One of my daughters was looking at my yearbook from my senior year. In the last section, there is a listing of each senior and their activities from their time in high school.
When she was reading through my accomplishments and activities, she asked me “mom, why were you in Jr. National Honor Society until 11th grade but not moved up to Honor Society in you senior year?”
Like some people’s Facebook status, it complicated and and difficult to comprehend. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have the grades.
And I was selected to get in. BUT, one year when I was in 10th grade, a bunch of us had been drinking at a dance and I got in trouble for it, so I was unable to be inducted into Honor Society that year. Ironically, I was still able to stay on Jr. Honor Society, which actually required a higher gpa. Nevertheless, even though I wasn’t the only one drinking, I was the only one who was excluded from NHS that year.
Then the next year came the same story. Grades good, interview excellent, recommendations perfect. But this year I was accused of stealing a 25 cent Pepsi. Accused but not even guilty. I was proven not guilty by another teacher and the other students in the class, but based in this accusation, I was told that I could not be inducted that year.
However, when I later received high honors for the school for my PSAT score so, they wanted me to join AGAIN! I told them, hell no. I might not have used those exact words, but in my reliving the scenario, I did.
I later went on to get several more academic awards and scholarships that I will talk about later, but this specific situation highlighted to me the way I would be treated different because of my color. This was my first introduction to the Black tax.
I won't say they were wrong to rescind the offer in the first year because drinking at school is wrong. However, the fact that no one else got in trouble was not only off putting, but eye opening to me. There had been times I felt as though I might be being treated differently by teachers but I never really equated it with my skin color. This was when it first started to feel like it.
The whole situation about the teacher lying about me stealing the soda and my being denied admission over this lie was definitely racial. I can't believe that they even asked me again if I would want to join. The goalpost would have just been moved again.
My encounter with the Honor Society actually had a very negative impact on me when it came to authority figures. It has lead me to question everything instead of just blindly obeying.
I don't remember having any conversations with my parents about racial issues during this incident. But there was one time that I know my mother came to school that dealt with my French teacher that I will write about at another time.
I don't know if I ever felt comfortable with making a big deal about any of this stuff. I never thought that it would change. This area of the country is just a place where POC will have to work 2x as hard and still be labelled in a negative manner. It's just how it was and always has been there.
It's a big reason why my daughter asks the question here and why we don't live there. She understood my story perfectly because she had lived there before and felt some level of what I felt. Her comment to me has been "I don't know how you lived there without going crazy. If I didn't have you to understand what I was feeling, I'd have gone crazy." She had three Black kids in her class and every class in the school was like that.
I was the ONLY one in the whole town.
And I did go crazy.