Black Girl in Plaid

By Jalauna Phillips

I had the best elementary school experience. 

I went to a predominantly Black and Hispanic school that had teachers from various Hispanic countries. The countries ranged from Mexico all the way to Spain. Our teachers talked to us in Spanish, a few of our classes were in Spanish and we were immersed in Hispanic culture. 

Growing up in a Black Baptist church, and coming from a Black family, I knew what being Black meant at an early age. Black History months were always celebrated, Kente cloth could always be found in my home and Sunday dinner always consisted of collard greens, mac n’ cheese and cornbread. 

I am blackity black Black. (even though I haven't seen the original Color Purple..or the new one)

So you can imagine the cultural shock that I found myself in when I enrolled in a predominantly white, Christian high school. 

The main reason why I wanted to go was because I fell in love with the cheerleading team one day at my brother's basketball game. They seemed like the typical high school cheer team but that's all I had wanted. I am a “Bring It On” junkie! Having the competitive cheer experience, I was ready to transition from the blue mat to the sidelines. 

I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I was coming in as my brother's little sister and that I was a good cheerleader. No one prepared me for the warzone I was about to enter.

Luckily, I knew one other black girl in the freshman class. Unfortunately, she wasn't returning for high school. So at the freshman picnic I had to meet all of her friends and make them my friends, which I thought I was doing a great job at until one of the girls kicked me in the ass. She said there was a “spider” on it… I will never know the truth because she forgot that it even happened. 

That night, I went home to my parents and told them what happened. They immediately contacted the principal. He apologized and assured us that it wouldn't be a problem. He was right, that girl who kicked me is now one of my closest friends, Alyssa (I luv u girl). It is important to note that she is mixed - Black and Armenian. 

After that whole ordeal, I was a little nervous about hanging out with that group again but it consisted of the only other two black girls in the freshman class. 

So, on the first day of school, I found myself hanging out with the theater/band kids that I knew through also being in the orchestra (I've played the violin since I was in 4th grade). 

My cheerleading teammates pretended like I didn’t exist. They were nice but they were not friendly. That actually went for most of the people at the school. They were cordial but they weren't going out of their way to make me feel welcomed. 

Then, of course, the first book we read that year was Huckleberry Finn. Yeah, the book that drops the hard r n-word every other sentence. But don't fret, my teacher ensured that it was a world we would not repeat.. (at least out loud). 

While discussing race, my teacher randomly broke out and asked in front of the entire class, “JALAUNA, DID YOU ASK TO BE BLACK?”, then asked one of my white classmates (remember I'm 1 of 3 black girls in the freshman class), “DID YOU ASK TO BE WHITE?”.. I understood what she was trying to say but it was just too much for the first week of school. After that class, she made me stay back and asked if what she was saying, as if I was the CEO of race talk at 15, was okay. I shyly said yes and then bolted out of the room. 

Because I was my awesome brother's little sister and because I was a good ass cheerleader, word about me got around. I thought I was safe. 

Little did I realize, Black skin is never safe. 

I realized that I wasn’t safe on July 13th, 2015 when Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell three days after being arrested at a traffic stop. I remember exactly where I was when Trayvon Martin was murdered and I remember the gut wrenching ache I had when I heard about Eric Garner. These murders of innocent Black lives sparked a rage in me that has only increased in temperature and intensity.

Shortly after this flame ignited, Trump announced that he was running for president. This completely changed the way I viewed my peers. I knew they were white but I didn't know they were republican, suburban, range rovin, KKK white. 

They brought Trump signs to chapel and waved them in people's faces, wore “deplorable lives matter '' shirts and vocally critiqued the Black Lives Matter movement. I was in hell. 

You may be wondering why I didn't just leave and go to another school. Remember, this was a Christian high school, so I wholeheartedly believed that God had me there for a reason. I was a child. My parents gave me the opportunity to leave but I insisted that I fulfill God's will with me staying at the school. 

God himself did not prepare me for the evil that lingered in the halls. 

 I’ve told this story several times but one fine evening, while I’m doing my homework, one of my friends asked me if I had checked the After School app.

After School was an app that let you post anonymously about anything to your classmates.

I had been doing homework all evening so I didn't have time to check any social media. But I deserve a break so I decided to go look. Most of the posts were about how our Bible teacher was probably having an affair with our History teacher or some bullshit like that. But as I'm scrolling, I see it. A comment that reads,


“Fuck black lives @jalaunaphillips” 


The horror. My heart sank into my ass. 

I don't even know how the rest of that night went. I can't remember what my parents said or how they reacted. I just remember feeling betrayed because remember, everyone was nice. No one ever dared say anything to my face so the fact that they had to run to an anonymous app, made me queasy.

The next morning, the principal pulled me out of second period and asked me who I thought it was. I told him that it could literally be anybody. People were nice to my face and didn't give me any reason to suspect that they were just racist haters deep down. I gave a few names and went about my day. 

Then of course there was a special assembly to discuss the matter. 

My principal walked on stage to a stool that looked like he was about to sing a John Meyer song. Then proceeded to tell the entire school about what happened, quoting the comment word for word.. not holding back on the “fuck”. Again, I think I blacked out because I have no idea what he said. I remember him calling a prayer meeting after the assembly and a few students gathering around the flagpole to pray. 

Teachers walked by and students walked by, after all, it was optional. 

I will give God praise right here because that dumba** comment didn't break me. I literally went back to school the next day like nothing happened. A few “friends” reached out but really, the whole school moved on. 

In reality, I came back swingin. My senior year, I was Head of House. The leader of one of the houses in a house system, kind of like the one in Harry Potter. As HOH, I had to come up with a special project. My final project ended up being me starting a group called the United Front in order to raise awareness about different cultures and social issues. 

We hosted Powwow’s, discussions about kneeling during the anthem and mental health, we had soul food catered one day during Black History Month, and I even had my mom come teach Zumba one day.

If they were going to hate me, I might as well give them a good reason. 

BUT! It wasn't all bad. I did make some life long friends that I still talk to today. I got the opportunity to fly private with the governor and his daughter to meet Dr. Martin Luther King's daughter. I got to travel to the Dominican Republic and Israel (#freepalestine). And I learned so much about Christianity. 

If I got to do it all again, fuck that I would pick a different school. But I am very grateful for the experiences, amazing people and memories that I have now because I stayed but walking through hell was not worth the thick skin. 

Random people touching my hair, being looked at differently, dealing with micro and macro aggressions on a daily basis and not feeling a sense of community is not something I would do again. 

I am proud of high school me for sticking up for herself and others but I do mourn the years she lost to fighting a battle that was too big for her own two shoulders. 

I am a better person because of it and I hope someone else is too. 


My senior quote: “Let it not be said that I was silent when they needed me”


My Eyes are Set On: not fighting alone.


  • Nercy Romero-Harrison

    I love this ♥️.
    I’m so proud of you.

  • Neria Brempong

    Your story really reflects my own and my sisters that also attended WC. You telling your story is so important and we never deserved any of the racist things that happened at that God forsaken school. Keep shining and being a light there is so much success coming your way.

  • Luke David Smith

    Your experience at our school was not okay and it breaks my heart that you had to endure such difficult circumstances. There were a lot of messed up, negative things that happened and you did not deserve any of it!! Thank you for sharing your story! I always admired your courageous heart. You stayed when most people in your situation would have left. One thing that speaks volumes is that not only did you stay at our school when most people would have left but you also did not hide but spoke up and advocated for injustices. I love your family! I enjoyed being around your brother in soccer when I was a freshman. He was reserved, but nice and made me feel welcomed. Your mom coming in and teaching Zumba was cool and fun. I value the good memories we shared and I’m sorry your overall experience was bad. Keep doing great things and following God’s will.

    -Luke Smith

  • Kenyell Gray

    JALAUNA FOR PRESIDENT ‼️‼️‼️ You are so powerful sis. I had No clue. I know I say This all the time but YOU ARE AMAZING‼️

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