Phase of Life: Choices of a Black Valedictorian

o-BLACK-COLLEGE-GRADUATE-BACK-facebookSix days ago a student, a black student,  chose not to participate in his high school graduation.  According to articles, letters, and other forms of accounts the student was advised that it was part of the school’s policy that all males attend graduation with a clean shaven face in order to participate in the ceremony.  Many accounts indicate that the students were informed this initially in April, again in May, and also at the practice and actual graduation ceremony.  These same reports indicate that this particular student made it clear that he had no intentions of shaving in order to participate in the ceremony.  It was reported by the superintendent that the parents of the student spoke with him about the decision to which he maintained his refusal position.  The student was quoted saying that he would still receive his diploma after the ceremony even if he did not participate.

This incident has sparked much debate among people.  The student was a black male and Valedictorian; for those two reasons alone it has been tossed back and forth whether or not this was a racial issue.  But what appears more prevalent in this debate is the discord among blacks themselves as to whether or not his choice was the right choice, whether or not he is to blame for not walking or whether the school was to blame. Some blame the school for not enforcing the rule throughout the school year.  Some blame the student, stating that he should have followed the rule because hair would grow back soon.  Some got as far as to say that his parents should have “made” him shave and comply with the rule because this is a once in lifetime opportunity.

However I would like to pose the question of freedom of choice.  I wonder if both the student and the school can both be right in their choices.  We are bombarded with choices, conscious and unconscious, throughout each day. All affect us in some way.  I would like to believe that it is our conscious choices that affect us the most.  That they affect our character and the way we are perceived by others.  They are somehow a counter reaction of our perceptions.  Unbeknownst to many in society, some of the most important jobs, the ones that involve public safety, are often tackled head on by the perception of the one looking into the matter.  There are so many times when a situation looks different based on the perception of the one looking.

When I look at this situation I see a school that has compassion.  A school that says I am not going to badger you day to day with the issue of facial hair and black socks as oppose to white socks.  I see a society that says its acceptable for a police officer to bypass giving me a speeding ticket on occasion and at other times stick to the law and ticket me but it is not acceptable for a school to waver on enforcing the rules.  Society says it’s acceptable to bend the rules for my comfort but unacceptable to enforce them based off my choices. Day to day employers, law enforcement, school officials, and even parents give us breaks on the consequences of policies and expectations.  Then there are sometimes when  for one reason or another they feel that the rules need to be enforced in a particular instance.  In those times should we not be thankful for the “passes” we were allowed up until that point.  Sometimes we are warned and then given a choice.  The choice to make belongs to the individual.  In society we want to make choices for others.  We feel as though we know the “right” way and that our way is above any other’s way.  We value our perception over anyone elses.  We don’t want to lend others a voice to be them.  I’m often boggled by how someone can ask you what you think, then become highly defensive when your thoughts go against their thoughts.  In reality they only wanted to know whether or not you agreed with their position on the matter.

This situation brings forth a problem that is growing epidemic.  We are always quick to stick our nose in other people’s business. Quick to answer something that we don’t know much about.  Social media has taken to home the discussion on matters of the world and turned them into a who’s right and who’s wrong on every matter that hits the screen.

I don’t see a reason to debate here.  I see this as a phase of life of a young adult who had to make a choice that to him may have meant preserving his integrity.  I see a young man that may have been attempting to set an example for his own child.  A young man that weighed the cost and made a choice that he could live with.  I see a young man that is ready for the next phase of life. Though he chose not to participate in the ceremony he still remains Valedictorian and that along with his courage to stand up for what he believed deserves to be celebrated.

How do you see it? I would love to hear from you.

Hebrews 13:18



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