With the most recent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter movement has become as prevalent as the coronavirus pandemic.
While the pandemic has made it very difficult to support this movement physically, many have taken to social media to make their voices heard. Because Cooper City is a predominantly white community, there are many things that its Black members would like to shed light on as we move forward.
One of the many things that are inevitably challenged as a Black individual in a predominantly white community is one’s identity. For some, it has made them relate to their race even more, yet it has made it that much harder for others.
“Growing up in a predominately white school has definitely affected how I identif[ied] myself in the beginning years of school. I always had to adapt the way I acted every time I was at school,” CCHS senior Dustin Symonette said. “Due to going to a school where I didn’t see many people that looked like me, I embraced and discovered my Black culture later on than other students had.”
It’s difficult to understand who you are and be comfortable in your own skin when there are very few that have the same skin as you. Those that didn’t seem “Black enough” would often be regarded as “white-washed” or an “Oreo” to even their own families.
This struggle to relate to one’s own race can be attributed to the influence of white culture, or rather, the lack of Black culture. The most commonly criticized aspect of Black students is their hair. Since Caucasian hair is all a Black student is often exposed to in a predominantly white community, Black individuals will either struggle to make their hair look more “normal” or face ridicule when they embrace their natural hair.
“Due to going to a school where I didn’t see many people that looked like me, I embraced and discovered my Black culture later on than other students had.”CCHS senior Dustin Symonette
“I always wore protective styles so that my curls would be both contained and hidden. I only became comfortable with my natural curls at the end of my seventh grade school year,” Miramar High School senior Alyssa Grant said. “On the rare occasions that I did change my hairstyle, I would receive many rude and unnecessary questions about my hair. In the end, those helped me grow, but at the time they made me question my identity.”
Ethnic hair, whether it is worn in protective hairstyles like box braids or in natural hairstyles like twist outs, has been seen as “unprofessional” or “unclean” for decades. Although many racial stereotypes have been subdued, the stigma around ethnic hair remains present to this day.
Along with their identity being challenged, Black students also face adversity with their beliefs when it comes to racial injustices. When attending a predominantly white school, it is common to find that a significant amount of their friends are not only not Black, but most likely white.
“The main reason I chose to go to Miramar High School instead of Cooper City was that I wanted to have a different experience culturally, socially and academically. I chose Miramar High School not just because it was a predominantly Black school, although that did play a part in my decision,” Grant said. “I didn’t want to go to a predominantly white school for four more years of my life; I felt strongly that I needed a change.”
When topics of racial injustices come forth, there are different roles a Black student and friend must assume. One could either try to educate their peers and have these uncomfortable conversations, or one can remain unbiased and indifferent in order to maintain friendships that don’t involve politics. With both options, there are a set of consequences. So, Black students must often have to find balance within themselves to do both.
“The main reason I chose to go to Miramar High School instead of Cooper City was that I wanted to have a different experience culturally, socially and academically.”Miramar High School senior Alyssa Grant
“If someone were to bring [the topic of racial issues] up to me, I would hear them out while giving my opinion. But I don’t see myself trying to educate others even after what happened because it goes against my personality and who I am,” CCHS junior Bengaly Kone said. “Although these topics need to be discussed, I don’t think to bring these up because it often creates an environment where one can’t joke and smile. I don’t go out of my way to spread my opinions.”
Bringing up these topics along with preserving a non-hostile environment is a whole other challenge in itself. This is even more reason to engage in these conversations with Black students so that the student body as a collective can move past the fear of being uncomfortable.
“In order to properly move forward as a society, we have to come to an understanding of basic realities. One of the basic realities is that this country, with all of the great things it stands for, has a foundation of racism,” history teacher and Multicultural Club sponsor Kevin Fair said. “If we understand that concept we are better able to: see it when it exists, address it when we see it and then move forward together. So just like resolving in any issue in any relationship, if the Cooper community is willing to have these conversations, the change will come naturally.”
Inevitably, no matter which path a Black student will take, being a part of a predominantly white community comes with challenges. However, these challenges are not impossible to resolve. So, this is what Black students want their peers to know:
Learn, help and create discussions with people of color. Then listen, engage and get on board.
Whatever platform you have, big or small, speak up. Silence is violence.
Illustration by Mia Tunon