Clarence “Tre” Armstrong III is a senior baseball student-athlete at Case Western Reserve University. He is a pre-med student majoring in nutritional biochemistry & metabolism with a minor in sports medicine. Armstrong earned UAA All-Academic recognition each of the past two seasons.
The UAA “Conversations About Race and Racism” series seeks to lift the voices of people of color and recognize the challenges faced in both athletics and academics at the collegiate level. By sharing personal stories, we hope to elevate the conversation about race to raise awareness and bring about change.
Attending Inner-City Schools
Armstrong entered into a “gifted and talented program” in the second grade. “Gifted students are put into low-performing schools to bolster test scores so the schools can receive funding to improve. As a Black child going through the program, I was put into inner-city schools where most of the students looked like me except that I was in predominantly white classes,” he described. “There was a lot of segregation and we were not integrated with other students. I was one of the only Black students in a nearly all-Black school in the program.”
That dichotomy left Armstrong in an uncomfortable space. “There was a lot of tension there for me. Both Black and white students looked at me differently. I am no different than other Black counterparts in regular education classes, but they saw me differently and treated me that way, both positively and negatively,” he remarked. “Black kids said I wasn’t one of them when playing on the playground. White friends referred to me as not Black or say I don’t act Black or aren’t like the other Black kids. That was our thought process from second to eighth grade and that showed me how deeply rooted these beliefs are.”
He used these observations to reform his behavior. “Those experiences helped me grow a lot. I started challenging people when they said I speak properly or don’t use slang,” Armstrong recounted. “I switch on and off the way I speak. I am versatile. When someone says that I act white, it has to be addressed. Sometimes people don’t realize the meaning of what they are actually saying.”
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