why missing a day of school was related to race
I always hated missing school.
The sheer thought of considering it was like asking me to pour hot oil on myself. I just couldn’t do it. I was never the child to rub my forehead to make it appear as if I had a fever. Or later in life, blame my PMS for skipping class (which I am pouring one out for all my homies with periods who actually had to do that). Even in college, I showed up on days when Berkeley was on fire, with an AQI of 180, holding in my breath, because god forbid I put my health over my education.
One of the awards I received year after year was perfect attendance. By Grade 4, no one was surprised to see me heading down the aisle of the auditorium to receive yet another free meal certificate to Islands. But I didn’t keep up my attendance for an elaborate happy meal. It was because I was afraid.
I was afraid that if I missed a day, I would not know what crucial information I could have had, and if I missed that information I wouldn’t succeed, and if I did not succeed I would be further behind from already trying to live and thrive as a black woman in America.
My parents never had to remind me of the obstacles I face in this world. I knew that I had to work harder. I had to be smarter. But they too did not want me to miss school.
I was a good kid, a great kid even. Throughout my education, my parents never had to force me to do my homework. It would be done by the time my mother picked me up. I rarely asked for help. Despite the tumultuous relationship between math and Spanish, I always got good grades. They never had to worry about me succeeding. Where I faltered with participation, I thrived everywhere else.
But they pressed me about not missing school even when I was sick. I myself further reaffirmed them by making them believe I was better than I was. Unless I had a full-blown fever or was weak to my knees, I was sent off to school with a gallon of Arizona, a box of tissues, and a pack of Cold-Eeeze. I would do anything to not miss a day. If that meant jeopardizing the health of my peers and digressing my recovery time, then so be it.
You see because it wasn’t just about me. It was about the person who I wanted to become, the person people expected me to become and how to defy them, how to prove them wrong, and show them that I was capable and more.
I received good grades, but I had to work for them. Not everything came easy to me. And if I skipped a lecture, or a review session, or the analysis of Henry V, it would only send me back farther.
So why take the risk?
So, I did my very best to never miss a day.
I’ll never know if risking it all was any good. I can tell you though, I knew just about everything. Kids knew who to come to get the notes from that day.
I still had to work my ass off. I still had to study longer and harder and proofread to still make it in the 90th percentile.
But fear, fear is powerful. Fear can shape you. It can drive you or it can hold you back. And if fear has gotten me to where I am, then maybe perhaps it was worth it.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t any developmental side effects from it.