They Love It When the Black Guy Comes to Class
I’m the only Black male sitting in my classroom.
Tonight’s class is Case Conceptualization and Treatment Strategies. My professor is questioning issues of diversity. The class looks at me as soon as she presents a scenario in which the client is an adolescent African-American male. The ignorance that swells in this thirty second expanse of time is nearly overwhelming.
Before you say it:
Yes, I attend a PWI — Predominately White Institution — or to be even more specific, an HSI — Hispanic Serving Institution.
Yes, I attended an HBCU — Historically Black College/University — in the past, before my tenure at my current university began.
Yes, I chose to attend this University and, no, I do not regret my decision.
No, I don’t feel I should need or be forced to attend an HBCU in order to avoid such interaction.
And, yes, similar things still happen even at those institutions of higher learning for people of color.
So, you can kill any developments of the seemingly endless PWI vs HBCU debate.
None of that changes the fact that I still am undeniably aggravated by my colleagues’ inability to set aside their own asinine biases in order to answer questions without having to look to me for a signal that the coast is clear. Even worse, I constantly correctly presume that whenever a scenario like this one is presented, they aren’t all looking for the green light to go ahead with their own ridiculous stereotypes. They’re looking to me to be the voice for them and to affirm that everyone with substantial amounts of melanin are exactly as they picture them in their heads. They’re looking at me to save them the embarrassment that I, myself, would invariably lay across them for making some small-minded remark about who/what/where/when/why Black people are or are not anything.
The most entertaining part for me is that I may or may not have all of the answers.
Do I look like a Black man? Sure, because I am. However, being born to a Trinidadian mother, raised by Trinidadian grandparents and grown up by elders from all about the Caribbean gives me a perspective that may be a bit different than what’s assumed of me. The lengths I’ve gone to just to fit in amongst my American counterparts of all races are almost too embarrassing to scribe. My acquaintances are always shocked to find out that I have an accent that matches my near-weekly curry cooking. I could easily deny the efficacy and/or necessity for mental healthcare, considering I grew up in environments which ignored mental crisis. I see the need, though.
I get gawked at and mumbled about for wearing t-shirts affirming those who look like me.
Yet in the next breath, I am silently chosen to deliver a vignette of The Authentic Black Experience. I’m chosen for what tidbits of temporarily relevant information I can provide, while having to know and fully understand the nuances of those who look nothing like me. I do double duty striving for the singular successes everyone around me are going after.
This place feels like the walls are beginning to slump. It seems like America has been slowly losing the little ability it may have had to save face. If this were poker, the table would know its tell.
In 2015, I am in a graduate program, pursuing a career that calls for those within it not to be biased in our judgments. It calls for us to actively acknowledge and place our biases to the side when dealing with others. I’m glad no one I sit with in class is licensed to do clinical work yet. This mixture doesn’t seem cohesive. Things don’t appear to be blending, harmoniously. I am a melting pot in what seems to be a melting pot and its contents are beginning to spill out, revealing the truth behind the facade.