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Black History Month Essay: Recounting A Subtle, But Unpleasant, Experience

February 15, 2021

To help celebrate Black History Month, we are sharing essays generously provided by a Schoolcraft College faculty member, an SC alumni and an SC student. Each is featured in the February issue of BLAC Magazine.

This week’s author, Nyia George, was born and raised in Detroit. She is currently studying business administration and aspires to pursue entrepreneurship and a career in marketing after graduating college. Nyia is Vice President of Leadership for Schoolcraft College’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter. Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) is an international honor society, and Schoolcraft College’s Omicron Iota Chapter attainted 5 Star status in 2020.

Nyia GeorgeMy first interaction with racism was subtle and unexpected. It was similar to when driving a car and you think there is no one in your blind spot, so you continue to change lanes. This experience was so well-concealed it has taken a number of years for me to recognize it for what it truly was.

While in my eighth grade year of middle school, I had a male English teacher. While reading one of our daily English lessons, we fell upon a story about slavery that led to an open discussion when my English teacher decided to clearly state, “you guys are all my monkeys,” to a class full of students, some who were African American. 

Initially when this incident occurred, I did not want to tell my parents because I wanted to avoid any altercations, although I was aware of the implications of the word “monkey.” Eventually, I worked up the courage to tell them and in response my father contacted my English teacher and my principal within hours. 

The following week there was a conversation held between the three of them where my principal defended my teacher without considering why it was an issue and my English teacher who played the role of a victim who felt innocent and unaware of the historical implication of the word “monkey.”