Opinion: A METCO identity crisis


Credit: Courtesy of Khalia Hamilton

In her first appearance on WSPN, junior guest writer Khalia Hamilton reflects on recent attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and offers her story as a METCO student integrated in Wayland.

Khalia Hamilton

Over the last nine years, I’ve been a part of the METCO program, and it’s safe to say I’ve gone through a lot. There are many amazing aspects of Wayland: the school system is fantastic, the people are really nice, and the neighborhood is safe. I am grateful for every single opportunity I have gotten from here. The only thing I would change is the inclusion and diversity.

Since I first joined the program, I could tell I was different, and I wanted so badly to conform to the normal here. I would beg my mom to straighten my hair all the time, and I would associate that with beauty. This then started a load of insecurities because I constantly held myself up to the standard of beauty that came with our school: lighter skin, lighter eyes, looser curled hair. All things that didn’t describe me. I couldn’t fit the standard, and I didn’t look the same. It also didn’t help that I was called “oreo” or “white girl” by black people who didn’t attend METCO because of the way I spoke and the music I listened to. I didn’t feel accepted in either community.

This pushed me into a cringey middle school phase of trying to act more “black.” I later learned you can’t act like a color.

This phase wasn’t all bad. While learning to love myself, I was able to learn more about myself and my history, a history that I think is not taught to its full potential here in Wayland. There is a race class, and there is CIGS (a black history class that all METCO kids are required to take all four years of high school), but it should be mandatory to learn about my history as much as white history. We grow up learning Christopher Columbus was a hero, just to find out he was a serial murderer and rapist. My point is that I think Wayland could do a better job of educating all students about my race. It shouldn’t just be an elective; it should be just as mandatory to learn about our history (especially in America) as it is yours. And I’m not just talking about slavery and sharecropping. The problem is, people get to their senior year, where it’s an option to take a race class, and most don’t. But the ones that believe “white privilege isn’t real,” or “systemic racism is an excuse” are the ones that the class would benefit the most.

It would also benefit the people that think racism is gone; I think by far, the worst one I’ve heard is, “I don’t see color.” So, in my journey of finding myself and learning about myself, I also realized that education is very crucial to widening your understanding of society. Watch a documentary! Learn about us! Educate yourself on the Black Lives Matter movement! This is not the movement that Fox News portrays it to be! Although it isn’t the job of a METCO student to educate you on black issues, if you genuinely want perspective and are open to listening, don’t be afraid to reach out. If you reach out to a person of color, it is normal to be skeptical, but don’t dismiss their experiences! Keep an open mind and be respectful.

Forming connections is another essential part of learning about black and brown experiences. I believe many Wayland kids could do a better job of getting to know the METCO kids. And I mean, not just the few METCO kids that do sports. There are a lot of negative stereotypes that I’ve heard people say about the METCO kids and it is really hurtful to go to a school with someone for so long, and still hear people say the same thing: that we are “ghetto,” we are “unintelligent,” we are “ungrateful.” We are not those things. The only solution I can think of is getting to know us better. It’s way easier to reduce someone to a stereotype if you don’t know them at all. I also understand that this is a two-way street, and METCO kids could integrate themselves better in Wayland.

The world is changing a lot right now; history is being made through the streets of every protest! Take this time to reflect on yourself and what side of history you’re going to be on. The side of reform and change? Or the side of the oppressor?

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.