This year the News and world report university rankings came out and my facebook page filled up with the responses to the list of “top universities.” My University placed higher than it ever had before, 4th place, and made my classmates feel as though their academic rigor was finally being recognized. However, I didn’t and couldn’t take joy in the college rankings for two reason. The first was because the rankings are both capitalist, elitist, and ultimately erroneous. And the second was because regardless of how many elite universities I attend or what their rankings are, my legitimacy of attending them has inevitably been questioned, because of the same discourse reverberating in the affirmative action debate.
The unfortunate part about affirmative action from the perspective of a black man is that it causes members of the affirmative action group to feel as though they have to defend their qualifications. As if members of white society haven’t been getting jobs based off of their privilege and networks for the past few centuries. However, this need to defend ones qualifications is a misunderstanding of the original point of affirmative action. The point was not to give people jobs who are less qualified, but to find equally qualified people and give them preferences for having to work twice as hard and run three times as fast to get half as far as their counterparts in any given career field.
Even though affirmative action is as controversial as red and blue states, if we take a historical viewpoint to understand it, the subject matter might be less tenuous. Unfortunately, people would rather forget the past and be colorblind to the realities of the present, rather than admit to having benefited from systemic advantages that have been granted to certain groups starting with colonization and sustaining itself until now.
Well, they want defense to why I got into the University of Chicago. Then it is a defense they will get.
This is a siren for all those who see black youth in college and think they’re only there because of their race.
As a Black kid, I got into one of the best colleges in the world because of my grandmother. I mean the moment she moved into an all-white community on the south side of Chicago destined her kindred to fight tooth and nail for access to a better life. I got into this school because of the crack house that I walked past every day while on my way to high school. The crack house the represented where poverty goes when left to its own reagonomic devices. I got into this school because of my gpa and my test scores, and because of my history. A history that weaves in and out of middle passage ways, a history that sinks into the zoot-suits of those men who had to survive, and a history that took Mississippi and turned racism into just another opportunity to enlighten. I got into my school because of my great grandfather whose prayers still move me to progress. I got into this school because of my mother who fed three kids who wanted for nothing with a disability that only made us able to persevere. I got into this school because poetry was the only language I knew while passing empty fields where grass never got cut in neighborhoods forgotten by the government and the private sector. I got into this school because I had no networks, no legacy, no privilege, only a history that told me I could, in fact, do anything. And now, I am educated, and there is nothing you can do about it.