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My Friend’s Daughter Was Called a “Nigger” Today at Her Summer STEM Camp

My friend’s daughter was called a nigger yesterday at her University of Miami STEM camp. Her angry mother, after experiencing and responding to this event, wrote the following.

Toxic white women and toxic white feminism starts as little girls crying crocodile tears on the playground after they deny Black children their humanity. I wish I could sing “sticks and stones” and say words have no power but these white kids learn early that policing the boundaries of what it means to be human is how they uphold white supremacy, securing their privilege within it. The Becky and Patty and Susan, they learn this early.

My daughter was called a nigger yesterday at her University of Miami STEM camp. The white girl who used the slur had a few minutes earlier called another girl a dyke behind her back. My child put herself in the line of fire by telling the girl why she should not use that word and the girl started saying “dyke dyke dyke” and “nigger nigger nigger.”

When she got home and told me, I reported it to the (white and Asian) professors running the camp. This morning in a meeting I was told the white girl would not be suspended because it would have a negative impact on the learning environment.

What about my child’s learning environment? What about her right to safety?

They also pointed out that my child called the girl a “racist bitch” in the back and forth. I said, at some point you have to defend yourself. I told them those words that girl said are not like somebody just called you ugly. Those words are violent. They have history attached of people being enslaved and murdered and discriminated against. They got a whole history lesson from me.

But at the end of the day, they are going to have a meeting with her parents, give her a warning but she does not lose any privileges. It’s the same white girls only getting this kinda slap on the wrist that end up being the “racist bitch” (to quote my child) to call 911 and get Black people killed for just being Black. White girls learn early that the system will keep them safe.

Where are the safe spaces for my Black child? I want my children to have great opportunities and experiences and yet the emotional and social cost is so high.

It is exhausting doing this as a single Black Mama, running around trying to protect my kids from a world that wants to destroy them. I feel alone and I feel tired.

This morning we are on campus — me trying to be as strong as my triumphant daughter. She decided she will not be intimidated and wants to return to the camp. So here we are.

I am outraged! We send our children to learn in a safe environment — not to be called a nigger.

This is not the first case of this kind of racist verbal abuse of a Black student by a White student that I’ve written about. Black children endure racial attacks — subtle and overt — at the hands of their racist peers and their racist teachers.

Yeah, I said it. It’s true! The systems that educate Black students just like the country in which they live are racist and see little worth in them as human beings, much less as scholars.

As an educator, I know that to be in a university summer STEM program requires students to exemplify hard work and natural talent. This beautiful Black girl and her momma did what they had to do to get her into this extra-curricular program, only for her to be belittled, dehumanized, and cast aside by the very ones who have propriety over her in that setting.

The Need for Teachers of Color

This is a prime example of why we need more Black teachers and administrators in education in not only K-12 school buildings but in higher education, as well. I believe strongly that this situation would’ve been handled totally differently if there were members of the administration and education staff of that STEM program who were Black and in positions of authority.

I remember when my son was in his Long Island middle school’s after-school program and he was called a “niggersaurus” by a White kid. When my son reported it to the White after-school staff, he was told that “maybe he heard them wrong” and that “he was overreacting.” “Don’t be silly,” they said. “You’re a nice boy,” they said. He would be offered fried chicken, watermelon, and Kool-Aid, and taunted day after day by these privileged, racist White kids.

My son was racially targeted and the adults in whose care he was in did nothing to protect him.

You know when they did do something? When my son — the Black student in the scenario — got fed up and beat those White students’ butts! Then everyone got really involved and rallied to the care and safety of the White students! They even suspended my son when, in my eyes, all he was doing was defending himself. At some point you have to, no?

Crazy, right? Not really.

It happens in schools across New York every single day. So, although the incident with my friend’s daughter happened in Miami, it is not exclusive to Florida. Black students are unsafe in classrooms and academic programs all across the United States.

I am proposing in my outrage that the White teachers who are currently in the classroom and those preparing to teach, get mandatory and ongoing cultural awareness and sensitivity training.

In addition—and equally as important—more Black teachers need to be hired. Every hiring agent in all schools needs to make this a priority. Then and only then will Black students have a fighting chance at being safe in their classroom environments.

What do you think?

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