If you haven’t read Part One, stop wyd and go read that now.
I’ve had a long battle with my family over the lack of attention paid to me as a child. The idea was always “Patrice is good”. Listen, it’s all fine and dandy to support the students who are at risk. And I understand that in a quantifiable educational context, that type of progress is juicier for the numbers. However, I do think it’s a different kind of crime to ignore an otherwise marginalized student simply because they have a basic handle on how to produce good grades.
There were so many opportunities I passed up. So many paths I didn’t pursue that could have placed me so much further. My Africana Studies education actually showed me that I internalized the idea that struggle was indeed the only way to “make it”. And that might time would one day miraculously appear like Jesus cracking the sky to call us home. Even now, I still struggle with feeling like I belong here. Sometimes I do feel like everyone else is so much farther than I. If I was a black male, PERHAPS, I would have had a different story. We know how much academia loves being responsible for manufacturing an educated black male.
The internal fire that burned for my brilliance was snuffed out so early in my educational life. I was sometimes interpreted as an obnoxious smartass as a child when the opportunity presented itself for me to be right. My family often made me feel like my opinion wasn’t valued when I was right. We all know Christian humility theory and the idea that as a woman I only have so much room to feel important.
I’ll give a quick ridiculous example of what I mean by not having my opinion/contributions valued. My family goes to Disney World. My family does not like roller coasters. We walk up to Space Mountain at Epcot. Now, I’ve done my research. I’ve watched a VHS tape about all the Disney parks and their popular rides. I KNOW Space Mountain is a rollercoaster. Beyond that, I actually read the signs as we’re approaching the entrance for the indoor ride. There are all kinds of warnings that include not getting on the ride if you have back issues and all this stuff. I repeat over and over that this is indeed a rollercoaster. Nobody listens. 10 seconds after we step into our seats, it becomes painfully obvious that this thing was indeed a rollercoaster, and it’s submerged in almost complete darkness. I was too busy between feeling absolute terror and the applicable screams to say “I told you so”. But then I had to listen to all the cries for back pains and my witness my little brother’s trauma for something that could have all been so simply avoided. Silly, yes. Hilarious, maybe. But 23 years, and several life credentials later, I still have to occasionally hit my folks with a “silly rabbit” exclamation.
Between my own insecurity and my family’s “be humble” preaching, I’ve snuffed out my own voice. So now I’m so much more concerned with making sure I come across as a humble, hardworking, “so glad I’m even here” type girl than being proud and relishing in my accomplishments. I’m gravely embarrassed by people highlighting what I’ve done. I try my hardest not to tell people my age. That moment when people start doing the math to figure it out, I’m immediately trying to come up with a response that sounds like it came from Mother Teresa.
My undergraduate Africana Studies department was wonderful to me. And I’ll never deny that fact. They’ve all individually told me that I’m such a legitimately brilliant thinker and I need to not ever forget that. I try not to. I promise I do. I’m learning y’all. It’s a daily unlearning and reinforcement process. It’s just SO hard for me to think as highly of myself as others expect me to do. I think I’m good until I see much people big up themselves and I’m like ehh… I gotta talk about ME like that?
To this day, retelling my educational story is an emotional thing. Sometimes I do feel I’ll become invisible in academia if I stop at waiting for someone to recognize that I’m brilliant.
– Signed, Black Gifted and Insecure.