Senior Speaks Out on Prejudice in Aledo


Keita Billings

Senior Jaden Billings will attend TCU in the fall to major in pre-medicine.

In sixth grade senior Jaden Billings created a science project about ducks. He brought his presentation to school along with all of the other kids in his class and set it up in the classroom. Parents filed in, stopping at each presentation to listen to the students present — each presentation except Jaden’s. Only two parents, out of the more than 30 who showed up, stopped to listen to him. 

“I don’t even know if it was on purpose,” Jaden said. “It was one of those weird moments, but I think it’s just the fact that they sympathized more with the little white kids who didn’t have anyone to talk to and didn’t really even notice me. I don’t think I’d really care if it happened now, but I was 11, and I just wanted to tell people about ducks.”

Incidents like this, and an experience Jaden and his family had in New Orleans, LA, showed him at a young age that he would be treated differently. His family sat down in a restaurant and waited two hours to have their order taken while everyone else around them arrived, ate and left. They then realized that the staff wasn’t going to take their order, and were just waiting for them to leave.

As a black student in a predominantly white school district, Jaden offers a unique perspective and experience on the subjects of prejudice and racism. When news of the racist slave-trade group chat broke last month, Jaden said he was disappointed, but not surprised. The thing that did surprise him though, was how shocked everyone else was.

“That wasn’t the worst thing I’ve heard about,” Jaden said. “I thought everyone knew that this kind of stuff went on every day.”

He said he wishes the school had put out a statement to everyone so he didn’t have to find out about it through rumors.

“I don’t personally believe that the school tried to push it under the rug,” Jaden said. “But, that’s what it felt like because no one knew about it until it was all over the news.”

He watched the board meeting last month on livestream, and hopes that what was said by community members will be taken seriously, but isn’t overly optimistic about it.

“It needed to happen but I’m also a realist,” Jaden said. “I have a hard time thinking, ‘Oh this is going to change everything. They’re going to listen now.’”

Jaden said he believes that Aledo’s problem is rooted in prejudice and ignorance, rather than blatant racism. He emphasized the weight of the word “racist” and that he is slow to use it because people shut down when it comes into play.

“I like to look at the legitimate definition of racism as it stems from hatred or dislike of someone because of the way they look and I don’t think that’s here,” Jaden said. “But there is a lack of knowledge.”

Jaden took the time to learn black history because, as a black kid, he was interested in it, but he learned white history because it was taught every day in school.

“You have a lot of kids that don’t have this knowledge of what people go through because they don’t have to,” Jaden said. “If you get a piece of paper and you ask people to write what they know about Malcolm X, it’s not going to get filled up and he’s probably one of the top five most important people in black history.”

Jaden said he thinks there is a lack of education about these topics because they don’t directly affect most people in Aledo. He encouraged people to look at different situations and opinions with an open mind in order to see a different perspective.

“Go watch ‘Boyz in the Hood,’ go watch the Malcolm X movie, go watch ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and you’ll see the stories, which are fairly recent, and you start to understand things from a different perspective,” Jaden said. “Listen to Tupac, listen to Biggie, go to malls and open your eyes up and look at the different types of people.”

Overall, Jaden has hope for the community and the conversations that are beginning to happen. 

“I think, in high school in general, not just Aledo, you live in a bubble,” Jaden said. “If you expand your bubble, you’ll gain a better understanding and perspective.”