Kierra Pilot, junior


Photo by Turner DeArmond.

Turner DeArmond

Since 1976, a half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S., every American president has designated the month of February as Black History Month, a celebration and remembrance of the accomplishments and lives of black Americans. This year’s theme is “African Americans and the Vote,” in honor of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 and the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Although America has long hailed itself to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, it was not until 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, that black people in America shared such freedom. Although they were legally free following the volatility of the Civil War, they continued to suffer during the Reconstruction period and the establishment of the Jim Crow South.

While the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s brought with it an increase in the equal protection of rights, activist movements have continued into the present day pushing for an expansion of true equality. It seems, however, we are once again experiencing an upsurge of prejudice in mainstream society. For this reason, it is imperative to have open, honest conversations about race relations in America with today’s youth, bringing attention to the role race plays in life and education.

I’m here with junior Kierra Pilot. First, we’re gonna start with questions about life in general. So, in what ways do you see black culture embraced in the world around you and in what ways is it rejected? 

“It’s embraced because there are a lot of people who try to do like black trends even though they’re not necessarily black. People don’t realize that big lips and glossy lips and big hoop earrings and all that is just a black culture thing. And then there’s a lot of non-people of color that are doing it. And, it’s rejected because whenever a black person is doing these things, they get told that they’re ugly or not right, but whenever a white person, for example, does the exact same, they’re praised for it.”

How can or should governmental organizations take action to address racial tensions in America?

“Whenever there is a problem going on with the black community, I think the government should actually pay attention to it and not ignore it. Usually, sometimes, people are like, ‘You have rights,’ and all this, ‘so why are you still complaining,’ but we are still being attacked for just being ourselves.”

So, now moving to questions about RBHS itself; what is the role of education in eliminating racism, and what do you think schools could be doing to improve this?

“Well, there are definitely people-of-color teachers that are here to help teach these people about black people and just other cultures, so that’s good, but whenever teachers and staff are presented [with] problems regarding the black community, I think if they actually took it seriously and didn’t just blow it off, then it would change our system.”

Do you feel African American and black history receives fair and equal representation in the classroom? Why or why not? 

“I don’t think it does. Like from an educational standpoint, you know, if you’re in a U.S. History class, there are some points that are not about black people. So they’re not going to really talk about it, but then whenever Black History Month does come up they always sort of throw in a little story or two as if to compensate [for the fact that] they haven’t talked about it enough in previous months.”

What do you wish could change about Rock Bridge in that regard?

“Like I said before, I think that if they actually paid attention to these problems, then it would be beneficial to the black community, because I have had experiences where I’ve heard white people say some very ignorant and racist things and teachers [didn’t] really do much to these people besides give them a slap on the wrist, and that’s not fair.”

Moving to questions about your personal life; when in your life have you experienced racism? What form did this take, and how did you respond?

“This isn’t necessarily racism, but when people look at me they don’t think that I’m a black person because I’m whiter than a dark skinned [person] and whenever a person asks, you know, ‘Why [don’t you look black]?’ They always ask to see my parents which is very insensitive because, black people can be light too. There are albino black people and it’s just unfair to ask someone why they aren’t a certain color just because of the way you see them in the media.”

As a young person in today’s society, what steps still need to be taken in regard to the way people of different races or ethnicities interact with each other?

“I know people aren’t born racist, but their parents teach them [to be] racist and [teach the] stereotypical ways of a black person or another person of color. So, just teaching them that not all black people are bad or scary or violent can really help them whenever they grow up [and] they’re in a situation with black  people in a bigger community.”

Where do you see racism in RBHS? Let us know in the comments below.