My Racist Experience in Middle School

By Aiyana Conner, 9th grade

How would you feel if I told you that Black youth are six times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white youth for “minor infractions”? Surprised? Black youth these days can get suspended/expelled for the smallest things. Black youth can get suspended just for wearing a bandana. The staff at most schools strongly dislike teens wearing bandanas because they think they’re in some type of gang. I personally almost got suspended for wearing a Black bandana with white paisley designs on it. 

In middle school, I was wearing a scarf as I call it, but others refer to it as a bandana. I only wore it that specific day because my hair wasn’t done and I didn’t want it to be seen.  When lunchtime came, I was hanging out with friends and this staff member came up to me and yelled at me for wearing it. They told me to take it off, so I did. Another week, I saw someone else wearing one and I thought it was okay for me to wear mine again because they had theirs on and nobody said anything to them. I put mine on and thought nothing of it. Then, the same staff member came up to me and told me to take it off. I was told that I would be suspended for violating dress code if I wore it again. According to the article “For Black students, unfairly harsh discipline”, “26% of Black students received at least one suspension for a minor infraction over the course of the three years, compared with just 2% of white students”. 

I found this unfair and wrong. Non-Black students could go around all day wearing theirs and no one said anything to them. I find it messed up how I as a Black girl am getting yelled at over a scarf that everyone else can literally wear. I don’t want to assume the staff told me to take it off because gangs wear bandanas but then again that’s mostly what the staff tells us at school. “Don’t wear bandanas  at school because we don’t want any gangs coming up to you.” I feel it’s crazy that we as Black kids in high school are considered gang affiliated by just wearing a bandana. I don’t like how we get treated over the smallest things, especially over a piece of clothing. I just think it’s unfair that we as Black youth are specifically targeted because of our color.  

I feel that if non-Black staff understood that we (as Black kids) wear these types of things because we want to–and not just because “we want to be in a gang”–maybe everything would change. And we wouldn’t have to deal with mean or rude remarks.

Hi, I’m Aiyana. I am a 14 year old ninth grader who wants to be a real estate agent and go to CSU Long Beach.