The Real Reason We Homeschool Our Black Son

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This African American family shares the real reason why they decided to homeschool their son, and it involves a racist interaction he had at school.

“Sorry for the delay, Mr. and Mrs. Martin. This will only take a few more minutes.”

Our son’s guidance counselor seems agitated but appreciative that we were on time for our meeting. My husband and I have always loathed parent-teacher conferences, so having to wait even longer to have the last one of the night immediately frazzled us.

“No problem” I said with a faint smile. With my husband on one side of the counselor’s door and me on the other, we crossed our arms and waited for the overbearing parent taking up our time to finish. There was only one issue: the counselor forgot to close the door all the way.

Inside was a father, his son, the guidance counselor and the elementary school Principal. The Principal’s voice was very recognizable, since I’d had many meetings with her during the school year about our son, his being bullied in school, and how concerned we were with the insane amount of work he was pressured to do in his 3rd grade year.

A desparate mom needs your opinion on this loaded subject. Please help!

Needless to say, we were one step from homeschooling our boy. She’d promised to make some changes, since she could see how intelligent he is, and how much of a bright light he was in school. He was a good kid that never caused any trouble. So, of course, he suffered the most in all of his classes.

As we waited, I kept all of these things in mind. There was much I wanted to share with the principal and the guidance counselor, and I needed my husband to join me this time so I wouldn’t lose my cool. Little did we know, what we were about to hear would make us both extremely angry.

“Sir, your son was suspended because of his use of a derogatory term on the school bus. No matter what you say, this ruling will stand.”

“But my boy would never say that. How do you even know that’s true? He told me he didn’t say it.”

“Well, Sir, we had many of the children say that he’s repeatedly called other kids on the bus that name. Even the bus driver said that she had to reprimand him a few times for harassing other students by using the term.”

“ My boy would never say Nigger. He don’t even know that word. I mean, we don’t say it at home, so he learned it from one of them kids that say it all the time. And even if he did say it, those kids are always running in the streets after school. Their parents give them keys to the apartments and they don’t never pick them up from the bus stop. They make noises and block the cars. Nobody watch them and they mess up the whole neighborhood.”

“Sir, I have not heard of any children blocking anything or messing up neighborhoods. Be that as it may, that has nothing to do with this. Your son used a disgusting word, repeatedly, on a bus full of other children who can be influenced by his actions. He is suspended. If I had my way, he would be expelled. That behavior is deplorable and I hope that you will take him home and explain that to him.”

“Can you at least take the suspension off of his record?”

“Absolutely not, Sir. I think we’re done here.”

At this point, my blood was boiling. In this small school, my son was interacting with other children that had no issues calling other brown boys and girls “Nigger.” He was 8 at the time. Just 8.

I was lucky enough to not have anyone call me that name until I was a teen and could defend myself. This was unreal to me, and I was pretty much terrified to look over at my 6’1” 250 pound husband after hearing the conversation.

As the dad and his son exited the room, they both looked at my husband and me. I could see the fear in the father’s eyes as he realized that we heard the whole conversation. I could see the anger in my husband’s eyes as he looked upon this man’s face. We knew exactly who he was. He was our neighbor.

His son rode the same bus as our son. His son had been calling my son Nigger. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t feel like striking this man dead in the face. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t want to take his son and put him over my knee. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t want to immediately sob deeply for our son. He never said a word about this, yet he knows how deplorable that word is, and how no one should ever call him that name. Ever.

This boy, and his father, were part of a family that constantly looked down on our family. Each morning, I took my son to the bus stop where he greeted this boy and his friends. The friends never responded back, all school year. This boy’s little sister used to be interested in playing with my little girl while we waited for her brother to get off the bus in the afternoon. Her mother constantly pulled her back, telling her to stay nearby. There was always racism there, I just didn’t want to believe it.

To be clear, this is not a Black and White thing. Actually, in our neighborhood, the Blacks and Whites are the minorities, and the majority of the families are of Indian descent.

Racism is not a Black and White thing. It’s a home training thing. It’s a generational thing. Something learned from the elders you interact with everyday. So, after that encounter, and speaking with the principal and guidance counselor that evening, we made our final decision about homeschooling our son.

While we love being able to nurture his passion for learning, we also want him to be a kid for just a little longer. Not a black kid. Not a Nigger that “runs the streets” while their parents work. A kid.

I know it won’t last forever, and that we can’t shield him from the cruelty of the world. But, if this is one thing we can do to give him a chance to be himself before given a label by small-minded people, so be it.

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

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  1. 4.6.15
    Brea said:

    I am furious and disgusted and deeply saddened that your son (or any son or daughter at any school anywhere ever) experienced this and commend you for taking your son’s childhood and education into your capable hands. These years are precious and few…and I suspect that he’ll hold on to his childhood a little longer and learn and grow and become proud and smart and kind in YOUR school. Sending love from Baltimore.

  2. 4.6.15
    Teicia said:

    Thank you for sharing your incredibly important story. Your words…. “Racism is not a Black and White thing. It’s a home training thing”, are so critical to understanding where that line is drawn. If people allow even the smallest intolerance to come through words and actions – our children are basically pointed in that direction. I’m sorry for your son’s experience, but it seems he has remarkable parents who are pointing him in another direction. Best to you and your family.

  3. 4.6.15

    Reading this post I am not shocked which I think is sad, that this happened. But I am angry with you that this happened to your son. My children are mixed, but look “white” because their dad is mixed and I am ghost white pale. So they get a pass in life for now but my husband still gets looked at sometimes at work, like he will be the lazy one or the rude one by older co-workers. It’s his age and his race that draws attention. I’m happy that your son can be a kid a little longer, I feel the same about my babies. I try to teach them God made us all different and we have to see everyone like we see ourselves. My prayer is this new generation of kiddos will start the shift and racism will be stomped out. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  4. 4.6.15
    Andrea B. said:

    This crushes my heart. It really does. I don’t know what is wrong with people. I just don’t know. I have so much more to say and I wrote several different wordy sentences after this, but I realize that this is enough. I don’t get people who are like this and I’m sorry you and your family have had to deal with them. 🙁

  5. 4.6.15

    Makes me cringe that we have parents out there like this… Kudos to you for doing what is RIGHT for you and your family. And you know what, I am sure he is thriving and you are amazing teachers!

  6. 4.6.15
    Desiree said:

    I’m not sure why this surprises me, that this still goes on. It is most definitely a home training thing, a generational thing. My mom was raised saying “colored” but we had to teach HER that it wasn’t acceptable nowadays. Anyway, the absolute ignorance of that man is what gets me. Unbelievable. I’m proud that you and your husband showed such restraint after knowing it was your neighbor. You could have easily let that man destroy you and you didn’t. You are one of the best moms I know and I’m proud to have you as a friend.

  7. 4.6.15

    I understand every single thing that you’ve said here. I give you and your husband kudos for keeping your cool and not letting your emotion control the situation in the office. My son is 6 and I wish we could protect them for racism forever, but as you know, we can’t. I pray that they stay “little boys” for as long as possible!! ((Hugs))

  8. 4.6.15
    Dani said:

    Why are you raising my blood pressure so early in the damn morning.

  9. 4.6.15
    Val said:

    …It’s a home training thing. So well said. Thank you.

  10. 4.6.15

    My blood is boiling for you.
    We live in a pretty diverse neighborhood. Our son is in a class with a few other Black students and he’s one of the most popular kids in this class.
    What pains me is the day when that may not be the case.
    When he may not get invited to play dates and parties as he gets bigger.

  11. 4.6.15
    Ginger said:

    I am furious, reading this. I’m a white woman who never had to deal with this, however growing up I, and my peers, learned about that word. It was never a swear word to us, we did swear when our parents were not around but never once did I hear anyone say it. It was a word of hate. If I had said it, even as I teen I can’t imagine what my mother would have done to me, nothing seems harsh enough. However, that did mean that as an young adult, hanging out with AAs in my college I were literally cringed hearing the word. It bothered me so much, because I had been trained that way. I remember not understand why they would use the word, it was awful. But reading this explained it to me. If you hear it that young, you have to make it less awful in some way. Thank you for sharing this, I needed to hear it.

    • 4.6.15
      Ginger said:

      Sorry, I just have one thing to add, I plan to send my daughter to private school (as I was sent) so she can be a child a little longer (I was exposed to things like sex/drugs a few years after my public school friends were) and I was ready seeing the home schooling thing to suggest that, but then even though I think my classmate were like me, can you as a parent be sure. I am livid that we as parents have this to deal with, but again thank you for writing it, not only did you help me understand you also made me aware of my white privilege.

  12. 4.6.15
    Kat said:

    This is just maddening. I am beyond proud of you, but it makes me livid that you had to take such drastic measures to protect your baby from an institution he should feel safe at. ESPECIALLY AT 8 YEARS OLD. Any further word from the neighbors?

    • 4.6.15
      Amiyrah said:

      They moved last summer. Not out of our complex, but in another part. Very telling, no?

  13. 4.6.15
    Hilary said:

    As the other commenters have already said… my blood is boiling!! This is disgusting and I only hope your neighbors feel enough embarrassment to think about their behaviors. That’s heartbreaking for your son, and you’re totally right that it’s a home training thing. They turned their kids into hurtful people and I really hope they learn from this. I’m so sorry you had to write about this.

  14. 4.6.15
    Kelly said:

    That is horrible and I’m so sorry you had to experience hearing that and that he was treated so cruelly. I’m beyond outraged that your sweet son experienced such cruel treatment. I’m also shocked that the school doesn’t have a more firm policy. The boy should have been expelled. The parents should have been made to seek treatment in therapy and take classes to help them understand the damage they are doing.

  15. 4.6.15
    Jen said:

    I’m so angry for your experience. I’m angry that I’m not surprised this happened. I’m angry another generation of children grow up around families that discriminate. I’m extra sad your sweet boy took that abuse and never told you. Thank you for sharing and letting others see how you made a difficult decision to help improve your son’s education and growth.

  16. 4.6.15

    Just tears …
    Good for you, making choices to raise your children above such ignorance. Life is hard, school is tough, work is demanding and plentiful … there needs to be no more added stresses. You did good xxx

  17. 4.6.15
    Melanie said:

    Your last paragraph is exactly how I feel…yes I agree I can’t shield my daughter from the world her entire life but while she’s still a child I can let her be herself.

  18. 4.6.15
    Deborah said:

    People are deplorable when they think no one is watching…or listening. I am so sorry that your son was called that word because as any one of us who has ever been the recipient of a derogatory term we know that we can’t unhear it or the feeling of humiliation that comes from others calling us less than. This child and his family are obviously ignorant and I feel sorry for assholes like that because they are missing out on seeing all the beauty that the world offers because they are closing their hearts off to so many people. That being said, as a brown girl,I think I might have snatched the taste out of that man’s mouth when he walked past me. You are a better woman than me. I would have pulled off my chancla and beat him til he stopped moving. You did the right thing for your family. You are a great mom and an amazing woman.

  19. 4.6.15
    Nichole said:

    I grew up with two grandfathers who thought nothing of the words nigger, spic, chink, and the like and I was constantly saying “Grandpa, you can’t say that.” As a child, I didn’t totally understand *why* they couldn’t be said; I just knew that it was wrong to do so. Kind of like saying the eff word–better run for high water if you say that around Mom. As an adult, the understanding is definitely there.
    I will never know what it’s like to be in your shoes, but please continue to share things like this so that I can continue to educate myself and influence others by sharing what you’ve written.

  20. 4.6.15

    I am a member of the cultural proficiency team for our school district which is one of the most successful and well-to-do districts our state. I am always amazed when people say children do not see racism or color. It just isn’t true. Just as children in kindergarten know blue pants and green shirts they know black skin and white skin. Noticing race is not a problem, treating people unfairly and improperly because of race as this family does is the problem.

  21. 4.6.15

    This was a wonderful article that was so well written and made me as a mother of two teenagers really think.
    It’s not a black or white thing, it’s just a mean thing that children do to each other,and it all starts at home.
    As an educator, I used to see bullying everyday, I saw it happen to my own boys as well. It should not be tolerated or accepted.
    Your decision took a lot of strength from within to make and I truly believe your son will benefit from it.
    Thank you for sharing your story, maybe it will resonate with many that we are all put on this earth to live in peace and love our neighbors. It’s just good upbringing.

  22. 4.6.15
    Pam said:

    Let’s let that sink in. 8. 8. Eight years old. A child. Still a little guy. Still believes in things and needs his mama. An 8 year old should not have to hear the N word.
    Ever actually.

  23. 4.6.15

    This was a really good post and I’m happy that you wrote it. It really bugs me that people have not learned from history and moved on. Growing up as a part of the Mellenial group I don’t remember really thinking about race. Kids were either mean or they were nice. They were either my friends, my acquaintances or just not part of my friends and not much else mattered. I want my son to know what happened in history but I don’t want to focus on something that I can’t change. Like you said- I can only focus, as a parent, on what I can change. My contribution to the future of the United States and that starts with a little boy who see’s every person as a valuable addition to the world regardless of race. That every other person living on this planet deserves to be loved, served and respected. It all goes back to the root- “Do unto others have you would have them do unto you.” Period. The End.

  24. 4.6.15
    Shannyn said:

    You know, in an odd way- I’m glad you could overhear this. Often, I have witnessed racism, that was true racism but that was deliberately masked- they don’t use the words that would “out” themselves and don’t choose to see themselves as racist or harboring those beliefs. “Oh that’s not racism, everyone says/thinks that.” “Oh you’re such a liberal/woman/bleeding heart/etc.”

    Often, I have boiling blood when people made comments in college about “reverse racism” in terms of scholarships or athletes, or lately when people talk about welfare (as if they know anything about it) making infuriating, sometimes racist comments- which they literally do not think is racism.

    They don’t use the N-word…they use terms like “those people,” or less harsh derogatory terms and guarded language, thinking it somehow makes it not racist or as disgusting. It infuriates me. They don’t see it is racism if they aren’t using the blatant terms but it is. Sorry, on a tangent… but I’m glad that child was suspended. I only hope he won’t internalize this lesson as finding more covert ways to harbor horrible, cruel and frankly, ignorant and hateful beliefs.

    Thank you for sharing. Stories like this need to be shared. We need to talk about it, and we need to be transparent- the issue hasn’t been solved no matter how many people tell themselves it has been.

    Giving you huge net high-fives and your son too. I’m sorry he had to experience that, it makes my blood boil and my heart so so sad.

  25. 4.6.15
    Lesa said:

    I thought this was well-written and just wanted to say that it made me feel so sorry for your son because there are still people out there that are training their children to be hateful towards others. It just made me really sad to read it, and I hope that your homeschool experience has been good. All children deserve to be kids and enjoy childhood!

  26. 4.6.15

    What I love about this story is that as a parent you didn’t wait for the school to fix something. You took it upon yourself to take responsbility for your OWN son. I home school my girls because, although we live in an urban neighborhood with many other blacks, they could be targets because they might be classified as “acting white” because they speak proper English and whatever else “acting white” might be. I can’t afford for them to be distracted and bullied instead of learning. So guess what? I stay home to teach them. We could go and protest at the school and wait 20 years for reform, but our kids need to be educated and inculcated with self-esteem NOW! Best decision I ever made. Thanks for sharing this! I wish more people could do this.

  27. 4.7.15
    Jane said:

    Unfortunately, I heard the n word as early as 8 years-old directed at me, on the playground at my Christian school. It was so foreign to me at the time I didn’t know what the word meant, only that it must have been bad based on the disgust in that little girl’s voice. As a mother to both a black girl and boy, 5 and younger, it would be heartbreaking to learn this happened to them. However, unless the institution was failing them academically, or there was a threat to their well-being, I wouldn’t pull my children out of school. We are so so quick to shelter our children from every dark and nasty event that they may never learn how to cope or even rise above adversity when it lands on their doorstep. I encourage you to teach your son to be vocal, to be strong and how no one can define you, especially the weak children of weaker parents. Afterall, academically and professionally we must assimilate into a culture opposite our own and this may not be the last time he hears or reads it. Thanks for sharing your story.

  28. 4.7.15

    Amiyrah, you are someone I respect and like as a colleague in our virtual workplace. It makes me sad that this is what you have to deal with raising your child, as if it’s not hard enough. I understand the decision you made, would probably make it myself. I also agree with you that racism is not a black and white thing. No one is born racists, so you are right, it’s a home training thing that comes from hatred.

  29. 4.7.15
    Terri said:

    I’m so sorry your son had to go through this. Also, I love that you said racism isn’t a black and white thing, but a home training thing. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t get over the diversity ratio in your post which mentioned mostly Indian population. It’s similar to a town I grew up in a New Jersey – Edison as well as a town I live near now – Plainsboro. Both are predominately Indian neighborhoods. I think people picture racism being simply a black and white thing. However, I certainly have experienced discrimination and close-minded comments from Indians as well. No one is born a racist and it’s so sad to me that people of all races are taught such derogatory and offensive things at the home. Sometimes I wonder if they realize how it affects others.

    • 4.7.15
      Amiyrah said:

      Terri, we live in NJ. I bet you can guess the town. Hint: you already mentioned it.

  30. 4.7.15
    Gina said:

    I’m so sorry Amiyrah. I hate that this is still the norm in towns across this country. It’s not right.

  31. 4.7.15
    Charity said:

    We also homeschool, for a myriad of reasons, including a bullying situation in KINDERGARTEN!!!

    I love that you are sheltering him. That, as parents, is our job. We are supposed to shield them from the ignorance and evil out there. I stand with you, proudly sheltering my girls…I want them to be kids as long as possible.

  32. 4.13.15

    I agree racism is not a black or white thing. I totally agree it is a home training thing!

  33. 4.15.15
    Dody said:

    Same reason I homeschool my disabled daughter. I don’t want her to be the one with braces to walk, the weak one, the different one. The gimp as I have heard her referred to. Kids tease her when we go grocery shopping when she wears her braces. That’s bad enough. She’s just like any kid. She runs, walks, climbs trees, and more. She just needs braces to do it.

  34. 4.7.16
    Jmo said:

    This is a long read, but I write it nevertheless. I’ve always admired you, Amiyrah. I read every word you wrote in this post and cheered for your courage and grace as to how you reacted to the situation at school. The world can be a crazy place, and as parents, it’s our sole responsibility to take care of our kids. You and your husband did just that. I home schooled ours for a few years, and I can say that we all have amazing memories from that time. I hope in some small way it helped mold them into the extraordinary adults they are today.

    It doesn’t surprise me for the reason you have shared, sadly. I will tell you my own story. A couple years ago, I was looking at open houses in a new subdivision. I moved to a conservative state 5+ years ago because I wanted to be a homeowner again after my husband’s death, and there was much more affordable homes here than CA. Our dream was to get our kids through college without student debt. With help, I did that. But I couldn’t buy a house in CA too. So during one open house in this very “red” state, I struck up a convo with the listing agent. We started discussing different builders and one particular builder who had a reputation for building homes that were cheaply built and low-priced. My late husband called those kind of builders: “slam bam”. I stood there and my jaw literally dropped when the real estate agent said: “Well, someone has to build homes for blacks”. Looking back on the convo, I was so shocked that I just walked out right after his words.

    I wish I had said something and I still regret I didn’t. I was in a situation where I should have called him out, but I hope in some small way that my walking out showed my outright disgust at his remarks. Racism exists today, and sometimes it’s outright and sometimes more hidden.

    I applaud you for not only pulling your son out of school for that reason, but having the courage to take on home schooling and everything else you do. I know in years to come, Brandon will continue to be a son you and your husband are proud of.

    Remember, life can throw a lot of things your way.. It’s important as to how you REACT to them. In this situation, you reacted with courage, grace and putting your son’s overall well-being first. Seriously, you are one of the best moms I know. Home schooling is and will continue to be an amazing adventure for all of you. I send my support and love.

  35. 8.21.17
    Renee said:

    I am so sorry! My husband and I are white parents raising black and biracial children. We are always looking to black men and women to help us. I am sorry your son and your family were hurt this way but I am glad you are sharing this small part of your story. I have to believe it will help other families.