As an African-American, I often feel caught between worlds. I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood, attended a predominately white school and earned my undergraduate degree from a Predominately White Institution. As a child, I always felt like an outsider or an other. Part of me longed to be around people who looked like me, to be accepted as normal, to have a support network to go to. I often felt ugly being one of the few Black girls in my social group.
I had to socialize, knowing that I would always be seen as an outsider, I knew I wouldn’t get asked to dance or asked to join exclusive clubs. The turning point came when I went to apply for a summer job and was told by the (white) manager that they weren’t currently hiring, only to later be told by my white friend, that the manager “kept hiring all these graduating seniors.” I realized that it didn’t matter that I went a nice, prep school, it didn’t matter that I did well in school, it didn’t matter how “articulate,” I was…to some people, all they saw when they looked at me was my skin color and all of the negative stereotypes associated with it.
I longed for a safe space where I could be more than just a stereotype, where I could be seen for who I was. This brings me to my tough choice.
I am planning to begin my graduate studies soon. I applied to a Historically Black College University (HBCU) and I also applied to a predominately white institution (PWI). I got accepted into the PWI first. My mother wanted me to attend the PWI because she feels that it is a renowned institution, that offers a great program, which will allow me to obtain “prestigious,” and gainful employment after I complete the program.
Although I like what the program has to offer, going into another PWI is not my ideal.
By the time that I got the acceptance letter from the HBCU, I had already accepted the offer from the PWI. While the program at the HBCU is excellent as well, it’s not as closely aligned with my career goals and it’s also a longer program, whereas the program at PWI is a fast track program, which appeals to me. However, the PWI will not offer me the same experience as the HBCU, I will again be relegated to being “other” a “minority,” and always feeling like people aren’t seeing me for me.
Now, I feel caught between two worlds. I want so badly to go to the HBCU and for once be amongst people who see me for who I am as an individual. I don’t want to be looked at as an other, I want to be seen as an equal.
I also feel guilt because I believe that the only way Black people can have equal opportunities is to have our own sustainable, independent Black communities. A large part of building a community entails supporting the institutions, supporting the businesses and educating youth in that community. So, I want to support an institution that will bring business into the Black community.
I feel that I had to make an unfair choice.
Why can’t Black people have our own safe, sustainable and independent community where we can be represented fairly, where we don’t have to deal with job discrimination and unfair policing, poor schools and wealth disparity? Where we don’t have to feel caught between two worlds?…