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Forum nameOkay Activist Archives
Topic subjectAll things equal
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=22&topic_id=4699&mesg_id=4728
4728, All things equal
Posted by Nettrice, Thu Jun-26-03 01:53 AM
When I applied to college it was through a national talent search and I figured that there was no way for the college to know that I was Black. My mentor at the time was quick to school me that the admissions people would know and soon I realized he was right. I went to the awards reception realizing that I was one of two or three minorities out of about 20 winners. Four years later I had my BFA and another scholarship to grad school through Phillip Morris' Artists of Color program.

While in graduate school, a bunch of us had a heated discussion about affirmative action, esp. since a few of the students in the department were folks who got Artist of Color scholarship. The white students didn't think it was fair but we all agreed that it helped to level the playing field a little.

Being the token isn't easy. Usually, these people are singled out and unable to find a real niche in their environment, so they join others like them. Education sometimes does more damage because it causes many Black folks to believe that they are somehow above other Black folks. The "talented tenth" are not known to remain in the Black community. They have a ticket out and so they go. This creates a hole or rift in Black communities that social programs can't really fix.

All things equal I would not have to worry about distancing myself from my own family and community. I would expect to be supported and acknowledged but my folks are still struggling. My successes made it no better or worse for them. We live on opposite sides of our world. If you were to ask them they would feel proud of my sister and my accomplishments but they probably couldn't tell you why we never speak.

My father got his GED one year before I graduated from high school. He was proud when I got my first college scholarship but perplexed when I decided to continue on to grad school. Currently, we are estranged. He acknowledges that he did not support me through my lean college years but insists that he was giving me the freedom I wanted. He is aging and is bitter/sad about not having a relationship with his daughters. Like our mother, he grew up poor and unlike our mother he dropped out of high school. Affirmative action gave my sister and I opportunities that my father did not have. It gave my mother a chance to escape poverty but...

...it did nothing to build our family/community. Affirmative action is not a fix but it does provide opportunities for people to improve their lives (individually). I am sure that it is necessary for many of us but we still need a community foundation that strengthens ties and bridges the rifts.