Adapted from a previously published post on my former blog “The Boujeeratchademic”
As a Black girl and Gifted student, I felt like I was expected to assume a certain humility. Insecurities heightened by a redirection of support away from me because I was doing alright, since I was smart. In Kindergarten I was placed in the Gifted and Talented program and would essentially remain there until high school. When I applied for things, I got them. Teachers constantly told my parents, in front of me, that I was at the top of my class. I did not know failure.
And then I started middle school. Eventually, I would stop hearing that.
Black, Gifted and Forgotten
My super white teachers in my super white school in a super white part of Brooklyn pretty much ignored me. My parents were divorcing, I took on responsibility for my younger sibling, and I started gaining weight. I was 11. No adult ever asked me if I was okay. Ever. What they did do was remove me from the gifted designated courses in 7th grade. I never asked why they did it. I just assumed that I had lost my edge. Gifted and insecure. It wasn’t until my Black momma realized what they did and took her corporate tail up to the school, that I was placed back into the program.
Midway through my 8th-grade year, my Dad shows up for parent-teacher conferences to have my teacher from advanced math class told him that I hadn’t turned in homework since day 1. When he inquired as to why he never heard about this before this point, all she could offer was that the number she had on file was not in service. That was it. No further attempt to reach out. No letters sent home. I was just going to continue to be the stupid black girl brooding in the back of the class. All I continued to internalize was that not a soul was checking for me. I was 12.
Miracles in the 9th inning
When the date of the state tests came near, something clicked and I was just like YOU CANNOT FAIL THIS SHIT. I sat down with my math textbook and taught myself a whole school year worth of Algebra and Earth Science. The white male retired vet Earth Science teacher was beaming at the 77 I received on the test. (That’s how poorly I’d been performing in his class). The disinterested Math teacher showed me my 79 and scoffed: “I don’t know how you did it”. I’m not sure if she was happy for me through the shock. I’m still not really convinced that she was. Personally, I was unhappy as hell. These just weren’t grades I was used to.
Gifted and insecure, I decided I was so exhausted from the grind and social pressure of being gifted that I refused to take any entrance tests for specialized/competitive high schools. I was 13 and I was exhausted. 13. In retrospect, the high school I went to was perfect for me, academically, because I needed to be built back up. My black and brown peers would also affirm and accept me in ways that I forgot could happen. I’m indebted to those teachers who were paying attention to me in ways I’d been missing for a few years. I went from the bottom of my classes 8th math and science classes, back to the top again. However my boredom became evident and I quickly felt awkward.
Imagine if I just had the support I needed all this time?
First day of my junior year, I was greeted by my guidance counselor who told me I was basically a senior. In a whirlwind of SATs I wasn’t prepared to take and college applications I wasn’t prepared to ask for recommendations for, I applied to college at 15 years of age. But even with all this story yall, you couldn’t tell me that I didn’t just slip through the cracks. Gifted and insecure.
If you asked me, it was “lucky” that my mom got me back into gifted classes in middle school. I thought I had stellar scores in History simply because I had a good memory. My performance on those tests in middle school wasn’t to be celebrated because I didn’t do that well. I figured I only graduated early because I went to an “easy” school. And when my GPA was 1.68 at the end of my first semester of college, the prophecy was fulfilled.
Sometimes I feel I’ll become invisible in academia if I stop at waiting for someone to recognize that I’m brilliant.
– Signed: Black, Gifted and Insecure.
Looking back at it all
As I reflect back on this writing, I think about the scars I still carry from the topsy turvy-ness of my educational journey. The whiplash of “she’s brilliant” to “ehh, not quite” still haunts me to this day. It would be great to say that I did college and grad school and that was everything it needed to be, but my story doesn’t have a happy ending. (Yet?) Hella years and 4 grad programs later, there is no bow to sit on top of this one.
What I’m concerned about is how people like me slip through the cracks for many reasons. What I’m even more concerned about is how people like me heal from these things. The point is to say that I’m still learning, but I’m very much committed to getting myself right. I’m here for the person who was a low priority because it was decided that energy should be directed elsewhere. I’m here for the person who was expected to perform at 100% even when the support was lacking. I see you if you’re also somebody that struggles with open self-love because you expect your light to be dimmed. I write for the person who has carried a load of pain but still wants to tap into a life where they can thrive.
I’m here for the gifted and insecure.