to discuss my participation in class. Dr. Hens told me that I would not win this battle and that I deserve the failing grade. All I can remember him saying to me was “It is a teacher’s word against a student’s”. Nevertheless, the school board decided that I had enough evidence and my grade was revised.

Dr. Hens’ thoughts as to why this may have happened:

I worked at so many schools in the state of Arizona during the times when Arizona was fighting racism but I was not a racist. For years, where I would go to work at a charter high school where the school population was less than 500 students with-in a 3 month class session. During my last year before retirement, a rumor went around that I was treating students differently based off one’s race. I guess students thought of me as the instructor whose intention where to make education harder upon the minorities in my class.

However, from my experience in the education field I came to realization that all African Americans came to this school to finish their education because they either were expelled, or suspend for defiance, or known to cheat the education field. My Class ratio was made of 25 students in maybe out of 25 students one or two students were of different ethnicity in my classroom. With retirement approaching I had a young African American  girl with a  muscular  built body enter into my class room the first thought that came to my head was here comes trouble. I treated Shanae how I treated every other student of her race. I thought that if showed Shanae who was in charge, I could correct what might occur, or may have occurred before she becomes an interruption in class. I did not think that I was in the wrong or had discriminated against any race or person in my class. Shanae came up to me and explained to me how she felt.

In my experience, most instructors were judgmental toward students of color in the educational system. This has not only been my experience, for the re-occurrence of past discrimination has created the future in many ways. Consequently, that led to the inequality, racism, and ethnic problems of today’s society. These events helped shaped my frame of thinking of about how discrimination plays a role in the educational system. A society reflects how someone is treated, how someone should look, how someone should act, and what he or she is capable of achieving. The instructor was born around the time when racial and ethnic discrimination was common, which could have led to his assumptions of how, who and what African Americans are the products of legacy and media stereotypes.  

Thinking about everything that has occurred dealing with racial discrimination in the US, and knowing that Rosa Parks did not get up from her seat for a white person, inspires the determination of my fight. Rosa Parks knew that if she did not give up her seat that there would be some negative or positive outcome. Although I remained in the class, I put myself at risk of not gaining my high school diploma. I did not allow him to defeat me with his racial discrimination because of our difference in color. Rosa Parks’ determination, led to her being arrested and a created a debate that help the desegregation of buses. I persevered and graduated on time and proved that the instructor did not understand the truth behind someone of color.  

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