When my hometown was placed under federal mandate to desegregate the schools, my mother was selected as the first black teacher to move to an all white school. I say “selected” because as we know from Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, these are carefully orchestrated moments. She had taught at a rural school up to that point, loved the students, their parents and the community that grew up around the school, but recognized this as a charge she would have to keep.
One day, she walked into the teachers’ lounge in the middle of an intense conversation among the teachers, so intense, in fact, that they missed their usual cue. Usually conversation would come to a screeching halt when she entered, everybody leaving the lounge to her. The reason she was selected, they more than implied, was that she was light enough to blend in and probably wouldn’t create too much of a ruckus. This rumor turned out to be truth when the principal asked at the end of her first torturous year if he could count on her or “find some more” just like her. She took the high road, never mentioning his words to those she actively recruited join her.