Preparing for the College Beckys

Incident

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.
Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”
I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December:
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.
–       Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Hey Everyone! Hey Spring, I see you’ve been flirting with us for a while. I’m glad you finally decided to come holla (sort of). As it’s National Poetry Month, it was only fitting to begin with one of my favorite poems. This poem came to mind because my daughter is feeling the pressure as she gets closer to making her college decision. I wrote about her college application journey

in February and while we’re still coming off the high that she’s been accepted to 12 out of the 15 schools to which she applied, it’s time to commit to one of them. She’s strongly considering going to a PWI but she said, quite naturally, ‘I really hope my roommate don’t do something crazy like put my toothbrush up her ass.”

Some of you may know what she’s referring to and others may be confused so I’ll get into that in a few. Let me just say, I’m never shocked by what comes out my child’s mouth because she carries my DNA, but she was saying something much deeper when she made that comment. I realized that while I’m about to prepare to go to Target and give them all my coins for dorm essentials, she’s genuinely concerned about the potential White roommate she’ll dorm with.

As a Black mother, I’m proud that I raised a child who knows to consider these things but I got pissed that a moment in her life that should be filled with excitement is accompanied by worry. Not that normal type of worry like, what am I gonna major in or how am I gonna hold down a job and work; but the biggest worry that Black people know all too well, “How am I gonna handle these racist ass White folks?”

I know White folks read my blog and I appreciate every one of you but some of you may not be aware of some of the most recent events that would lead Kaori to say what she said. Let me introduce you to the College Beckys who got my daughter hoping that it’s not too late to apply to the University of Wakanda:

College Becky #1- Brianna Rae Brochu a.k.a Punk Ass Becky

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In November of last year, at the University of Hartford, an 18-year-old girl named Brianna Rae Brochu went on social media to let everyone know that she successfully got rid of her roommate who she referred to as “Jamaican Barbie.” Jamaican Barbie has a name and her name is Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe.

First off, before I could hear all of the details, I immediately knew this chick needed her ass whooped when she said she spit in Jazzy’s coconut oil. Spitting in anyone’s, but specifically a Black girl’s, hair products, is breaking one of the 10 Black commandments. I’m pretty sure my Black Bible says, “Thou shalt not have foreign hands in thine coconut oil.”  To steal a line from Cardi B, you spit in my coconut oil, “might as well spit in my food.” I can only imagine how Kaori would call me, about to catch a case, if a chick fucked with her edge control gel.

But the harassment went above and beyond disrespect. Jazzy had a throat issue that caused her to go to the school hospital more than once. Why? Cause this nasty chick put Jazzy’s toothbrush in her rectum (hence my daughter’s comment.) Racism has no mercy, no shame and like Master P, no limit. How did this chick even have time to do any of her work when it seems like she was on a mission to eliminate her Black roommate not only from her room but from this world? Her hatred was so strong she was willing to put Jazzy’s health and possibly life at risk. I would’ve respected Punk Ass Becky if she would’ve just walked up to Jazzy, said she didn’t like her Black ass and just asked to shoot the fair one. While that also would’ve been racist, it wouldn’t have been veiled and Jazzy could’ve decided if she just wanted to cut her losses and get a new room assignment before all of these Wypipo shenanigans happened.

So here I am reading about this, fuming for Jazzy and her family and thinking about Kaori. Then of course I was trying to find out if they sell “Racist White Bitch Repellent” at Target and unfortunately they don’t (I checked.)

Punk-Ass Becky was expelled and was brought up on hate crime charges but this is America. Y’all know damn well, she wasn’t gonna be convicted of anything. Wypipo get the benefit of the doubt while Black folks are simply doubted. Next up…

College Becky #2 -Harley Barber a.k.a Kardashian Reject, Nigger Spewing Becky

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This is your classic, back in the good ole’ days, no holds barred, racist rant. This college Becky, Harley Barber, attended (yes past tense. Spoiler alert: she gets expelled too) University of Alabama and decided to have an incoherent bathroom rant about saving water, loving Syria and of course, hating niggers. She’s clearly Oscar the Grouch level trash but the fact that she took her little bathroom rant on the road and confirmed that while she hates niggers, she can’t keep niggers out her mouth.

To add insult to injury, she decided that it was a good idea to emphasize that although she is from New Jersey, she’s in the south now and can say whatever she wants on Martin Luther King’s birthday.

Somebody, come get this chick. Not only does she shit on Black people but she does it on our Black Jesus’s birthday!!!. Throwing MLK’s name in anything racist is blasphemous and breaking all of the commandments.

After I watched this video, not only did I go from 0 to the moon real quick, I felt like I needed a shower. I was also relieved that all of the southern colleges my daughter applied to are HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities.) I can’t imagine Kaori sitting in class with someone like her. But you know what? She will be sitting next to people who think like this Becky; she’ll be forced to work with someone like her at multiple points in her life and unfortunately she’ll be telling me her own disturbing stories in the future.

Let’s pull back for a minute though. We all know that this woman and her fake ass apology are beyond problematic but let’s talk about her friends in the background who said nothing, did nothing and were actually encouraging her. Let’s create a third category for these type of Beckys that we’ll call…  

College Becky #3- Bystander Beckys

While I’m not thinking of anyone in particular (because there’s just so many), I had to warn Kaori about the ones who aren’t going to call you a nigger to your face or spit in your coconut oil but will stand there when someone else does it. They’re the ones who are in the background of snapchat videos while their other White friends say nigger and they sound like a scene directly out of the movie, White Chicks:

Nigger Spewing Becky: Nigger, nigger, nigger
Bystander Becky: OMG, I can’t believe you just said that.
NSB: Well, you were thinking it.
BB: Well, you said it.
(They both laugh maniacally. End scene.)

These are the ones who will use all of the microaggressions in the arsenal but will stare blankly or look like you shot their dog when you call them out on it. They’re the ones who will say the word Nigger because they’re listening to a rap song then justify it by saying that they attended a Travis Scott concert and he didn’t mind; he actually encouraged it. These are the ones who will say that everything’s not about race when they really want to say, “Come on, everything’s not about race, Nigger.”

This is what my daughter and hundreds of thousands of prospective Black and Brown students have to look forward to as they enter PWIs.

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Oh my God, Becky! Look at those Educators:

So what do we do now?

–     Extend the definition of college and career readiness: The current definition reads as follows:

College and career ready means that students graduate from high school prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary opportunities – whether college or career-without need for remediation…To be college and career ready, students must graduate with the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to succeed. (bold is my emphasis.)

Identifying, navigating and coping, or rather healing from racism is part of the knowledge, skills and dispositions that Black and Brown students need to prepare for college and careers in addition to mastering their content. As Chris Rock stated in his comedy special, Tambourine, schools need to have a White orientation and a Black orientation. I couldn’t agree with him more.

However, those orientations can’t just be about Black people having to be twice as good while White folks get the message reinforced that they’re already winners and college is just a four year party that they need to get through before they reach the grand prize of more comforts and privileges.

We need to stop coaching Black and Brown students about how to handle racist incidents, not if, but when they happen and we need to start teaching White children to realize when they are being racist, biased and problematic AF; how to check themselves and avoid being a bystander in the face of injustice.

–       Teach kids about covert racism: We need to teach our kids about covert racism and how to identify that as well. I was watching Marlon Wayans’ Netflix standup, Woke-ish (I know, I watch a lot of comedy specials) and he says that he’s so proud that his children have never been called a nigger and for Black folks, this is progress. Not being called a nigger should not be the beacon of racial progress.

But as we can see, the good ole’ days are returning. And even if our children are never called niggers or spics, they have to learn how to deal with White folks’ doublespeak and coded language and understand what’s wrong when they say things like, “Oh that’s so ghetto,” “Wow, you’re so articulate,” “Is your neighborhood safe?” “Did you live in the projects? How was that?” “Your hair is so soft.” These comments cannot continue at the expense of our kids’ safety and their self-worth.

–       Life-long ramifications of racism: The poem, “Incident” captures this so well. The narrator of the poem is an adult who revisits this racial incident that occurred while visiting Baltimore as a child. The only thing he remembers on that trip is a White child calling him a nigger. As Black people, we all have our incidents that will stick with us ‘til the grave and I don’t want Kaori’s entire college experience to be remembered in this way.

These incidents occur as children, as adults and especially in our schools and our workplaces. It’s no wonder more people of color don’t drop out of school and quit their jobs because it can sometimes be painful to enter these institutions. It feels like necessary abuse.

It’s important to discuss this trauma. Our students (and the adults) need the space so they can unload their experiences, unpack what happens to them personally and systemically and hopefully, undo some of the damage that has been done. Are we giving our kids that space? Are we making OUR kids college and career ready in the social and racial context?

Decision day is on May 1st and regardless of where Kaori goes, I will be proud and excited but like every Black mother in this country, I will also worry. Truth be told, no matter how many talks I have with her, when a situation happens in real time, sadly, neither of us may know what to do with a College Becky.

As always…
Rise.
Read.
Reimagine.
Resist.
Repeat.

Posted in #pettypost, 21st Century Tools, African Diaspora, How are the children?.

7 Comments

  1. Brilliant! I love your writing. I think I went through every emotion from laughing, to pissed off to almost in tears. It’s a worthy conversation but my fear is this goes beyond the Beckys and bystanders. These institutions slap them on the wrist and daddy pays for a new school. Unfortunately, we’ve become accustomed to adjusting and preparing for racist encounters instead of having real interventions and changing white privilege minds ahead of time. I agreed with everything you said! As always well done my friend.

  2. “How am I gonna handle these racist ass White folks?”

    *SIGH* it’s so sad that this has to be a concern for us. Like you said, we can try to prepare ourselves as best as we can, but we can’t anticipate how we’ll react in that moment. I’ll never forget being called a “nigger” on 23rd and Lexington Ave by an older white women. I was walking to the train after class, and I as I said “‘scuse me” she replied, “you’re a nigger!” and kept saying it over and over. I looked around and there were many Bystander Beckys. I was shocked! In true Bronx form, I replied “shut the fuck up you racist bitch!” and carried on with my day. SMH. It’s still infuriating. This was back in the Obama era, in a melting pot like NYC, where I’m supposed to be safe from racism. I can only imagine how it is in the red states.

    I know Kaori will always do the best she can, which we know is exceptional! If all else fails, we’ll transfer to the University of Wakanda. Lol!

  3. Khalya,

    Thank you for outlining the basic Becky for our future leaders. Lord knows I wish I had this guide when I was in college. I went away to a liberal arts college in a very rich suburb of Pennsylvania, right outside Philly. I can write chapters and chapters of the covert and overt racism I endured. I was sooo naive and my language to identify wrongs and advocate for my humanity was very immature, or dare I say not developed at all. Even with the rise of social consciousness I’m sure there are still many confused babies about to embark on a very racially tense microcosm of our larger society. I hope when they come face to face with Becky who tries to make them feel crazy someone passes this guide on to them- so they have the language to advocate for their humanity.

    In solidarity to uphold our humanity.

  4. Great read as always. Although I’ve never experienced the basic Becky’s in undergrad having gone to a predominantly black CUNY school I definitely have dealt with them working in corporate America. It’s sad that kids of color have to think about possibly having a racist roommate depending on the school they choose when they really should be thinking more about their major and relationships they can build. I’m glad you shed some light on an issue that isn’t talked about as much as it should be. I’m a huge supporter of your work and I’m rooting for you all the way. Continue to inspire and motivate our youth and our educators through your writing. Love you ugly!!!

  5. As always, inspiring writing, inspiring topic! All too often children of color have to deal with people who refuse to understand and check their biases. There is a lot of work to be done and if I may say, it is not with children of color. It reminds me of when I had to serve jury duty. It was hard for potential jurors to understand that the man sitting in the defendants chair was innocent until proven guilty. As much as media tries to play a role in skewing your view, that person is innocent. It is the prosecutors BURDEN to prove the defendant guilty. That may be a weird analogy, but it is White America’s BURDEN to address their biases and work on their actions and viewpoints. It is not the burden for people of color to constantly have to correct words and behaviors and demonstrate that we are equal in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of God, in the eyes of humanity. There is work to be done.

  6. I just hope our daughter doesn’t have to encounter this type of ignorance. In the event she does I hope she meets it head on and holds her ground. I don’t think with her winning personality she’ll have to many issues like that but if she does I’m confident she’ll know how to handle herself. She’s been groomed by one of the best educated woman of color. World look out for Khalya’s understudy/mini Khalya(she wants to be like her mom so bad and I think that’s just adorable). Apples don’t fall far….

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