“You know, our children don’t hate until we tell them to hate,” said Ann Linton, the mother of a recent high school graduate.
Let that quote sink in for a few seconds. I’ll get back to it, and the person who said it, later.
Four years ago, I met Baker High School student Nicholas Linton. The ninth-grader was in the Upward Bound summer educational program at Southern University in Baton Rouge, where I then worked. He told me he was there to take math and science classes and to eventually improve his ACT score needed for college entrance.
He stood out in the class, so he was one of the students I had helped feature on a TV story about the children of the Upward Bound program.
I saw him the next year in the program, and over the years, I would notice him being recognized for scholarly activities at Baker High. A week ago, he graduated from Baker with a 4.2 GPA and a 33 out of a high of 36 on the ACT. So the Upward Bound Program and Baker High had paid off.
Even with those major accomplishments, a couple of his friends smile and say Nicholas may initially have problems adjusting socially and culturally at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he has received a full scholarship. He also has the state-funded TOPS money, too.
His parents and Nicholas himself agree with his friends.
Linton is a white student, who since kindergarten, has always been in a predominantly black environment. In many cases, he was the only white student in his class or on a student field trip. It’s all he knows.
And, for 13 years, Nicholas and his parents, Adam and Ann Linton, have been perfectly fine with that. That’s the Ann Linton of the quote above.
In so many instances when white students are the minority in public schools, they tend to leave for other schools. However, that’s not the routine when the cases are reversed.
The Lintons said they witnessed the departure of white students over the years in Baker.
The Lintons were unfazed. Ann was a PTO president for a couple years when Nicholas was in elementary school. “I knew he was in good hands. Good people are good people, no matter where you are.”
Adam said, “We just saw people as the same. His friends would come over to our house ... We don’t worry about that other stuff.”
“You know, I never really felt different,” Nicholas said. Even going back to kindergarten, he added, he really didn’t notice the difference until fourth or fifth grade.
Nicholas and his parents said he had always been accepted at school. He was just one of the crowd, except for the nickname — Polar Bear. Nicholas is little healthier than most. “Even I had to laugh at that nickname,” he said.
He said being in the social environment in Baker schools made him conscious of some of the slights that African-Americans deal with. “Sometimes, I felt offended that someone would say something. I just became more aware of what some people said,” he said.
Ann said she and her husband once considered removing Nicholas from Baker and sending him to a local Christian school, a move that had nothing to do with race. Nicholas was not having it.
He said the best time he has had was being part of school’s highly honored concert and marching bands. Nicholas said he developed a great appreciation for all kinds of music with the band. He joked that his dad liked heavy metal and country, but that he liked hip-hop and jazz, too.
“I had my circle of friends ... I knew everyone in the band,” the trombone player said. In fact, he said, being in the band “broke down every social wall” that was left.
Nicholas has gone on long bus trips to Washington D.C. and Florida and other places with the school and Upward Bound, where he was the only white student and loved every minute.
Now, a little back story on his parents. Ann was in the 11th grade when she became pregnant with her first child. Adam was a high school senior. They got married in high school. He was at Baker High, and she was at Scotlandville Magnet High. She later transferred and graduated on time from Baker High.
"This is our home, and we have raised three children. The oldest is a ULL graduate, and the other is a junior at ULL," she said. “We proud of what our children have accomplished and that we are still together given the start we had.”
Nicholas said he may consider assisting with the school band this summer or possibly working with the Upward Bound program. “I’m open to whatever comes this summer,” he said.
Nicholas said he will have to adjust to making friends at multiethnic UL-Lafayette. “I know it will different. But, I’ll get through it. It may take a while, though.”
Ann said, “Baker has always been our home. We wanted our kids to grow up here. Some people have made negative insinuations about us keeping Nicholas at a predominantly black school. “Color is just not that important to us ... I’m proud of the things the teachers and Nicholas have accomplished.”
I think the Lintons might be on to something.