Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Trading Self-Destruction for Self-Determination

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Trading Self-Destruction for Self-Determination

Article excerpt

I arrived on campus with nothing. No vision, no goals, no agenda and no idea. However, I knew I wanted a college degree. I wanted to improve myself. As a Black man, I was determined to prove that I could accomplish what so many of my brothers could not.

Going to a predominantly White university in upstate New York was not the most ideal situation, but it offered me a chance. My mother wanted me to attend college locally. I was her only child and she wanted to protect me from the world. Unfortunately, such protection would have only castrated me and made me impotent. I wanted more and thought that going away to college would give it to me.

I arrived on campus and immediately created a bond with several other freshmen male students of color. We were all Educational Opportunity Program students. The idea was that we would all graduate together as an example of what Black and Latino men could do. Instead it turned into a collegiate version of the children's song "The 10 Little Indians."

We started our group with eight. We lost two after the first semester. They fell victim to the freedom of being away from home. Then three more were gone after the next semester. Homesickness did them in.

As for myself, I was academically dismissed after three lackluster semesters. I did everything within my power to get thrown out. I tried to take the entire weight of the race on my shoulders. I was considered militant because I wore medallions and had posters of Malcolm X. In a public speaking class my fellow classmates criticized my choice of Malcolm as the subject of my speech on heroes.

I desired to prove firsthand that Black men could be leaders. I joined the student senate and the Black student union. I auditioned for a theatre production being directed by the university's only Black faculty member. Outside of that, I was constantly bombarded with questions regarding Black life. My classmates wanted to know why Blacks were always angry. Why did we need Black History Month?

My professors were no better. I often wondered if they respected my abilities or if they considered me another affirmative action freeloader. In this whirlwind, I neglected my studies. …

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