Thoughts from a Black woman

Photo courtesy of Journey Sherman

An introduction to a series on being Black at Tech

Nearly 60 years ago Malcolm X said “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” After all this time this sentiment still rings true. While white America sees Black men as dangerous and as a threat to society, it often doesn’t see Black women at all. Over the course of this series, I will reflect on my personal experiences at Tech as a Black woman. It is no secret that Tech and the majority of its students are fairly progressive, but in no way is this campus a utopia for its Black students. My experiences at Tech are in no way indicative of every Black experience at this institution.

I often find myself thinking back to 2016 when Trump said that he could walk down 5th avenue, shoot someone and not lose any votes. Although this statement is hyperbolic in nature, he’s right. As a Black woman at Tech, there are days when I feel as though I could walk through campus wearing nothing but a smile and still go unnoticed. There are times that I am noticed, and only recognized for my complexion.

During my first year at Tech on campus, I was asked on two separate occasions whether I was a student or not. I asked my white peers if this had ever happened to them and it had not. One of the times it happened I was with two other friends that were not white. I was walking slightly ahead of them and only I was asked if I was a student as we entered the library.

Instances like these confirmed my imposter syndrome and all but solidified what I thought to be true. I didn’t belong here. I was a transfer student and a liberal arts major. I had already chosen ‘the black sheep’ of majors at a STEM school and would face great belittlement because of it. I didn’t want my non-Black peers to think I wasn’t smart enough to get in the traditional way or that any academic success I had was due to being in an ‘easy’ major.

When I admitted to being a transfer student from Georgia State and an LMC major, I noticed their silent sighs of relief. It felt as though my confession stroked their confirmation bias, that Black students couldn’t get in to Tech on their own merit and that I had affirmative action to thank for my admittance. Although that nagging voice will always make me question my being here, I have come a long way since then. I soon realized that I should be celebrating my differences and embracing them. Over the past two years I have found my place at Tech while keeping a few key things in mind. It is not Black student’s job to educate our non-Black peers on the Black experience and it is definitely not our responsibility to speak for our race as a whole.

I have taken courses on Blackness and been the only Black student in the room. Remove the pressure off yourself to be the sole voice of Blackness. Speak up if you want to and not because you feel like you have to. Another thing to remember, which seems cliche to say is, do not let anyone put you in a box. In every on-campus organization I have ever been apart of, there is usually no more than a few Black members.

As a Black person involved in many on-campus organization, it seems as though you are not allowed to be mediocre. You are expected to fill a role that has already been decided for you.

Are you going to be the funny one? The athletic one? The Michelle? The Barack? I am here to tell you that you are more than allowed to be average. You will be labeled as one thing or another regardless of whether you want to be or not, so you might as well be who you want.

As an editor at the Technique, I have finally found an organization that let’s me be my true, authentic-self. This organization is one of the few clubs where I am free to celebrate my Blackness, but not be defined by it. This publication wants to uplift a diverse array of voices and be a platform for expressing Black struggles, but also Black achievement and success.

We as Black scholars, are needed at Tech. We are integral to the heart of the institution. We are not a quota number, a box to check off or a burden. Although we are few, we are stronger than we know. I hope to bring awareness to sensitive topics impacting Black students while also starting a dialogue with non-BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) on how to make Tech a more inclusive and welcoming place for all.

This column will also act as an outlet for Black students to submit their stories or essays.