I don’t think I’m better than you because I have a college education!
While some people reading that statement are mildly confused by the random burst of frustration, others related instantaneously.
The other day while discussing my dinner plans with my siblings, I hinted at wanting something, (probably sushi) that rattled my siblings with yuck-factor. My brother then commented, “Aye, don’t forget where you came from!” The statement both tickled and irritated me, because I didn’t know my taste buds had to remain in a specific guideline for me to maintain my street cred, or lack thereof. Furthermore, the number of times my black card has been revoked, at this point in life because of personal interests outside of ‘normal’, is not even funny. I can’t play spades, and sometimes chopsticks are simply my preferred utensil choice for meals.
The truth is, I never forgot! I honestly think about it every day! It has both molded and shifted everything about who I am today.
Many times though, during heated discussions, the statement that I think I’m better than others because of my degrees, has come up in some fashion. When I ask for an explanation, there is none, just festered anger and envy towards me.
Growing up, my family moved around a lot. We didn’t have much, and frequently had to live with others as my mom worked to provide for five children. While I was exposed to many things growing up, I also felt that I missed out on different experiences due to circumstantial poverty.
Education expectations from my family were pretty straightforward – graduate high school! That’s where the bar was set, and nobody felt the need to shift it, myself included. However, I had a high school counselor that saw something in me at the time that I didn’t see in myself. While she was interested in changing the trajectory of my life, I saw college as a means to remove myself from the dysfunction around me and, in a way, start a new beginning.
College transformed me in ways that I would never have imagined. It allowed me to meet people from various backgrounds, travel, mature, and explore. While some people go to college with the idea of gaining a degree and becoming successful, I went to college to find stability. All the extra things that came along the way were a bonus.
While conversations regarding being a first-generation college graduate happened at my HBCU, there was little conversation on how to navigate the nuisances and isolation you’d experience from family and friends when you returned home. Any requests to try or see something new were quickly dismissed, and a rebuttal on ideas or beliefs was viewed as shoving my college education in people’s faces. I wanted to share transparency, exposure, and newness, but somehow that translated to the bougie outsider in their eyes.
A toggle between identity and acceptance ensued.
Having a career working in college access was the beginning of understanding how hard it is for others to show excitement or acceptance to something they’ve never experienced before.
Degrees, exquisite taste buds, and traveling the world meant that I had experienced more life than those around me, and that equated to being better than, in the eyes of those I grew up with and around. Though this was never my delivery, it was the reality of those who perceived it that way.
Over time, staying true to who I had become and creating the space for others to experience new things with me shifted perception for some. I’m sure if anyone in my family is reading this now, they may still feel that I can be a bit eclectic with life, but they can’t deny the exposure and new experiences we’ve created together. Now, whether they liked or disliked it, I couldn’t guarantee, but our shared story was enough “thank you” for me.
So, I continue to rattle the status quo of what being a black girl from the hood entails. My college education allowed me to take advantage of opportunities others ignored. Many have questioned why I go against the grain, but I genuinely believe that I get the luxury of shifting the thoughts of those around me through adventure and storytelling.
I have younger generations in my family and career who are watching me, curious about my world travels, and the random snacks I bring to family functions and events. My hope is that they find peace in their individuality and never allow their upbringing to hinder their circumstances or desire to explore new things.
Gaining a sense of purpose makes adversity easier to sit in.
This is so REAL and I am sure many others can relate! I think its good to let others know that we are not alone, fellow “degreed black girls.” Keep Shining!
This is perfectly said!!! These words came from my thought, directly onto paper. This writer articulated what many of us women feel but don’t have the courage to say. Though I wasn’t raised in the hood, I can definitely relate to some of these points. Can’t wait to read more!!!
Yesssss!!!! I am one of those family members(Little sister you be exact) that was like why does she want to put spicy seasoned watermelon and pineapples on the BBQ grill? 🤔 where we’re from only meat goes there! However I’m now in love with it! 🥰 this women definitely gives me every bit of encouragement to say it’s never to late to get started on anything in life! So proud of you sis! 🤞🏾💜
Cuzzzooooo this hella dope!! The “ghetto comment” from a YOUNG DEGREED BLACK MAN! On so many levels I can relate to this because we moved around a lot as kids as well. Seeing you walk across the stage pushed me to finish college and Be able to walk across the stage throwing the Bs up 👌🏾. We all proud of you tho! Keep it up.
Sis, I absolutely loved your story!!! Your story is relatable in so many ways. I liked that you mentioned that you don’t think you are better than anyone because you have a college education. A lot of people assume that about others. Your story will help others realize that you can grow up in the hood & still make something of yourself. Your story can help people understand that the lack of motivation or push from family is why some black girls strive to find a way out the hood, and then help their family/friends elevate as well. You did a great job explaining that you can be a black girl from the hood, get degrees, be successful, and still not ever forget where you came from. This hit home for me on so many levels. Great job, sis!
I love this! Please know people always have a negative reaction to what they don’t understand. More often than not it comes from family and it hurts when instead of congratulating you are met with negativity. It is so sad but please don’t stop being the amazing you that you are. You are needed and like you said the younger generations are watching.
I love this and you are speaking for so many, including me. I’m glad you were able to have your experiences so others and the younger generation can see that example through you and be open to new things.
I can relate 100%. It’s crazy how life experiences advance us significantly and how others interpret those advancements. This was unfiltered and appreciated!
❤❤❤ So glad you took that leap of faith and discovered that life is more than what’s in front of you, this is very encouraging because I also step out of the box and often get called weird for trying and liking different things, continue to do you and keep shining.
Yyyyaaaasssssssssss Come through come through sis! 😏 We not better we just choose to DO BETTER! You know what I say all the time lbs. You’ve inspired me in so many ways I think your the expert in everything 🤣🤣🤷♀️. Keep being YOU 😘
This is an Amazing work of art and so true story sharing. You have crated a piece that shows little Black Girls and Boys it is OK to obtain in higher education and to not be afraid to try new things in life. Most young people do not try new things because the people around them do not feel its”Cool”. But this piece says, Be You, Be Bold, and don’t Apologize for getting an education and growing into who you are destined to be. Great job sis.