Navigating a Predominantly White School as a Brown/Black girl

As a brown or black girl, there comes a point in your life when you must accept the fact that you will be the only one in an all-white room. That was completely clear to me when I realized my freshmen year that I was the only girl in my class who didn’t look like everyone else. And the few classes where there was another black or Latina girl (or guy), I tried my hardest to be near them.

That was my strategy in middle and high school. Predominantly white schools can be pretty intense, especially when you come from diverse neighborhoods. I lived in a majority black and Latino community, only to move to a school that had a handful of us in just my grade alone. There are unspoken rules you learn to understand as time goes on, and I would argue that we even learn to adopt a different personality in order to assimilate.

Navigating white communities is hard. I remember feeling as if no matter how well I could get along with other white people, there was this disconnection, as if to say, ‘you can only understand who I am as far as this point, and beyond that, you cannot and probably will never understand.’

Conversations about respectability politics, representation, rights, and even our cultures and histories can become uncomfortable so quickly because of ignorance and the quickness to judge. My time in all-white classrooms has put me in situations where I could not bring myself to speak out loud because it felt like there was no point in convincing others of respecting people like me, of not dehumanizing others. Of not ridiculing other cultures and customs.

My experiences in classrooms that do not represent me properly, or what the world really looks like, has been the push for me to try to be vocal about who I am. About my past, my present and what I want my future to be. About the struggles of being brown in a country that is in the middle of great change. About seeing my fellow brown and black girls be the blueprint for a culture that is high in demand—just not with us in it.

For the girl who is reading this and feels alone in an all-white classroom, and does not feel represented, good enough, wanted, respected, loved, admired…

You are all that and more. Speak up.