Yesterday was my 12-year old daughter’s award ceremony. A notable occasion, worthy of my effort to be there, I took a few vacation hours from work and picked up my son from school to go and support her.
Days prior to the event, I asked her what award(s) she will be receiving. She shrugged her shoulders and said “I dunno”… this should’ve been a dead giveaway.
So I fought school traffic, circled the tiny parking lot a few times before I found a space, only to enter the school area that was standing-room only (in 4 and 1/2 inch high heels!!). I took a seat on a back bench (could barely see the podium) and soothed myself with the thought of all of this is worth being here for my child.
Shortly after going over the award categories in the program, I realized what’s she was being honored for. Her school participated in the “Sista Keepers” program, a (Black) youth-centered mentoring program that uplifts and inspires young girls to “be all they can be.” While this is quite a commendable 8-week program, my disappointment rests in the fact that this was the ONLY award she received. A friggin’ certificate of participation.
Now since this category was second to last, I was forced to listen to various faculty members rattle off a bunch of names for awards in other, more important categories. My heart not only ached from the pain of my daughter not receiving an award in any of the academic categories, but also at the fact that NONE of her Black peers were honored in these categories as well.
I sat there, going through a cycle of emotions: anger (for the trouble it took to get here for this), guilt (could I have pushed her more??), sadness (for other Black parents who took the time to notice the same thing I did) and shame (for our children and their bleak and plighted futures if they, if WE, continue to ignore these educational resources).
Who owns the blame: The parents? The kids themselves? The school? Perhaps all three. I don’t always check homework like I should. And although I keep in touch with teachers via email on her progress and behavior, I know I could put a little more effort into actively participating in her education. I shouldn’t have to wonder what she is being honored for.
I think back on the times we would go over homework and how she would haphazardly rush through it just to watch her favorite TV program or to jump on a social media site. She was perfectly willing to turn in homework containing wrong answers, along with spelling and grammatical errors until I drilled it into her thick skull that what she turns in is a reflection of her capabilities. I angrily scolded her about consequences of not caring about her work… Still, I’m not sure if she even cares.
I remember getting calls from her guidance counselor encouraging me to allow my child to participate in this “Sista Keeper” mentoring program. I never got the call encouraging me to have her sign up for the math, geography or spelling clubs. An equal amount of effort should be made to encourage students like my daughter to entering academic-centered clubs, not just the social ones.
So we are all accountable. I won’t point any more fingers than I have to point back at myself. And while I expressed to her my delight for her receiving the certificate (I even pitched in an ice cream cone afterwards) I expect better… She will NOT be a statistic. She will NOT be lazy and/or incompetent. She WILL be able to compete with her Indian, Asian and Caucasian counter-parts. And I WILL be a better parent…