BY: KIARRA DELOUIS
Repeatedly seeing one specific example of success can make you feel "othered" if you are the opposite of that example, or don't fit that typical description.
White America tends to belittle those who are different, which has historically been shown through discrimination and systemic racism. In response, it is almost a natural instinct for minorities to feel pressure to assimilate or conform in order to be acknowledged and respected by the majority.
When you are taught that you are not enough and don't see enough people like you inside and outside the classroom, you begin to behave and develop habits that stem from a sense of worthlessness. This certainly can be the case for Black students but the truth is: We are all more than enough.
When will that be reflected in our professors?
Black professors show Black students what's possible. They represent Black excellence, not only teaching subject matter, but also showing students how to navigate a world ruled by whiteness.
College is bigger than what our parents and guardians frequently emphasizeâ€”studying hard and getting good grades. It is a journey that consists of books and essays, but also comes with stress, tears and doubts. That's where a Black professor, alum or staff member can help. They typically have similar backgrounds to Black students and can provide helpful insight on anything from selecting a major to feelings of discouragement. That cultural relatability and mentorship are invaluable.
Research suggests that mentorship can solve some of the gaps seen in college retention and success. While white students graduate at a rate of 62 percent, the rate of completion for Black students is only 38 percent, according to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
There are plenty of qualified Black professors and staff, waiting to be hired, who could improve the AU community. Black alumni have the power to influence a class of students who may be doubting themselves or questioning their capabilities. It is important for Black excellence to be showcased on college campuses so that it can be multiplied and normalized.
Black students face unique challenges at predominantly white institutions. When life and school become too much to bear, it is therapeutic to be able to express those feelings to someone who can relate.
Black professors inspire; their success shows students that even in light of the difficulties of existing in predominantly white spaces, the grass can be somewhat greener on the other side.
To see people who look like us in positions of power only reminds us of the potential we have, even after centuries of oppression and white supremacy. Barack Obama's presidency was influential for that very reason; we went from slaves to business owners and college graduates. Every day we continue to beat the odds, despite them being stacked against us.
White privilege is real. Generational wealth is real. And the way that society and the media directly and indirectly, consciously and subconsciously, exclude groups of people who don't fit their image of success is real, too.
Don't solely believe in all that the media says; they depict us as thugs and single mothers. Believe in your abilities, skills and goals. Don't allow others to make you feel like there are limits to your success because you are enough, more than enough. Continue to represent what you love and keep in mind that the generation behind you is watching, learning and thirsting for motivation and inspiration. Black excellence is powerful. Black excellence is real.
Feature photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash