NOLENSVILLE, Tenn. — The first encounter with racism that Harmony Kennedy can remember came in elementary school. On a playground, a girl picked up a leaf and said she wanted to “clean the dirt” from Harmony’s skin.
In sixth grade, a boy dropped trash on the floor and told her to pick it up, “because you’re a slave.” She was stunned — no one had ever said anything like that to her before.
As protests for racial justice broke out in 2020, white students at her Tennessee high school kneeled in the hallways and chanted, “Black lives matter!” in mocking tones. As she saw the students receive light punishments, she grew increasingly frustrated.
So when Tennessee began passing legislation that could limit the discussion and teaching of Black history, gender identity and race in the classroom, to Harmony, it felt like a gut punch — as if the adults were signaling this kind of ignorant behavior was acceptable.