Chris Rock discussed the elephant in the room
At the end of Chris Rock's Netflix show he made a statement that many may not understand. He said the reason he did not retaliate after being hit by Will Smith at the 2022 Oscars was that his parents told him not to fight in from of White people. These words are in the same category as black fathers giving their sons "the talk" and telling them how to behave if pulled over by the police to keep from being shot. Many African Americans of a certain generation heard these conversations and it's part of a discussion that White families do not have a reason to engage in.
Chris Rock brought back memories for me, that go back to the early days of integration in the 1960s when many Black students were told some changes had to be made now that they were going to school with White boys and girls. My grandma said my brothers and I had to work twice as hard to get half as far and we had to be on our best behavior, dress up every day and make sure our hair was climbed and shoes were shined. We were told that some Whites did not see us as equals and we had to prove that we were just as good and were not acting like animals and sometimes she told us not to act like ni**ers.
There are many facets to integration
My first year of integrated school was in the 6th grade in 1969 at Colonial Elementary School (which used to be in Blue Ridge) although the Botetourt schools had been integrated 3 years earlier. My 5th-grade teacher at Lincoln Terrace Elementary in Roanoke was Ms. Margaret Thompson and she reinforced to our class the same values as my grandmother emphasizing that Black children must always be on their best behavior in front of Whites. She encouraged us to get good grades and said that her sister Sharon a student at Booker T Washington Middle School would cry over a B.
In 6ht grade, my cousin and I were the only Black students in the class, and the previous year at LT I had been on the AB honor roll and my cousin previously always received all As even after integration. Our teacher's name was Mrs.Chittum and she was very nice but there was one issue in this class that troubled me. My cousin received all A's and one B each time we received our report cards and I had A's and B's with one C each time, always in a different subject.
Finally, during the last semester, I made the AB honor roll and my cousin had all A's again. Unfortunately, my name somehow was left out of the notice that went into the Botetourt County Newspaper The Fincastle Herald. I told my cousin my suspicion that Mrs. Chittum had purposefully kept my name out of the paper and prevented me from being on the honor roll and kept her from getting all As because she could not handle both black students making good grades.
Was it racism or was I being paranoid?
My cousin's eyes widened as if she realized the possibility but we never discussed it again. My mindset at age 11 was shaped by my grandmother and Miss Thompson's warning that White people thought Blacks were dumb. There was also the fact that about 15 of the first 30 African Americans to attend integrated schools in the Blue Ridge area as well as a number of others throughout Botetourt County were all held back the first year of Integration. It was said that their education in the all-Black Central Academy ( now a middle school) was not up to the standards of the White school so they all needed to repeat.
Chris Rock's parents, my grandmother, and Miss Thompson were speaking out of their own experiences and not desiring the rest of us to go through the same. I will never know if those African American students in Blue Ridge really were so far behind they had to repeat a grade. I don't know if my cousin and I simply did not make the grades we desired. Situations like this are why Rock and I and others heard they had to present a certain way around Whites because in those days there were no people of color in the decision-making business. Parents did not desire their children to act like negative stereotypes so they would have a better chance of success.
I read a lot of posts and also heard African Americans saying that Will Smith was a disgrace to the Black race when he hit Chris Rock at such a prestigious occasion and he perpetuated the stereotype of Black aggression although this is not everyone's opinion. Now that the elephant in the room was addressed about presenting in front of White people on Netflix there are a lot of conversations taking place and that is a good thing.