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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jeff Black, March 29, 1999. Interview K-0276. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tracking reveals lower test scores for black males

Black recalls two frustrating incidents which may reveal a difference between how students and faculty—or at least how Black and certain faculty members and administrators—see race at West Charlotte. First, an administrator revealed at an assembly that black males had scored poorly on a certain test. Black, a high achieving student, did not see the point of sharing the results with students. And in science class, an interpreter made a racially inappropriate joke.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jeff Black, March 29, 1999. Interview K-0276. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PG: You mentioned the administrative problems that happened during your tenth grade year. What was that like to experience as a student? JB: As a student it really was a shock to everyone that I talked to. In my opinion it was purely a faculty problem. It really didn’t involve the students. A lot of us were just kind of like, “What is this?” You pick up the paper and nine out of ten days there’s West Charlotte on the front of the paper talking about these huge racial problems that they have. None of us were really aware of them. It’s like, “Uh, I didn’t know that.” I think it was really with the faculty, and the students didn’t really feel much effect at all. The one thing that stands out that I do remember that kind of shocked me was that we had an assembly one day in tenth grade. We all went to the auditorium, and they called this meeting. It seemed unnecessary to me. They were like well, “We looked at the test scores,” from whatever test it was, “and it’s showing that black males are the lowest scorers” on whatever test this is, “and you all need to work on this.” It just seemed like they were yelling at us for being black males and scoring low on a particular test. I didn’t really understand that. Then at the end they were like, “Yes. There are some people that are doing well, and some people that are very courteous,” and all this, and they pointed out like one person. I don’t know. It just seemed like, “Why are you telling us this?” I don’t know. It seemed kind of stupid to me. But that was the only thing that stood out. PG: This wasn’t anything that you noticed in the halls or the classroom or anything like that? JB: No. It was just like, “Well, we looked at these scores, and we looked at this survey, and this is what it’s saying so you all need to shape up.” I’m like, “Okay. Sure.” PG: That does speak to an issue that people talk about sometimes particularly in relation to school integration which is this question of tracking, the stereotype that you get white kids in the high level classes and black kids in the low level classes. Do you see that at all at West Charlotte? JB: Last year I took five AP classes. In my AP chemistry class I was the only black person in there. I didn’t even really notice it just because I had been with these people at Piedmont. It was primarily a class full of Piedmont people. I didn’t even notice it just because I hung out with these people. I didn’t really notice until there was an interpreter that was there, and he made a joke. I was like, “Hold on. Wait a minute.” He didn’t know me at all, and I didn’t know him. Everybody thought that was a little out of line. PG: What kind of joke was it? JB: I had a habit of spilling stuff on myself in chemistry. I went up to the teacher and asked her if it was toxic. She was like, “No, it will stain your clothes.” He was like, “Yeah, it’ll turn you black.” And then everybody in class just sort of turned around. It was like, “What?” Once he noticed nobody was laughing I think he sort of understood that that’s not cool. No, don’t do that. So I guess that situation sort of ended. But I don’t know. It seemed odd that I was the only black person taking AP chemistry, but this year it’s the complete opposite. Last year the teacher was asking me. She was saying she didn’t know why there were no black students taking AP chemistry. She asked me if I could do something to try to help recruit, but I didn’t really know what to do. I just took the class because I enjoyed the way she taught and I enjoyed chemistry. I don’t know. I guess teachers have to go out and recruit sometimes for the sole purpose of diversity. It really shouldn’t be like that, but in that case that’s the way it had to be. PG: Did more people end up in AP chemistry? JB: Yeah, this year it’s a very diverse class, but last year it wasn’t.