Sophomore Maya was merely standing in the band hall, wearing hooped earrings when she heard a comment she says she’ll never forget.
“Girl, you look like a ho over there, like what’s up.”
Maya, thinking she had found somewhere safe and comfortable, felt left out and alienated, something that happens to many young Black girls in predominantly White areas. With only four percent of students coming from an African American backgrounds (in her NEISD High School), it’s easy for someone to feel increasingly left behind with comments like this.
“I felt really insecure about myself,” Maya said “Even though I’m the only Black one here, why am I treated differently? I wouldn’t call it bullying, but I felt like I was being bullied.”
Growing up around comments and images like this instilled at a young age negatively affects the young women in this community, but Maya has learned to bounce back.
“You see people that are white and you think ‘oh, they’re so perfect’, and you try to imitate them, Maya said. “Now I know I’m gorgeous, and I don’t need to change.”
In schools, with standards set of GPA and achievement so low for black students, 2.69 average GPA nationwide, it’s hard for them to feel included and are looked over academically.
“A lot of people would make comments and jokes about my race, and I would laugh to cover up my hurt and discomfort,” Sophomore Sarai said. “Growing up I was
bullied and was expected to be dumb and illiterate.”
And looking in, these girls strive on the fact that there are other people around that they can relate to. “I’m usually that one black girl in my class.” Sophomore Tatiana said.
“Sometimes I’ll have a connection to someone that’s Black because there’s certain things you can talk about that you can’t talk about with a white person that would make them feel awkward.”
And with social media and the internet, the perception of black girls has affected the Black experience completely. Maya said,”I felt really insecure about the whole situation, I mean why are you treating me like this? I guess he wasn’t used to a black person being different or whatever.” Tatiana adds, “Why did he associate wearing hoops to being Black though? Like he shouldn’t associate that to just us." Maya replies, “I mean it’s just stereotypes.” Tatiana responds, ”I mean yeah. I know Mexican girls who wear those, is it just minorities?” Maya concludes, “I guess so.”
Looking to her future, Maya has had her eyes set on becoming a computer engineer. After attending ETA (Engineering Technology Academy) last year at Roosevelt she found her calling. She wants to attend MIT to accomplish it all, and doesn't plan on letting her skin color hold her back.
“Now knowing who I am, I know I’ll have to push harder,” Maya said. “Going into the workforce, you have to work twice as hard being a minority, especially in engineering.”
Though she still is hurt, The Hoops predicament has helped Maya reconnect, mend to the wounds, and move forward.
“This was all at the beginning of the year, and that person found common ground with me,” Maya said. “He doesn’t do things like that too much, but sometimes I have to say ‘I know we’re different because of my skin color, but you don’t have to treat me this way just because I’m Black.”
In 2018, Maya was inducted in the high school's National Honor Society not letting the racial incident hold her back.
About the Author Kiki: Kiki is an amazingly talented student at Winston Churchill High School. She has agreed to provide the SA Observer more articles from her perspective as a young Black woman. Her ambition is to major in journalism in college. We want to contribute to her success. Kiki has big goals and we are blessed to further her talent.