the miseducation of zyan woods

by Koye O., 17

“I wanted black, Zyan, I wanted dark,” her anger dissolving into grief, “you were supposed to want dark.”

We were supposed to be dark and sick. A madness of two.

How long can you want a color for? Let alone some simple hue.

“Black is everything,” she’d beg, “every color. We’re everything. We’re black, too.”

But I hate your colors, and I won’t get sick, too.

Author’s Note:

This vignette is a portrait of the racist mindset I was raised in. When I saw someone fighting passionately for Black rights, for me, I was trained to see a Black rights activist as an agitator made hateful by their anger. I was trained to hate myself, to hate my people, and to pity those who must withstand the “aggression” of such Black rights activists.

I’ve been feeling sorry for a few years now.

I’m a seventeen-year-old Black girl who has attended predominantly white schools since kindergarten. For the entirety of my middle school years, I was indoctrinated in white supremacist ideology.

For three years, my U.S. history teacher cherry-picked American history, Black history, for me and showed me the “faults” of the Black community. I now know that the “faults” he showed me are the heads of several racist systems that have been in place for decades with the intent to brutalize Black people and keep them disadvantaged.

However, it wasn’t until the ninth grade that I began to independently study the history of my people, and realize how miseducated I had been.

I write this as a confession of my earlier confusion and as an apology to my people.

I write this in thanks for my parents who taught me how to seek the truth of my people beyond an American school’s history curriculum that has been defiled by decades of erasure.

I write this to wake up Black people suffering from the same miseducation.

I have witnessed this same white supremacy indoctrination throughout high school, but I am doing my best to develop my wisdom, to seek what is true, and to help others do so, as well.

I will no longer be miseducated or distracted from the truth.

Old Bridge, New Jersey