The Lasting Effects of the White Evangelical Factory
“Dreadlocks are dirty.” Her frosty white words fell upon my melanated skin as they flurried across my 7th-grade classroom. Every student was oblivious to the squall except me. I sat quietly imagining my aunt, whose dreadlocks were so beautifully styled, unashamedly cultured, and so unapologetically black.
This was one of the countless instances that left me traumatized and brought pain that still runs through my memories of elementary and middle school. I attended a small Christian school in Maine whose teachers, students, and parents often used their belief in God to mask their hatred for diversity in all forms. They preached “Love your neighbor as yourself”, but in Maine, all the neighbors were white.
They didn’t know how to love, respect, teach, or proselytize minorities. They weren’t trying to teach kids to love like Christ, they were trying to churn out the next generation of white evangelicals, and minority students didn’t fit their mold. I definitely didn’t fit their mold.
My K-8 experience consisted of perpetual microaggressions that steadily eroded my Black pride. My hair was constantly violated as educators ran their pale fingers through my sacred brown curls while passing by in the hallway as if I were a dog they ran into on an afternoon stroll.
Their whitewashed curriculum was a tool they wielded to validate their racial biases. It treated my ancestors as commodities, demonized Black revolutionaries such as Nat Turner, and proclaimed fallacies such as ‘the KKK targeted white and Black people. They used its false teachings to confirm their superiority and assure themselves that they were “not racist.”
I hauled the weight of my ancestors’ stories and dignity throughout every class while my own dream of a diverse and inclusive learning experience seemed further out of reach with each grade level. I often silently wrestled with the decision to stand up or stay silent during moments of racial insensitivity or misinformation. When I challenged my teachers during class I would get detention because my knowledge teased their white fragility.
Talking to the school’s administrators left me with a false sense of hope that something might change. They nodded their heads as I shared my neatly prepared list of grievances with the school, but the next day the teachers were still offensive, the history books were still pedaling unabashed lies, and I still felt unheard.
I was shackled to white Evangelical culture where scripture was weaponized to silence diverse voices, shame those who advocated for them, and halt conciliatory progress. They were intent on building the next generation of white Christians from the outside in with their rules, conformity, and legalism, instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to transform from within.
I was fortunate to have transferred to a more inclusive high school, but I will never forget the nine years that I spent feeling alone, tired, and not enough for the white agenda. Chills climb up my back as I dig into memories from my elementary and middle school years. Shivers sprint down my spine as I write this article. Tears run down my cheeks as I think about my time at the White Evangelical Factory.