From A Share Cropping Field to Stanford University

(My Father is on the far left of the back row)

In some families everyone is a cop, or a doctor, or in the military. Well, teacher-families are a thing too. My children’s grandmother, grandfather, and mother all joined the education corps – so to speak. I can’t make parking tickets go away, but I have been able to grease the proverbial rails when it comes to my own children’s journey through the public school system. And that extra support made a difference.

Right from the beginning, I crept through the bushes to peek undetected into the preschool yard — knowing I would never see the REAL stuff if I arrived on tour-day. And I was pleasantly surprised sometimes. That said, particularly in the elementary years, I encountered some burned out veterans biding their time until retirement, as well as a few who were already under corrective action. The best I could do was volunteer and support a failing teacher. Which I did. In one of those classrooms I witnessed a White female teacher provoke a young Black boy, and when he turned over this desk, she took away his chair, wouldn’t allow him to clean up his spilled materials, and made him stand until recess time. It was public humiliation and yet as she continued her lesson, it was obvious she really couldn’t tell anything was wrong. Within the next few minutes she went on to praise a golden haired little boy (yes…my son) for providing a response that pleased her.

My son went on to graduate from high school early and was accepted into Stanford when he was sixteen because he’s super smart, especially in Math. On his admissions application he could and did check African American and Native American (take a good look at my grandmother in the photo…she was mostly Cherokee), as well as Caucasian. Did his mixed background tip the diversity scales in his favor? We’ll never know. But for the record I’m all for the thinly veiled Affirmative Action work-around that higher education institutions now refer to as: balancing the student body.

It took a lot of blood and treasure to get from that sharecropping field to the Stanford Campus. Last night on The Daily Show Bryan Stevenson was talking about his new project with Google, mapping the locations of all the recorded lynchings in America. He explained that in other countries with a history of racially motivated murder and genocide (he cited South Africa & Germany) there has also been intentional public conversations about the MISTAKE they made. And those countries have identified and labeled locations of heinous acts, so that no one can forget, so that the truth stays present in the collective mind. However, in America, the message is “move on”. Well, my son is directly descended from survivors of Native American genocide and the enslavement of Africans in America — so no…not moving on from that.

About the author: Laurie

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