Being educated is not black and white

Najiah Osborne-Francellno, Staff Writer

While being educated can look different for everyone, Merriam Webster defines the word educated as simply “receiving a formal education”; however, when you’re a person of color, many may perceive it as trying to be white. 

 Being an intelligent Black female at a school like ETHS can be viewed in many different ways due to the stereotypes that white people have held over us for centuries. Descriptions like dumb, ghetto and dirty have been used to dehumanize and isolate our community. Whiteness has continued to prevail in this country and has been known to be the face of knowledge and success. Black people have been denied education, and still to this day, many Black students are suffering in school due to not receiving adequate education. Society is still doubting our intelligence, and as a country, Americans seem to forget about Black excellence and success. People like Angela Davis and Martin Luther King, who have committed their lives to ensuring Black people receive basic human rights, did more for our community than we think. There are several activists who have sacrificed their lives to change narratives and promote change for our community. It’s important to remember this, regardless of the negative depictions of Black people in this country. 

I feel as though the Black community is allowing these stereotypes to control our thoughts and actions. Since when did speaking proper English mean you’re trying to talk like a white person? Why is it that we have so much self-doubt in our community that we limit ourselves to the societal stigmas that are put on us?

What exactly does it mean to talk White? I have to ask myself this question daily as I have been told by my peers who are of the same race that I talk/act White. This statement is not only offensive, it’s just ignorant in so many ways. The fact that we still use race as an identifier of intelligence and success just shows that as human beings, we have a long way to go. At ETHS, students of color are constantly put in boxes that generalize our abilities to perform, we are doubted, and rarely recommended for honors or Advanced Placement classes. When are we going to change these narratives?  

Senior Tori Terry, a Black female can relate to me, as she has also been told that she acts white. 

¨It makes me feel uncomfortable because there is no one way a person talks, whether you are intelligent or not, it has nothing to do with the color of your skin,¨ she says.

Junior Halle Hall-Latchman, a Black student, echoes Terry as they express similar feelings when told they act white. 

¨It makes me feel insecure because it made me feel like no matter what, I couldn’t fit in,̈ Hall-Latchman says. 

 I’m passionate about issues that impact the Black community, and I cherish the conversations I have with my classmates. In Child Development class last year, I was called an “Oreo”while discussing current events with my peers. The student who expressed this to me wasBlack as well. It seemed at that moment he was expressing his own insecurities about possibly not being educated on the subject, which isn’t a bad thing. But why does that make me an  “Oreo”¨?

Overall as a culture, we have so much doubt. If we had no doubt, we would know that we are capable of being excellent, instead of claiming the unfortunate characteristics  most people tend to assume we have. We don’t have that self-confidence, which has clearly been rooted from our history. 

It’s important that we continue to challenge the norm by reframing what excellence means for our individual sense of self-worth, and not worth by white society’s standards. It should never stop with MLK or Angela Davis. The ability to thrive in any environment and reshape the context versus assimilating, the ability to be confident about your culture and take risks by expanding your knowledge and taking classes that are historically perceived as ¨white¨ while still having pride in being Black, is excellence. 

My challenge to my community is to reflect on your own perceptions of what it means to be a successful Black person. I do not misperceive that there is fast and easy solution. But as I try to change the narrative, I am fully myself. I speak and act the way I was raised. I am tired of the narrative that Black people are a homogenous group. We are individuals. Our community is shaped off of our shared backgrounds, walks of life and lived experiences. You cannot act, or speak a color.