A White Girl Said She Was Shoved. A Black Boy Denied It. Guess Who Went To The Principal's Office?

The eight young men in this video are full of unfair stories like the one at 1:24 about being sent to the principal's office. Some of the tales are frustrating, some are heartbreaking, some are rage-inducing. But the saddest part? They're used to it. And despite being young, they have a brilliant analysis about why.

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There were things in my school where there will be three black kids in the class. And after the first little quarter, you'll get your work done, you have pretty good grades, but teacher be like, she will pull those three black kids aside, be like, "You guys need to separate from each other. You're distracting the class." There might be three white girls in the back laughing the entire class and all the teacher says is, "Be quiet".

Being black comes with the stereotypes of being loud, disruptive and always angry when you don't get your way. I just wanted to be heard, I should say. So I say being one of the few black kids in the class just being heard is one of the big things for me. So I don't think the teacher should try to do it but they do.

I am the one who gets send out the classroom. All the kids look at me like, oh, he got issues, you know. He got to leave the class once every three periods because you know, but that's just you know. It's also my fault because you know, it's who I choose to sit next to, you know.

I remember back in first grade. This situation really got on my nerves. So I forgot why but for some reason, a girl was crying. A white girl, she was crying and the teacher called me over and the girl told her that I made her cry, pushed her down. It was like, I didn't because I actually hadn't. And I kept on saying I hadn't, iit wasn't me, and I guess the girl didn't know exactly who it was or she thought it was me. But then the teacher took her word for it, and I got sent to the office. And that was one of the things at such a young age, where I was just like, wow, why exactly?

So like if I told my parents like there's something going on at school between the teacher. And like my mom, she will be like, "You want me to go over there?" I am like, "No." Because like, it's gonna have a bad effect on the looks on me and her. Because like she's going to go over there either angry [have an argument] and then the teacher is gonna get stereotype of her and she'll be like, oh that's why he's doing bad at school. That's why that. And so I try to like fix it on my own, to like get back at the teacher and to let them know like, I'm not who they think I'm.

One of the things that bothers me was my teachers would grade me differently based on ... This is at first, they would maybe grade me a little bit easier based on the color of my skin than they did my white counterparts. I asked the teacher, they had internalized the belief that because I am black, my expectations of the type of work that I could do was less than maybe some other students.

So when I walked in the room, they automatically thought that the work that I was gonna do maybe wouldn't be as articulate or as progressed as some of the other kids just based off the way I look. And that's how black kids come in after me supposed to feel if their history, English, math, science teachers, when they first walked in, believe that they are not as smart as other kids.

I know I'm smarter than the teacher thinks. So I'm gonna take you know, what they give me and I'm gonna take advantage of it and turn it around into that A or that B+ that the teacher didn't think I can get or if they give me this extra help that I know I don't need, you say, "OK. Thank you." But you finish it before everybody else does and it just slaps the teacher in the face.

No matter how many Louis Armstrongs there are, no matter how many James Baldwins there are. We're always going to be looked at differently, you know. Always. Just because of our skin color. I mean you know, we are in shackles but they're just gold plated so it looks like you know, we're OK but at the end of the day, like we're always going to be shackled up into that category, you know. That's just how it is.

I feel like, they like take black people and then they're like, here you go, put you in this box. This is how you're supposed to act. You can't come outside of this because you can't act this way. This area right here, this is white so you have to stay inside the black box. Like I hear a lot like if there's like a black person being really articulate and know what they're talking about, "Oh, are you talking white? " Like what exactly is talking white? Like so, being articulate and intelligent, that's talking white? That's acting white?

Yeah, you have the term, "Oh, why are you trying to act so black?"


My dad's less than.


This comes straight at we, you know. You can't play this sport. You can be the best person on the team but they're weak because they don't look like everybody else.

Well, when I was with black people, I'm acting white. And when I'm with white people, I'm acting black. And I feel like I don't really have a place, like where do I fit in? Where am I just myself? Where am I just me?

And some black people say, "You don't act your color. Like, I need you to act so-called white right now." It makes me feel like for some reason among the whole world, my color is just put down another level. It doesn't make me feel good inside. It makes me feel a little angry with myself because I feel like I'm supposed to do something to try to change it. But I don't know where to start.

It's a lot of division in between the black races. Why can't we just embrace our own culture? Why can't we be united? But no, oh it's I'm [wise]. Oh, I'm [nice]. Oh [lights] can act like that, oh darks can act like that. But it's not just we're black. We're brothers here.

I wish we can do things like paint, do swimming, do golf, do filmmaking, do acting. Do all these things and not be looked at as being more white, like I don't think football, basketball should be only ... they shouldn't be the limits of self-expression for us as a whole. We should be able to feel like we can do more without being judged and being put in boxes because of we only do these certain things.

I feel like there's a lot of problems that's lack of resources, support like more institutional problems that persist that might not ... that like go deeper that might not allow black men to raise it, get to the same point as white males. And I think this applies for a lot of black males if your only form of self-expression at the end of the day is like to go to on a basketball court or to go on a football field, that affects your ability to do homework after school. So that's the only other thing you can do to express yourself besides just going to classes then like how is that helping you like?

I feel like there's a lot of stuff, not exactly like this but like a lot of black people like, we can go to our friends. We talk about stuff like this but then again like, what do we do about it? Like where do we start to do something about it? We can talk about, oh it's this and this is how it is, and it's because of this and that and that. But then again, what are we doing? What steps are we taking to make that progress till as we hold purpose, how are we gonna close that achievement gap?

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This video is a part of "Life Cycles of Inequity," a series made by our friends over at Colorlines focusing on the way that inequality affects black men at every stage of life.

Jul 17, 2014

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