Have you ever noticed that everyone puts you in a box? Some category, and that’s where they expect you to stay. As a single Black female mother with a chronic condition raised by a single mother in a multicultural family in the Entertainment business, people often think they know me. They make decisions about me without realizing the bias they’ve held against me. As someone who grew up in a household of boys, my need to prove people wrong was higher than most. I always looked for the underlying reason, the other side, and to find the whole picture. This comes from a mixture of my own stubbornness and experience with being stereotyped. My name is not commonly associated with Brown people. Often I get the look of surprise when people see my face after only seeing my name and body of work. I hope that we will lose these unconscious biases we have with people one day and just live in confidence that all people are capable of all the things.
For the most part, these microaggressions have rolled off my back. It comes with the territory of not being a cisgender heterosexual, able-bodied white protestant male. But recently, as people are more outspoken about how damaging and unnecessary these biases and microaggressions are, I’ve become more aware of just how often they happen daily. Also, that they come from those who pride themselves on being unbias and inclusive. Recently I was hit with the ol’ surprised look when talking about my school choices. And I was taken aback, but also a lot more annoyed than I expected. Why? Because the schools that I applied to are great. I picked them because they are fantastic, and I know that I will learn so much as a student there. I also know that I will contribute so much to the student body and represent the school that accepts me beautifully. I deserve to be at these schools. Now you are wondering, what schools did she apply to? Well, I applied to Princeton University and Yale University for Fall 2021. And the University of Texas at Austin for Spring 2022. I am currently waiting on the Princeton and Yale decisions.
When I first started back to school, I was apprehensive. I am on the other side of 35. I am a single mother. I am a patient with a chronic condition. I am over 35. I am a seasoned human being. I was unsure if I really belonged at a university with young people. However, I knew that I deserved a second chance at my education. My disease had ripped it from me, and here was an opportunity to finish sitting in front of me. With my hands shaking, I applied to community college. I wanted to get my feet wet. Pick my GPA back up because it fell while I was struggling with illness the first go around. I also wanted to make sure I could handle school while mothering and working. I found out I could. Not only could I handle it, but I was thriving. I was enjoying it and getting good grades. I was ready for primetime. As I started looking into the school transfer process, I knew I had to find schools where I could get the best education in government, law, and public policy. I didn’t have time to waste. I wanted to immerse myself in the college experience that IBD stole from me, graduate, get into grad school, graduate again, and then hit the ground running. I also needed to find a friendly school for non-traditional students. As well as a safe place to raise a young child of color while being a place that would continue to inspire Hippo toward his dreams of law and medicine. A lot went into deciding what schools I would apply to. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me; I’m a calculated risk-taker. I also enjoy a challenge. So I set my sights on a handful of schools and narrowed it down to the ones I applied to.
My college counselor was too busy reminding me that I had a lot on my plate and that schools like Princeton & Yale are schools that only pick the best of the best. While she marveled at how well-behaved my child was, I realized that she wasn’t going to be as much help as I needed her to be. She was had categorized me and put me in a box. If I needed to get where I needed to be, I would have to find outside counsel. She frustrated me, but she didn’t shock me. What surprised me was the response I got from a handful of people I thought knew me and supported me. An associate was talking to me about school. She is currently receiving her Master’s Degree. I had just sent off my last application, and I was full of excitement and fulfillment. There was so much that I had accomplished in a short period. Which was marled by grief, loss, and uncertainty, with the Pandemic topping off my last year and a half in my first leg of this collegiate restart. This associate expressed her congratulations and asked what schools I applied to. Before I spoke, a wave of embarrassment washed over me. I was 37 years old. And I was about to tell this woman that I had applied to three very competitive schools, two of them being prestigious Ivy League schools.
For a second, I thought, “Who do I think I am? The audacity of it all, Brooke. You sound silly.” So I shifted my weight, tilted my head, and embarrassingly with a blush, said, “Uh, Princeton University, Yale and then University of Texas at Austin. But UT is for the Spring. So…yeah.” My embarrassment was validated by her highly expressive look of shock and surprise at hearing my choices. “Wow!” she said. “UT is a good school.” She continued. I nodded and then started to feel better. Thinking that this woman of color, my colleague, was encouraged by my boldness. Until she followed up her statement with, “Princeton and Yale? Really? Those are Ivy League schools.” It hit me like a wet slap on a freezing cold night. I blinked and sat still. Yes, they are. And yes, I applied to them. And yes, I am worthy of applying to these universities.
I walked away from that conversation with a new feeling and motivation in my soul. I decided I would stop being embarrassed by my choices. I would instead revel in the excitement of the possibilities. I dared to believe in myself and my ability to be the type of student these schools are looking for. I am my ancestor’s greatest dream realized. I have the power to provoke and promote change, and I am doing so for my global community. I have the audacity to not allow my circumstances to dictate my future or my present. I am living my life and striving to do better each moment. I refuse to live in a box anymore. Whichever school accepts me, it will be my honor to represent them. I will continue to maintain a legacy of excellence.