Full Transcript: Reverend Darla Swint on Discrimination in Schools
Darla: I stayed home and went to college. I wanted to go south, as a matter of fact I wanted to go to Fisk University, because they had this choir, an historical choir going all the way back to slavery called the Jubilee Choir. And you had to audition to get into that choir. And at that time I knew I could have made that audition, but times were changing, these were the late 60s. And my dad felt that coming up in a community where we were allowed to be outspoken, speak our minds with respect, that going south, it would, you know, it wouldn’t be good for me during that time. I had marched— my father made me very much aware of issues in the United States changing for blacks. I remember the Sunday that Dr. King was here marching. And my dad made me put back on my church clothes, and with other family members we had to go downtown and march with Dr. King. And today I thank him for that. When Malcolm X was murdered, my dad made me sit down and watch the whole proceedings of that. And he would talk to me about racial issues in the city. We were only faced with racial issues in our school system because the teachers were from the suburbs. They had, I don’t believe, literally no idea what black life was about, going all the way back to elementary. I had one teacher, lived in Dearborn, she drove a thunderbird. Her uncle was Henry Ford. She would come to school in different mink coats, and she would sit— when I look back now I believe she was going through change of life--because she would sit wrapped up in these coats, and they were beautiful. I can remember them very vividly, I remember a white one, she had a gray striped one. So anyway, if a black child would walk up to her, and I don’t know a child who wouldn’t want to rub the fur, she would get desperately angry. But now, a white child could go up and it was ok. So she, you know, and we were faced constantly in the schools, with racial tension. If a young black boy showed any type of assertiveness, or spoke out, you know, he was labeled right away incorrigible, and placed in a special room, he had a problem. When in actuality this was just a child, a black boy, who was probably more intelligent, than probably all of us, and was trying to learn to speak his mind, but because these teachers had no idea what black living was about, how black community— we were allowed to speak with respect and when spoken to. And it was, looking back, it was frightening for them, a black boy speaking up? Asking a question? So then the child would become angry, his needs were not being met. And this was all the way through school. In our community back then, to have a white person tell you, a black person, that your child has a problem and he’s being labeled incordial and he’s being taken out of you know a normal classroom setting and put in a special room, that was very sinful for a black family. Because right away, coming from the slave movement and old testament, that God punishes, this is how many of the black families thought. So this child was also ostracized in his family. So what happens? This child begins to believe what these white folks have told them. The family is believing it, so now you’ve got a kid who is acting up all the time. All the time. That intelligence is being turned into negative energy. So that’s what happened to so many of our black boys in the city of Hamtramck. The teachers, you know, and I’m a firm believer that there should be more diversity teaching in the universities, especially now. You see how the country, we’re becoming a total melting pot, and I believe eventually there’s just going to be a neutral race of people. I’m seeing it when I sit here and I see television commercials and different things. And even in some program I watched recently where they had a mixed couple with a mixed family. And I think that it’s so beautiful, it’s so wonderful, it’s now ok, where in my day it wasn’t.