I don’t know how someone of any race dips their toes into the topic of anti-black racism without first looking at themselves. Yet at the same time I do not want to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement and make this about myself. In any case, tackling one’s white privilege is never an easy, cookie cutter, template laid out subject. With all that said, I would like to vouch for how racist I think El Camino Fundamental High School truly is.
The short version of the story is that over the last year I have gotten more involved with our local SURJ and Black Lives Matter chapters. In this time I have learned of how our Sheriff is a Nazi, how our mayor will award medals to murderers, and how truly hostile Sacramento police are to anyone who questions them as an institution.
More to the point our local leaders of BLM have taught me how inherent anti-black racism is. One of those lessons came from a tweet from BLM sacramento about my alma matter, El Camino Fundamental High School.
According to BLM Sacramento’s tweets, Anti-black racism is as inherent at ECHS as anywhere else in America. Non white students are suspended at a rate 5x higher than white students. Speaking as a white boy who graduated ECHS in 2010 and did so much illegal shit in my high school tenure, I think I can vouch for this.
I was born and raised in Carmichael and I am the second generation in my family to attend ECHS. We were not millionaires, but I will be blunt, my family has always been on the more affluent side of the white picket fence. We are all white and well to do, so it would only make sense that at least one of us would become a radical, pot smoking degenerate. Even then in my youth I could smell the repulsive uptight whiteness all around me. Our student government was a group of peppy upper middle class liberal girls all of whom proudly flaunted our school’s white and green colors. I remember most of them being big fans of that god awful “The Blind Side” movie. Our football team, despite its undisciplined offense, was fully of reactionary young boys and was toted as if they were the most Americana thing you could see in the whole school district. Virtually every white straight male I had a class with would not shut up about how hard it was to be a white straight male, so I am willing to bet that President Trump has a solid base with most of the men from my graduating class.
In this environment I wanted, nay, needed to rebel. The only avenue of true rebellion, true anti whiteness that I saw at least, was in mimicking black culture. The way I thought to mimic black culture was to mimic the black people I knew. These were pot smoking Bob Marley and hip hop lovers, most of whom were not members of the upper middle class or rich that consisted of myself or my other classmates.
I smoked with them on campus and incorporated their anti authority attitudes into my classes that were filled with privilege. I spent my class time in the A.P. rooms with those other white rich kids who could afford the test, but my lunch and after school hours were spent with anyone but them. It was a way to relieve myself of the uptight whiteness I saw all around me, from the teachers who expected proper diction in their classes or the vice principles who live under the delusion of American equality. There was also several students I remember who loved Beyonce or Kanye but they, “Just didn’t like the way some black people talked.”
To counter all this white stiffness I saw in my teachers, admins, and classmates I bought, sold, and smoked pot on campus, even pushing the boundaries of our dress code with a head full of dreadlocks. I swore in class like Richard Pryor to the annoyance of my teachers and to the amusement of my classmates. I talked back to teachers on an almost regular basis. I cut classes and mimicked all of the behaviors of my black comrades whom I was vicariously living through.
I did all of that, and I was never once suspended. I was not a dangerous thug, not a pot smoking degenerate. No, I was just “a youthful rebel,” according to one teacher. I was just, “letting out steam,” or, “getting it out of my system,” according to others.
There were only two teachers who ever held me accountable for my behavior, one was a drama teacher who gave me a failing citizenship grade. It was my only failing citizenship grade in four years. The other was a physics teacher who gave our class a very long, very real lecture about race when he caught a student making anti black jokes. He held me in detention on the last day of school for ditching class. He did not give white students a free pass and I am pretty sure he is one of the few teachers actively combatting anti-black racism on his own time. But more to the point I remember seeing my black classmates getting suspended for the same things I was doing. I used to think they were just stupid for letting themselves get caught, but now I am convinced that the powers that be had there eyes on them more than they ever did on me, even though I was doing all of the same shit.
I am a walking case of white privilege and my teen years have always been a reflection of that. Yet it was BLM’s single tweet that made me realize how much I had really gained from anti black racism. By all logic, I should have been expelled from ECHS, instead I graduated with a 3.8 weighted GPA. I cannot say the same is true for many others I knew.
So what does this all mean? Am I just another white guy coopting an empowering movement to flaunt my own liberal guilt? Am I using my white privilege to vouch for something that shouldn’t need a white guy to vouch for? Am I actually doing something to help the cause or is this just mental masturbation? I honestly cannot say, but what I can say is that I was not a model student, yet my white skin seems to have bleached out the black marks on my permanent record.