Originally posted on myblackmatters.com
By Ayanda Gigaba
As a young black woman, I am accustomed to social systems failing me. The education system was one of the first to subtly inform me that my race and gender would render me invisible to the academic imagination. I had believed that from the centuries’ long oppression suffered by those of my race and gender, I was lucky to even have the opportunity to get an education no matter how exclusionary the curriculum was.
I attended a predominantly white secondary school in South Africa and the invisible feeling I dreaded lurked in almost every textbook I read and in the eyes of the teachers who conveniently ‘didn’t see race’. Every class I attended glorified the best and brightest minds that were suspiciously never black but somehow alright because ‘the blacks’ in this country hadn’t contributed a single thing to society except cheap labour. Of course no one said this aloud but even then as a child I could sense how black and white bodies were polarized and existed in different social spheres.
So, like all the other black girls and boys at my school, I learned my lessons diligently and ignored the racial micro-aggressions. Having since graduated, I thought it would be easy to unlearn the inferiority complex that my school curriculum drummed into me and let go of all the negative memories but I was wrong. Watching my younger sisters go through the same school system triggered a rage that I had fought hard to swallow when I was their age.
My 11 year old sister shyly told me about her first Sex Ed lesson at school and I started probing her with questions to check if she had really listened and learned. What was meant to be a light sisterly discussion turned into an interrogation as I urged her to detail the ‘types’ of bodies they used to explain the proverbial ‘Birds & the Bees’.
I don’t know why I was putting her through this questioning, I already knew the answers. I realized I was about to waste a perfect opportunity to connect with my sister, share my black girl experience and hopefully encourage her to healthily problematize how racial erasure effects the way she related to her Sex Ed lesson.