As more minorities roll into mostly white schools, the monster of racism recedes to the shadows, away from the unsuspecting innocent eye. Here in Penn Manor, a high school set in a small, rural college town in Millersville, Pa., opinions and views are growing more and more liberal in a community once immersed in conservative backgrounds.
When I came to Penn Manor School District several years ago it was a life-changing experience for me and a big cultural shock as well. I was born in Philadelphia, Pa., and I was educated in both Delaware County and Philadelphia city schools, two districts where the number of African American students exceeded all other races. I didn’t know what to expect of my new school.
According to Penn Manor’s own race-relations consultant, Quay Hanna, “A black student coming from a mostly urban area will struggle more, since he is not only trying to adapt as a minority student, but also because he is coming from a completely different cultural background.”
I couldn’t have agreed more with this comment. The first day I came to Manor Middle it was me, my mom, aunt, grandmother. A counselor at the middle school had just gone over the rules and regulations with us and I was, at first surprised, at how lenient the school was. There was no dress code, no school security, and recess after lunch. I thought I’d just arrived in my picture-perfect school. Then within a week, reality hit me and the struggle began.
As I walked through the halls of Manor Middle that first week, I couldn’t help but notice all the attention I was getting. Eyes following me from class to class, at first I wondered, were they just curious as to who the new student was or were they staring at me because I was black. I decided it was both.
I can’t say I had trouble making friends in my new school because everyone seemed really friendly and helpful. But I also cannot say I didn’t have serious problems at the school either. A couple of months into the school year, a racial incident sprung up one time during lunch. I was called the “N” word multiple times by a student while sitting at a table with some friends. Although this wasn’t the first time someone called me the “N” word, it was the first time it happened here for me. I reacted by pouring water on the student and giving them some words to remember. I felt this to be a fair response especially because this student was female.
As I stormed out of the cafeteria, heated and on the edge, I marched into the office of the middle school demanding to talk to somebody. The first person I saw was the vice principal. I explained what happened, the principal was informed, my parents were contacted.
Throughout my first year in this school district, I started seeing different sides of people. But instead of thinking that all white people are racist like many of my peers do, I realized that judging a whole race on a few people is unfair and incorrect. I had to hate the concept of racism from both sides.
As time went by, I began having less racial incidents in school. Although I’m not having racial problems anymore, I’m not so sure the problem of racism has ceased. I think Penn Manor has come a long way but from what I see and hear, it still has a mile or two to go.
By: Robert Henry