WYSO

Shadows And Benefits Of Doubt: A Teenager Talks About Race And Education

Nov 14, 2019

This week on Dayton Youth Radio we'll meet a senior from the David H. Ponitz Career Technology Center. Teenager Nina Edwards says the history lessons taught in public school doesn't reflect her culture.

Hello, my name is Nina Edwards, and I'm a Black girl in a white man's world. I attend Ponitz CTC, where the racial makeup is more than half Black kids.

You would think that since I go to a majority Black school, I would learn a lot about my Black history. But surprisingly, I have only had five Black teachers throughout my school years, which is probably the reason I didn't learn about Malcolm X until I was in 11th grade. And that was because my mom told me.

Me and my mom always have talks about history, white supremacy and microaggressions.

I have encountered micro aggressions a couple times this year. One was when a teacher told a story about a white man shooting a white woman and went on to say, "So white people are crazy too."

Now, let's be mindful that she's talking to a class full of Black kids. This was a microaggression because when you say too, it means also, meaning white people are crazy also...or white people are crazy as well...white people are crazy in addition...dnd last but not least, white people are crazy just like you.

Another incident was when a teacher made a joke about people from Indiana saying, "We can't call them Indians because we already have those."

Though he didn't attack my culture, it was still very out of pocket.

My mom is a very well educated Black woman; she's the best history teacher I've ever had.

"What I planned for you to do with the information that I give you is prepare you for the world, how Blacks fare in the United States, and all the things that we need to be conscious of and cognizant of. I want you to be able to make informed decisions about navigating the world."

I asked my mom how she felt when I told her about the things teachers at school said.

"I think mostly I was disappointed that a teacher would use their platform to show bias," she said. "Particularly when a classroom of predominantly Black children was concerned."

I asked her if the next time something happens, I should stick up for my culture.

"I think those situations can be very delicate," she replied. "And I think you just need to be mindful so that the person on the receiving end of your words will actually hear you and kind of feel where you're coming from."

"Do you feel that I should have walked away from that situation?" I asked.

"You did the right thing by coming home and telling me what happened, and I did my best to address it with leadership at your school," she replied.

"Do you think the school districts would do better if we had more Black teachers for the Black students to relate to?"

"The primary thing that they should look for is qualifications," my mom said. "But I think the teachers who may not be able to relate to the children or the young people on a racial level, they at least need to be culturally aware."

"Would you say that Malcolm X is why you tell me a lot about my history?"

"That is correct."

My story is basically about my mom teaching me my history, not not my teachers. She calls me her little activist. My goal is to try to help young teens understand their history, not just what they're taught in school. So don't just try to look in these history books, read outside of that book, that stupid book that was written by white men. You know what I mean? 

Nina Edwards is a senior at Ponitz CTC High School. Special thanks to her mother, Onita Morgan-Edwards. You can read an essay about race by Onita Morgan-Edwards here. 

Thanks to Ponitz Radio media arts instructors Joanne Viskup and Jeffrey Crowell. Learn more at the school's website: http://ponitzctc.org. Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, the Vectren Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council. 

This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.