I’m not white—do you think I’m dumb?

Illustration by Sofia Bazoberry

Anna Parra Jordan

One morning while I was getting ready in the locker rooms, a teammate of mine was explaining to me how someone had cheated off of me on the PSAT. For some reason, this teammate was incredibly surprised that I was smart enough to be cheated off of.

There’s no question that racial stereotypes follow us around in our daily lives, even finding ways to maneuver themselves into our classrooms. But Black students face an intriguing stereotype: the idea that we aren’t smart.

Part of what plays into this stereotype is the fact that there aren’t enough Black kids in AP courses. Another reason is the fact that Black students tend to have lower socioeconomic standings and many people equate poverty to low student achievement.

I consider myself to be a bright student, and I happen to be half Black. So I speak from experience when I say that it seems to take my white peers a bit of convincing to think of their Black and brown counterparts as smart, and it’s exasperating. It’s unacceptable that Black students have to live in a country that doesn’t respect them, and then come to class where we feel we have to convince our classmates that we are, in fact, just as smart as them. Tragedy strikes when Black students internalize this and perceive themselves as less intelligent.

Junior Chandler Mabry is a Black student who has noticed how her race affects how others perceive her. She says that her race has made it difficult in classes since, “there are always people who don’t think I know what I’m doing, that I don’t know what’s going on in class when I really do, just because I’m Black.”

When your peers dismiss your intelligence, they’re also dismissing everything that comes with it. They’re assuming that you have nothing to contribute, that you aren’t insightful, and that you don’t have goals for yourself. These assumptions deepen the division that already exists between Black and brown students and their white peers. Some students, however, have turned these preconceived ideas into motivation to do their best.

It’s often challenging to feel included when your skin already separates you from being one of the “smart kids.” The burden of having to prove yourself is felt much more by Black students.

Some students won’t read this article because it’s another article about the injustices that Black and brown students face, about how there still aren’t enough students of color in AP classes. But those of us who are actively seeking change in our school and the world know that articles like this one will continue being published as long as Black boys and girls doubt that they belong in rigorous academic settings.