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For Black Kids Who People Say “Act Up” in School

For Black Kids Who People Say “Act Up” in School


I can still vividly remember skipping classes.

The sun would beat against my back as I defiantly ran away from security guards. They always seemed to be unable to catch me. As much of a nerd as I was, the desire for social acceptance motivated me in ways I couldn’t possibly have explained, back then.

Middle school had to have been one of the most uncomfortable periods of existence for a myriad of related reasons. Like most other kids in that age range, I was hormonal, relentlessly disrespectful and habitually non-compliant. I challenged authority because that’s what pre-teens who are trying to make sense of relationships and hierarchy do.

I challenged authority because I was in a power struggle for control that I was unaware I would never win at that time.

I challenged authority because I needed to understand where I fit — for myself — not just because someone told me where, how, and when I belonged in a given space. I challenged authority because I was angry, because I was sad, because of a host of other jumbled emotions and, because the things I had grown into understanding were unraveling and that was not only outside of my control, but also outside of the control of those whom I saw as having control.

It was confusing and stressful to be forced to simply sit back and observe. There wasn’t a day I can remember wanting to be in school just to learn… but there also aren’t very many days I can remember wanting to be at home, either.

When your mother is terminally ill and your stepfather isn’t good for much of anything concerning you, the desire to cling onto something worthwhile can quickly become all-consuming.

What happens when a child perceives that she doesn’t have anything or anyone edifying to hold onto? What type of influence is supposed to act on her in order to bring about “good” behavior?

Voids are created by circumstantial tragedies. Life is hard when what you have to hope for seems minuscule when placed up against what you have to work through.

Would I have deserved to have been yoked, yanked from my desk and thrown across a classroom in front of other students because of my attitude?

I suppose due to my defiance, but…

These words are not to serve as an excuse. Instead, I’m offering a logical causation for behaviors that would otherwise be seen as bad — but I prefer the term:


It’s easier to meet expectations that are at ground level than to envision new standards to live up to and actually do so. Hell, if kids don’t feel that they have any reason to imagine anything at all, what exactly are they supposed to work with? What’s an imagination truly worth when dreams remain in one’s head — with little to no access to resources, little to no opportunity to take charge of making them flourish? What good is fantasizing when there’s a constant reminder that being behind the monetary eight ball means playing catch up for as long as your forever lasts?

If struggle is all a child has known, how much can you blame her for not knowing what to hope for — or not hoping at all? Children don’t get to choose their situations. Surviving and thriving take up too much time and energy. Children who’ve never seen dreams come true shouldn’t be responsible for knowing that they do. Children who’ve been told not to dream at all or that the way they wish to dream isn’t okay, simply won’t.

There’s a dirty game being played with the lives of black kids. The results are generational. The rules aren’t explained well, either — if they’re explained at all. That is, if they even exist.

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