School Ashamed of Black Teen Mom as Valedictorian

Black valedictorianImagine you busted your behind through high school to maintain an A average. You weren’t anybody’s slouch — your schedule consisted of honors and AP courses. You studied. You excelled. You made sacrifices, which meant you didn’t hit up every party on weekends and you didn’t groom yourself into a FarmVille expert on Facebook.

You’re all jazzed to transition from high school senior to high school graduate when you find out you’re class valedictorian. Then, all of a sudden, you have a co-valedictorian. Who has a lesser GPA than you do.

That’s unfortunately the story of Kymberly Wimberly, an 18-year-old from Arkansas who was denied the honor of being her school’s sole valedictorian because she’s black. Or because she’s a teen mom. Or maybe because she’s a black teen mom. Either way you slice it, she was rebuffed from being distinguished as the one and only top student at McGehee High School. 


Sigh. Here we go again. 

For all of you folks who insist that racism has been laid to rest, who whine that black people need to stop pulling that card out of our deck and move on, who are lulled into a false sense of serenity that because we have a black first family and a few brown-faced individuals in positions of power, we’re encroaching on a We Are the World-esque cultural utopia, let this serve as a flashing pink neon reminder: racism still exists.

It’s big in the North. It’s thriving in the South. It’s all over the Heartland and stretches out West. It is every freakin’ where. Yep, even in high school administrative offices. And when a band of educators can deny a teenage girl the opportunity to be recognized for the academic accomplishments she earned because she’s not the face they want representing their school’s graduating class, it just goes to show how rampant the beast of discrimination is. 
People stay looking for perpetrators of racism to be wrapped in an easy-to-spot package, like a pointy hat and a flowy white robe accessorized by a flaming cross. But it’s 2011, and even bigots have stepped their look up for the new millennium. Institutionalized racism is more difficult to pinpoint — look how often cops get away with it, for crying out loud — but it hits the people it’s intended to hurt that much harder.

What makes this ugly melodrama even more disgusting is that this girl has a super bright future ahead of her. Any school should be proud to have such a fighter among its ranks. Despite making the bad choice to lie down and make a baby in her junior year (and I do agree that was a bad choice), she didn’t just stick it out. She rocked it. So she is more than within her right to contest the school whose underhanded antics are designed to steal her shine. She deserved to be the only valedictorian honored that day. Even her so-called co-valedictorian agreed, according to her anyway.

If Kymberly were another teen mom contributing to dismal statistics about the high school dropout rate, she would make some folks a lot more comfortable. Because that would give them an “I told you so” to point to and it definitely wouldn’t challenge the stereotype of the poor, bad-decision-making teen mom with so much unharvested potential. Administrators could easily dismiss her as another black girl lost who couldn’t defy the odds and move on to their next planning meeting.

Thank goodness this young lady isn’t the type to allow herself to be dismissed, even by the very school system that educated her. Kudos to her for taking them to court. I hope she gets every dime she’s suing for in punitive damages. You know, there are plenty of times I’ll hear about a lawsuit and roll my eyes at people’s flagrant abuse of the judicial system. You don’t take McDonald’s to court because their coffee is hot. You have the common sense not to hold the cup in a way to make the stuff spill out on you because it’s supposed to be hot, for Pete’s sake.

But it’s good to see a girl make the system work for her justice. Go ‘head, Kymberly. I’ll be rooting for you.

Is this girl beating a dead horse by taking her high school to court or should she just chalk it up?


Image via stevendepolo/Flickr

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