My desire to attend college was merely my plan to escape the inner city. I was trying to escape being trapped in the midst of turmoil until I left this earth.
This feeling came from growing up within communities displaced by the crack epidemic. To see your elders strung out on drugs, makes you envision your own future.
Witnessing the sights of women and young girls strolling blocks known for prostitution, I became scared of what my life would be if I was forced to survive in the ghetto forever.
Making it to a university was my game plan and exit strategy.
Now that I have risen beyond the confines of the inner city into mainstream America, I have been introduced to the politics of race and must interact with white supremacy in more dynamic ways than before.
It was hard growing up in the inner city. However, it has been extremely difficult being removed from the inner city and suddenly placed on a predominately white campus. Living in a small, majority white town.
Culture shock would be an understatement.
My personality and inner city sass has made me public enemy number one. I blame myself, for failing to master the art of code-switching. You get the same person with me no matter where I am. I am unapologetically myself at all times and I know it makes white folks uncomfortable.
I do not aim in any way to be disrespectful.
I’m just over the days of feeling inadequate in spaces dominated by white folks and feeling that I have to alter ways of myself in their presence.
It seems a bit funny that I am supposed to be thriving in a space that makes me feel odd about who I am, which is exactly what this university has done.
My assertiveness, honesty and courage to speak my mind is something that is important in the inner city.
However, within systems of white supremacy (white dominance and ownership of every major social, political and economic industry) my character is deemed threatening to white folks. I have found this aspect out in the most interesting ways.
Since I do not represent what is considered the ideal woman set forth by the dominant culture and ideology, my experience in spaces dominated by white folks such as Humboldt State University is that I am surveilled more, gossiped about by faculty and administration and under constant scrutiny.
If I was employed by HSU, my job would be on the line. Since I am a student, there is no penalty and the university is forced to listen and accommodate. If my “delivery” is appropriate of course.
I am tone-policed in spaces dominated by white people. More focus is upon my tone of voice, instead of what I am saying, no matter the level of validity within my statements.
Add the “angry Black woman” stereotype and the Black woman is really perceived as illegitimate and irrational. Half the time our overall presence is perceived as “aggressive” in these predominantly white spaces.
I appreciate the struggle my ancestors put up to integrate us into the larger society but I feel like within that, Black people were forced to lose a sense of ourselves and our independence.
Before integration, Black people were not allowed on college campuses, which forced us to create our own universities.
Now Black students are funneled through and taught “education” within the same institutions that used to be responsible for our oppression.
I am extremely annoyed about my experience at HSU because I got accepted into 7 other universities. HSU’s Educational Opportunity Program called me almost every week and even paid for my dorm. Having a direct connection to the school and going on a free trip to preview the school significantly aided in my choice to attend HSU.
I always think of how excited I was when I got my acceptance letter from Tuskegee University, a historically Black college/university (HBCU) in Alabama. I have friends who attend Tuskegee who are being professionally developed .
They are having a good time at school while excelling in their studies and the business attire the student body wears collectively, is very inspiring and gives the school a great touch.
My experience at HSU has been quite the opposite and has made me long for the historically Black college experience.
At an HBCU, everything is already geared towards the Black student and they are not made to feel like “minorities” and the other on their college campus.
Everything at an HBCU is about developing the Black student for life beyond college.
I was sought after to increase HSU’s minority students, not because the school cared about me personally. They just ended up calling the wrong girl from the inner city after she got accepted, in attempts to increase/maintain their African-American student enrollment.
HSU could not care less about my development as a Black student on this campus or in life thereafter. This is why success to me doesn’t mean some Ph.D. anymore and climbing the higher institution ladder.
I am focused more on sovereignty, self-sufficiency and developing myself economically through autonomous Black businesses.
Success to me now means figuring out exactly what you want in life and plotting ways to get there, outside of the blueprint set forth by white America.
At the end of the day I will always have a love/hate relationship with the university system. It did help me to escape the inner city like so many of my peers and it continues to be one of the only avenues for those like me to do so.
However, people should not be made to feel like losers because they did not attend college and Black people especially, should not be dependent upon the same systems for success which once locked them out.
(Originally published in HSU’s campus newspaper The Lumberjack in 2015 under a weekly column I produced entitled Slauson Girl Speaks which won a regional award)