Days 16-19 will be snapshots of racism and/or discrimination I have encountered in my life so far. Day 20 will weave these snapshots together.
I am four years old and my mother is pulling me by the hand, away from the Methodist preschool I had been attending. It is the last time I will ever see the inside of the school. My mother somehow found out that the teachers were dividing the students into separate classes according to their race; white students in one room, non-white students in another. The white students are being actively taught, while the non-white students are not. My mother is furious, understandably, and after telling off the teachers, she withdraws me from the preschool. The only thing I understand at the time is that now I have more time to read.
I am five years old and happily coloring away in a corner of the classroom as my mom and Mrs. Ashton, my teacher, talk quietly. The school administration has noticed that I speak Spanish, a result of my mom and I living with my grandma. They want to move me to an ESL class, claiming I am having difficulty with the classwork, which is in English. My mom calls bullshit, as does my teacher. My English is developing just fine, as evidenced by my high test scores, and me knowing another language has not “confused” me. My mom knows exactly what placing me in an ESL class means; it means being placed in a classroom where it is immediately assumed that I know nothing and need remedial education. It means being left behind by my English-only speaking peers. It means not giving me a chance to thrive. My mother is not going to let that happen and, with Mrs. Ashton’s support, she tells the school administration in no uncertain terms that they will not be moving me into ESL, unless they want her to go downtown to district headquarters, with a stop at the local news media. I am allowed to enroll in first grade.