T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History
How integration affected students
Joesph Charles by Chelsea Arseneault, 2016.
JOSEPH CHARLES: When integration came up, then it made things a little bit different. When I was at Westlake High, I took a geography [?] class. Mrs. [Meyers?] was the teacher. And I was the only black in that class. I went down to [Danny Cupid’s?] office because he was the counselor. I told him I wanted out. I wanted out of the class. He said, "Why?" I said, "Just too uncomfortable in the class." Too uncomfortable in the class being the only black in the class. I felt so uncomfortable in the class. It wasn't the information. It wasn't the class itself. It was the people. I said, "Man, take me out put me in business math." He said, "Okay. I’m going to take you out." He took me out put me in business math.

Coming down the hall, Mrs. [Meyers?] called for me. She said, "I need to see you in my classroom. I want to talk to you." She said, "I am very troubled that you dropped my class. Was any of the kids in here causing you any problems?" I said, "Not directly." She says, "Was it me that caused you to drop my class?" I said, "Not directly." She pulled a book out. She said, "You made straight A's and B's in this class, so why did you drop this class? She said, "What's the problem? What was the problem?" I said, "Look, when blacks come to white schools . . . Whites don't come to black schools. When blacks come to white schools, whites have the general conception that we're all stupid and dumb. Okay? They feel black people are dumb, stupid, and slow. So they are very sensitive that, “Don't ask him a question because if he don't know the answer, it's going to be so shameful. Don't ask him. It's going to be so shameful.” Everybody feels on edge. Now so when the teacher asks the white kids, the white kids, oh, they’re uncomfortable to answer the question because if they don't know it, oh, they don’t want the black kid in there to know they don't know. So they become what? Very uncomfortable. Okay, so the bottom line what I found out in her class . . . And I told her that I found out, that look, we're all human beings. White folks are no smarter than black folks and black folks are no smarter than white folks, or dumber. But for some superiority here, people feel threatened by each other. We can't just live. We got to be inferior.
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