My high school was, “pretty black.”

My junior year of high school, I went on a leadership retreat with a group of students from my high school and also from another school in the district. This particular school was considered the “high class” option in our school district, and mostly consisted of the more privileged kids in the area. This has potentially changed over the years, but at this specific point in time, it always felt like, when compared to this school, I attended a school for urban-peasants. Back to said-retreat. This particular experience involved community members from the city and also in-depth conversations about leadership and ethics, as well as a series of other, meet-the-right-people-because-you’re-awesome-teens, opportunities. All the guys were staying at a local dentist’s house (this was their attempt to give a city leader some “charity points,” it seemed), and the peers from my high school were sleeping in one room while the others were in a downstairs lounge area. Ultimately, good, wholesome learning/fun, right?

The interesting thing about our two schools is that the student leaders were all somewhat aware of each other. We had an understanding of the “other school” on both ends, and we were all mostly aware of the community’s view on my beloved alma mater. The second of two nights wrapped late and we all retreated to the dentist’s house/sleeping quarters to head to bed. Sometime after everyone had fallen asleep, myself and a few others in my room were jolted awake by the sound of giggling and scurrying, which lead to me jumping up to turn on the light. As our eyes adjusted, we looked around to find that a few students from the other school had sprayed shaving cream on us, and covered one specific guy in what looked like, an entire cans-worth. I was pissed. Being a confrontational adolescent, and general do-good’er, I marched down the stairs, and was greeted by a few laughing douchebags from the other school.

I started with a calm approach, and while wiping the shaving-cream off my arms, asked, “Did you guys do this?”

“Yeah, probably,” replied the douchiest of the bunch.

“Why? I don’t recall doing anything to you guys,” I challenged.

“Who cares, dude. Don’t take it so serious, it’s just a joke.”

“A joke? We don’t find it funny.”

By this point, I was shaking. I had been joined by two others from my school, one of which grabbed my arm to go back upstairs, while eventually yelling down, “Fuck you guys, and fuck your ‘joke,’” or something of that regard. I was pissed. In that specific moment, we knew this wasn’t about silly high school antics, nor was this actually a fun-intended prank. These guys were picking on us because they could, and probably even planned to do so before even showing up. These guys were use to having a consistent upper-hand, and from my experience, this ‘practical joke’ was actually about power. By the mere makeup of their school, most of these students came from some type of privilege, while my peers and I were viewed countless times as, “the charity perspective.” Now, this was not a direct quote (nor is this a, woe-is-me, passage), but anyone from Midwest City High School circa 2002-2004 (and probably surrounding years, as well) will tell you that when it came to Carl Albert High School, none could compare. It was jarring, and an ongoing frustration with our school district.

Again, back to said-retreat. We helped our most-covered classmate clean up a bit, and then spent fifteen or so minutes wiping the shaving cream out of our sleeping bags and pillows. We were all pretty upset, and just as we started to devise a plan to go back downstairs for another confrontation, the dude who was most covered came out of the bathroom, looked at each of us, and noted something along the lines of, “If we would have done this to them, we would have been sent home and in so much trouble.” We all agreed with great disappointment, and the differences between Midwest City and Carl Albert were again highlighted and affirmed. Before we could process this aloud, the same, overly-creamed individual just started laughing…uncontrollably. I remember politely joining him with a few curtsey chuckles, only to all finally look at each other and erupt into real, authentic, frustrated laughter. We eventually fell asleep, amidst the mocking of the douchebag from downstairs and planning a way to address our concerns tomorrow.

When we woke up the next morning, there was an awkward tension in the air. We agreed that the shenanigans from the previous night would would be addressed that day, and it was our hope that the guys from the other high school would greet us with apologies (if anything, an apology for the dude who had been covered most). We arrived at the first location for the last day of our weekend retreat, and before we could even get comfortable, several of the women from the other school were staring and giggling at us. I don’t remember many of the details, but in that moment, I do remember feeling so embarrassed and ashamed, and over something this group of peers considered, “just a joke.” This ‘joke-mentality’ was confirmed as the session opened with the program coordinator even making a snide remark about, “boys just being boys last night.” This moment has stuck with me for quite some time, and it was triggered this week after posting a video to my Facebook.

Let’s pause here for a moment.

The video I posted featured students from my high school, Midwest City High School, and a huge community-wide effort to help develop more funding for the high school’s Special Olympics Team. Very cool stuff. I was particularly inspired by the amount of students who were involved in the production, and specifically elated to see the continued support for students with physical and emotional disabilities. This was always one area I felt my alma mater was getting right – the amount of support and resources for students with disabilities was a focus and a shared-community value. Check out the MCHS Lip Dub below:

 *The video is quite long, feel free to skip, “skim,” or just jump to 12:20 for the final message.

Whether you watch(ed) the video or not, just after posting the link, I received two messages that read as follows:

Message 1 (from Facebook): Damn your school was pretty black

Message 2 (via text): You weren’t kidding… you really did go to a diverse high school.

Yes, my high school was pretty diverse. And yes, there were a lot of black people who attended my high school. But there were also Asian kids, white kids, American Indians, and military kids of every different makeup. I am a proud product of Midwest City High School, but for years after graduating, was somewhat fearful of what exactly this pride implied. When I went off to college, a lot of the responses I received from new friends and peers were similar to the very messages I received yesterday. The diversity was always shocking, and more so, as was how this big ol’ white kid was able to survive in such a diverse setting. This flawed perspective of many seems to imply that a bunch of black kids all at one high school must immediately mean thuggery and/or poverty (I’ve even had people ask me if my experience was like Sister Act II, pre-Sister Mary Clarence). Their ignorance was always a setback for me.

Was shaving cream at a lock-in-type overnight actually a huge deal? Probably not. But the upper-hand which was involved was a big deal to me, and to all of us. There’s a big chance the prank was not racially motivated, and I can rest with that belief. However, the friend who was creamed most was right, if it had been any of the guys who were attending from my school, a huge issue would have been made out of this ordeal. Perhaps, even ‘thuggery’ would have been assumed. Furthermore, when administrators or professionals use terms like, “Boys will be boys,” we inherently disadvantage our young boys by viewing them as game-players and unable to respect others. This, too, is a flawed perspective. And this is all ultimately why I was particularly elated to see the video from my high school.

Aside from the pure race dynamics that existed at my alma mater, there also always seemed to be a permission that you could be of any shape, size, or background, and still have some sense of human or social capital. Hell, I was a total closet-case in high school (pun intended), and aside from some of the bullying I endured, I still felt like I received a huge amount of love from all types of people of all types of backgrounds. My high school reunion would later affirm many of those relationships, some of which also provided closure from the aforementioned bullying. Whereas the, your-black-high-school, messages I received via Facebook and text were both done with good intentions, they also provided for a deep-reflection as to why I continue to support and believe in all things Bomber magic (this is what we call, “spirit”).

The beautifully diverse video above is why I care about this school, and why I continue to support an environment where these young learners can work together and create something meaningful and impacting. Furthermore, I am also provoked by the limited opportunities provided at my high school, which typically happen to be caused by (or as a result of) other’s privilege. Privilege is real, and race plays a huge role in that dynamic. Literature and anecdote will both affirm this assertion. And this is why I care about Midwest City High School, a school with, among many others, upper-middle class black kids, extremely poor white kids, wealthy American Indians, middle-class Mexican kids, and military children of all shades (as one really good friend puts it).

So, aside from raising money for the MCHS Special Olympics Team, why does this video matter?

This video matters because Midwest City High School matters (and all the ‘Midwest City High School’ equivalents out there). This video matters because many of these students may never again get an opportunity to be silly and creativity and artistic, and many of them will continually be stifled by the sub-communities in which they belong. This video matters because those two individuals who contacted me should be more excited about the student engagement from that video rather than conjuring up any assumptions as to how this big ol’ white guy “survived” at a high school like “that” (direct quotes, there). This video matters because race matters, and this video matters because these students matter.

With eagerness, heart, and hope, here’s to Midwest City High School.

#WeAreBombers,

Michael

*Let it be important to note that my experience as a white kid from Oklahoma City is incomparable to that of some of my peers in Midwest City. This post is an appreciation for the culture supported in that video, and also a tool for reflecting on some of the injustices and inequities I have witnessed over the past ten years around and about my alma mater.

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40 thoughts on “My high school was, “pretty black.”

  1. I read this and much respect to you. I went to MWC in 02 and the one thing I tell people the most I loved about my school is the diversity. Not just race but social and economical too, it gave me a chance to realize early their is more than just one type of person in the world and that they can all get along..well wrote man!!!!

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  2. I graduated in 06 from MCHS I was proud to be from there and I do understand where you are coming from and wanted to say good job for speaking up and letting others understand.

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  3. So true! I am an 07 graduate and always noticed the disparities in the district between us and a few of the other schools, especially Carl Albert. Great article. M-Dub!

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  4. Great read! I graduated in 01 (and went to elementary with your brother I think) and thought the same thing. I too went on a “leadership” retreat with the other school and though there weren’t any shenanigans there was definitely a sense of us vs them. Although I’ve become great friends with several CA alum via college, I was always amazed at how it seemed like Mid Del schools would gear MCHS students to go to the vo-tech across the street while CA kids were set on a track for college. It’s like the MCHS = blue collar and CAHS = white collar from the onset. My wife went to PC West and I always tell her I am so blessed to have experienced such diversity. It opened my eyes to the world and made me realize that everyone is beautiful no matter where they come from or what they can/can’t afford.

    Again great read and awesome insight!

    – Jed

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    • Thanks for the read, Joseph – I remember you for sure… Randall’s friends were usually people who I wanted to be friends with too (ha!). I agree about the MCHS and CA stuff re: vo-tech, and also I, too, experienced a lot of these reflections with the many CA friends I have kept in touch with. I think many would share the sentiment. Thanks again for reading, and thanks for the kind words! Hope you are doing well!

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  5. I am also a former MCHS grad. I loved the fact that I could be friends with so many different kinds of people from so many different backgrounds. I think it has helped me to be a more fair and tolerant person throughout my life. I moved back to Midwest City when I had my son because I wanted him to have the same school experience I had. He graduated last year and is now a student at OSU. He has a very diverse group of friends just like I did. I wish all schools could be that way. We might have more understanding and respectful people in this country.

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    • I completely agree – thanks so much for this insight, Tiffany! Im glad you and your son had the same opportunity, and also that you could celebrate that diversity together. It’s one of the best gifts we can all have, is to be around all types of people from all types of backgrounds! Cheers!

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  6. I graduated from MCHS in 1971. Back then MCHS was mostly white. After graduation I realized how much I had missed by being in that white bubble. You are lucky to have been in that rainbow of colors!

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  7. I graduated from MCHS in 2008. I always felt there were huge disparities between our school and Carl Albert.

    It can even be felt in the middle schools. When my younger brother attended Jarman, his football team played Carl Albert, their team had all new equipment and Jarman was struggling to find enough helmets that weren’t damaged so the whole team could have their own.

    My dad addressed the issue and was told that the parents at CA paid for the equipment and that he could do the same for Jarman if he wished and that is wasn’t a district issue. My dad was fuming.

    Thank you for your article!

    Once a Bomber, always a Bomber! 🙂

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    • You are absolutely right with the Junior High stuff, too… even Monroney vs. Jarman there were some major differences – I was a proud Jarman kid, too, and definitely felt the lack of support, and even the constant struggle (things like Yearbook, Drama, etc., very under-supported and underserved). Thanks for the read!

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  8. You may as well have just described my high school. Coming to IU was a but of “anti-culture shock”. It amazed me that cultural disparity was still such an issue; this is a great piece!

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  9. This is an awesome post. I graduated from DC in ’03 and everything you say about how the other High School in MWC was viewed is spot on. I can tell you that while I was at DC we had one of the best crews of students and faculty that supported our Special Eagles (those with disabilities and the such) and we had so many that came from such different backgrounds yet felt as though we were the red-headed step child of the district when it came to different things. Hopefully we can all support our communities and reach out to remind everyone that it doesn’t matter where you come from but where you are going and help them all feel as though they are accepted and worthy of a good education.

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    • Yessss, to this! I agree, and DC was always in that same boat as MCHS… funny how we were so similar yet had such a strong and aggressive rivalry. Thanks for the kind words, and also the inspiration – keep fighting on! Cheers!

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  10. Great words Michael! I graduated from a 5A school and I’ve wondered how Carl Albert was always able to remain smaller in size than MCHS. My hope is that is just a mere coincidence and no shady “re-districting” has played a role in that. But as a big supporter of Special Olympics, it is awesome to see an entire school advocating for a special group of their classmates. Go Bombers!

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  11. Growing up in MWC gave me a love for people all color and nationality. It made me well-rounded. Today, I am raising my three children in Omaha. Sounds like it is the land of the white farmer, but in fact, it is such a diverse city! Because of the lower cost of living and job opportunities, many refugees come here. When I take my kids to the park they are playing with little girls in burkas and little boys from Burma. I absolutely love it. I feel WE are the privileged ones because we were able to grow up at MCHS. I love reading anything you write, Michael. Keep it coming!

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  12. As a graduate from ’87, I can relate from even twenty seven years ago. I always loved the fact that we were diverse and you are correct in saying everyone had a place. Sports were a big deal but most all athletes were excepting of others. The video of today shows that pride of the school still lives today. I still believe in Bomber Magic, it’s a special thing. Thank you so much for writing this story. Your words are a wonderful tribute to our school. As a teacher in the school system, it’s makes my heart swell knowing we continue to pass on the Bomber Magic from generation to generation. Once a Bomber, always a Bomber.

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  13. Thank You! As the mom of a current MWC student who, incidentally is white in a richly racially diverse class, all I could say as I was reading was YES! YES! YES! Now…I’M not a Bomber…I graduated from a rival school…but, I have always instilled in my child(ten) School Pride and the importance of Bomber Magic and how years from now, they will draw from their experiences they have in these years…your statement proves just that. Thank you for so eloquently putting all that and more! Yes, MCHS IS racially diverse… And, it is typically lower income school…and hey, pair that with if you are unlucky enough to be a student coming from (gasp) Jarman…not Monronry…that typically means you are even LOWER income. But, your family’s income should not define you any more than your color/race. In fact…it usually becomes your drive. The video is quickly becoming a cyber hit…and that is amazing…and I know my son is especially proud of it. Thank you for proving that MCHS grads can become someone…and giving inspiration to future graduates! Best of Luck.
    #bombermagic

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  14. Thank You! As the mom of a current MWC student who, incidentally is white in a richly racially diverse class, all I could say as I was reading was YES! YES! YES! Now…I’M not a Bomber…I graduated from a rival school…but, I have always instilled in my child(dren) School Pride and the importance of Bomber Magic and how years from now, they will draw from their experiences they have in these years…your statement proves just that. Thank you for so eloquently putting all that and more! Yes, MCHS IS racially diverse… And, it is typically lower income school…and hey, pair that with if you are unlucky enough to be a student coming from (gasp) Jarman…not Monronry…that typically means you are even LOWER income. But, your family’s income should not define you any more than your color/race. In fact…it usually becomes your drive. The video is quickly becoming a cyber hit…and that is amazing…and I know my son is especially proud of it. Thank you for proving that MCHS grads can become someone…and giving inspiration to future graduates! Best of Luck.
    #bombermagic

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    • So glad to read this, and so glad you are engaging these conversations with your son… It’s so important to be aware, and also to see the impact he can and will have. I am wishing him all the best and success – MCHS is a great place to learn and grow, and not just in the classroom! Have a great weekend! Cheers, and thanks for reading!

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  15. Michael,
    This post is AMAZING!!!! Growing up in Midwest City & going to school at Jarman & MCHS, we were always viewed as the “other school”. But, I believe that going to schools that had such a diverse group of students, is what ultimately helped us become better people because we can see EVERYONE for who they are & not for their “social status”. I graduated in 05 & am still PROUD to call MCHS my Alma Mater & am so proud of the students who made this video to help our fellow Bombers. A couple years after I graduated, the football team had made it to the playoffs. A school was coming to play on our field, who was from a “high class” area from around Tulsa(I honestly don’t remember what team it was). I remember finding out that the team that that team, didn’t want to come down to MWC & play on our field because they were “afraid they were going to get shot” because they saw MCHS & the area as “thuggish”. But, people don’t understand what they don’t know. Midwest City is an amazing place to live & to grow & to raise a family. I hope you are doing well Michael & doing the great things I always knew you could do!! Once A Bomber, Always A Bomber!!!

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  16. I graduated from MWC in 2002 and I have always been proud to say that I am Bomber and would be ready to go to war with anyone who had anything to say bad about my alma-mater, LOL! I absolutely loved your article so much that I teared up, I even teared up while watching the video the other night, it brought back so many wonderful memories. Not everyone understands how wonderful it is to befriend those of every walk of life, rather it be their race or social status, and at MWC you get to know so many different people and it really helps for thinking outside the box as well as teaching you not to judge a book by its cover. I learned so much at MWC and am so happy to see teachers as yourelf taking much pride in all areas of the school. Thanks for this wonderful read!

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  17. I graduated from MCHS back in 1997. I loved being able to be around so many different people and having friends in every social circle. I was a member of Bomber Pride (band for those not in the know, lol), and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I applaud my alma mater for continuing to foster a sense of community and caring for others.

    Once a Bomber, always a Bomber!

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  18. I don’t understand why everyone is so worked up about Carl Albert being a better school. Yes we have more money, and a nicer campus but not everyone at the school is a complete douchebag. Times have changed and it’s not only so called ‘rich’ or ‘privileged kids’ that attend the school. I have seen plenty of students who may have not had the best financial support, but atleast we are a school that gets along together. In my three years attending CAHS I have not once seen or heard of an outbreak with fighting or bullying among any of the students. Unlike MCHS we act like a team, and support not only each other but our entire community. And although many might agree with this article it is a biased opinion and the other side needs to be told.

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    • Savannah, thank you for your feedback. I would challenge you a bit on the term, “better,” and also remind you that it’s all relative and also contextual. Furthermore, if you only read this article as an MCHC vs. CA piece, you missed the point. The point is about race, and the support needed to help students be truly successful. I welcome an, “other side,” piece, and look forward to it if you so choose to engage. Otherwise, be well.

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  19. You know I bleed Black & Gold through & through as an ’03 grad. I went back and taught at MCHS for 4 years, but I also now work CAHS. I look back over my time and loved every minute of the experiences at MCHS with such a diverse experience I had as a student and teacher. I am also thankful for the leadership development I received during events like youth excel and the relationships that were formed with my CA peers during those events (especially with my lifelong friendship in a Titan who became my college roommate & maid of honor). After taking a step back as I started working at CA, I came to the realization that kids are kids whether at CAHS or MCHS. There were rich kids at both schools, diversity (whether small or large) at both schools, succes & failures at both schools, etc. I will always be a Bomber, but I find it hard to shed so negatively on an event like youth excel where I know there may have been a bad event (not discounting that or justifying it all), but to lump all the kids in a negative light was a bit much. I know that the premise of this blog wasn’t CA vs MWC, but just thought if give my two cents❤️! I say all this with love and no hard feelings…love ya!

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    • Meagan, thank you for your feedback. The lack of sensitivity on the part of the program coordinator alone tainted my experience at Youth Excel. Otherwise I, too, enjoyed it (also, let’s remember this was over 10 years ago), and I, too, would assert that not all CA individuals are the dueshy guy who I confronted. And I think we all know that and know many who would debunk this belief that all CA people are inherently bad. Because they are not. But remember back to when you went to college, I would argue the response to, “I went to Midwest City,” was much different than that of, “I went to CA.” I experienced it, and many others did as well.

      Great perceptions and “cents” you’ve provided, and I certainly appreciate you reading and commenting. I’ve retained some great friendships from CA as well, and am thankful for that. But I’ll also assert that the CA bit was only a small example of the discomfort and disconnect for many MCHS students. The post was about MCHS, the video, diversity, and privilege.

      You and I are both privileged, and represent a part of MCHS that had direct and easy access to many CA folks (club sports, church, etc.). But as far as CA is concerned, I experienced many of the “upper-hand moments” myself as a privileged white guy (school district stuff, Youth Excel, Senior Project, some drama stuff). The privilege is there, or was, at least, ten years ago (I imagine and hope things have changed to diversify both schools). I also come from the Jarman side of this whole equation, which adds a layer of differing perspective (this was also noted in several emails I received after the post – citing, you may be from MCHS, but if you were a Jarman kid, it was even more of a view).

      This post was a step back – let’s check out the video and be proud of those students. Let’s celebrate the diversity at MCHS, and in turn, use it as a positive message to all those who email in with, “your school was pretty black,” and messages alike. Let’s talk about race at both schools and how they play a role in the student experience. Hopefully all of these notes are happening.

      Good stuff, good dialogue, thanks again for the post. Hope you’re doing well! Really appreciate your comment! Definitely more reflection for me as I continue to sort all this out in my head. Cheers!

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  20. Hey Michael that was a great read. I got goose bumps when your referred to that bomber pride. Your words are spot on . Glad to see your doing well. .And glad this wasn’t a blog about how mean your brother and I were to you when we were like 12. Lol tell the fam I said hi.

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