My parents were in jobs that involved getting transferred from place to place. This meant that I changed schools quite often. Each school had a different environment that one had to adjust to. However, I noticed that all these schools had one thing in common – something that wasn’t talked about very often but was ever present.
Whenever there were extra-curricular activities such as Annual Day functions or 15th August celebrations and students participated, I noticed that the teachers asked the darker participants to go and stand in the back where they couldn’t be seen quite well. This happened regardless of how well that participant could sing or dance.
People didn’t even take notice of this – or if they did, they didn’t think it was worth commenting upon. You could see the hurt and disappointment on that student’s face but even they knew that they couldn’t do anything. They quietly went and stood at the back of the stage. The worst part was that this happened even if the student with the dark skin was the only one who sang well in that group.
I knew many of the children who were treated this way. Even they didn’t speak up although you could see the pain and humiliation in their faces. They didn’t talk about it because even they had been conditioned to believe that they were somehow less and didn’t deserve to stand in front because they had dark skin. I even saw some of them going to the back of their own accord even if there were no one there telling them to do so.
School is the time when we can shape our students who are like raw clay. If at this tender age, they are treated like this then what will they learn and understand? Worse, we send out a message to others that it is ok to treat someone with darker skin in this manner and marginalize them. The cycle doesn’t stop. On top of that, this is so normalized that people don’t even notice it much less comment.