Recent Reflections

I’ve been taking a break from writing, not because I wanted to ignore this, but because I, much like others in this country, was spending a lot of time with my family. Coming back to Austin for a little while, I’ve come to surround myself around my support system, and lord knows I need them now more than ever. This year has definitely been one of the hardest years I have had to date, but when looking at my year, I know that I am very fortunate compared to others who have been immediately impacted by struggles. There are people who weren’t able to turn to their support team, people who won’t ever see their support team again, and it isn’t their fault.

My continuing journey to understand blackness has been very big this year, and I have come to a point where I feel like I will never finish this journey no matter how hard I try. I have also come to the point where I have accepted this, because I know that I am only human and am limited in that nature. But this year has also been about challenging thoughts I have had about myself and others as well as expanding myself past the narrowness of my mind. I have had many times where I have had to call out or in for someone, but there have been way more times this year where I have been the one who needed calling out or in. And I refuse to sugar coat it because I am a human, and am far from perfect, and I refuse to present myself as perfect. This year has given me life, but has also given me death and mourning, and this is what I need to get off my chest today.

When people look at me now compared to the beginning of the year, they would say that I’m stronger, wiser, more resilient, etc. And I’ll admit, I have definitely grown a lot in this short span of twelve months. I’ve worked to become a better student, worker, friend, sister, and daughter. My efforts have been noticed, and that’s certainly satisfying, but as I’ve reached the end of the year I find myself asking how I can do more. And I also find myself thinking a lot about time; how much has gone by, how quickly it’s going by, having it and wondering when I won’t anymore.

This year, I had a birthday, got older. I am one of the lucky ones. People like me don’t get these luxuries of aging and going to college and having your family available. I get to eat food, drink, laugh, and have fun, but there are so many others who don’t get to. Because their lives were destroyed by a system that our country and many of its citizens rely on so heavily: the police system.

For people of color, and especially black people, there has always been antagonization of overall blackness, and in addition, the criminalization of blackness. Black people, from the time they first reached this country, have been antagonized due to white supremacy amongst other things. With the ending of slavery came the opening of prisons and the beginning of mass incarceration of black people.

The police have been conditioned to believe that people of color are easy targets and are the primary victims of abuse and brutality by the police and those in the majority, white people, are conditioned to not only be okay with this but to continue to justify it. I tend to not fear the outright and blatant people, as least not as much, because at least I know where we stand. I tend to fear those who claim vehemently that these people deserved to die because cops are always right.

There’s probably going to be a part two to this, but I really need to focus on self-care right now.

-JW

Why People of Color Dislike Police

I’ve been taking a break from writing, not because I wanted to ignore this, but because I, much like others in this country, was spending a lot of time with my family. Coming back to Austin for a little while, I’ve come to surround myself around my support system, and lord knows I need them now more than ever. This year has definitely been one of the hardest years I have had to date, but when looking at my year, I know that I am very fortunate compared to others who have been immediately impacted by struggles. There are people who weren’t able to turn to their support team, people who won’t ever see their support team again, and it isn’t their fault.

My continuing journey to understand blackness has been very big this year, and I have come to a point where I feel like I will never finish this journey no matter how hard I try. I have also come to the point where I have accepted this, because I know that I am only human and am limited in that nature. But this year has also been about challenging thoughts I have had about myself and others as well as expanding myself past the narrowness of my mind. I have had many times where I have had to call out or in for someone, but there have been way more times this year where I have been the one who needed calling out or in. And I refuse to sugar coat it because I am a human, and am far from perfect, and I refuse to present myself as perfect. This year has given me life, but has also given me death and mourning, and this is what I need to get off my chest today.

When people look at me now compared to the beginning of the year, they would say that I’m stronger, wiser, more resilient, etc. And I’ll admit, I have definitely grown a lot in this short span of twelve months. I’ve worked to become a better student, worker, friend, sister, and daughter. My efforts have been noticed, and that’s certainly satisfying, but as I’ve reached the end of the year I find myself asking how I can do more. And I also find myself thinking a lot about time; how much has gone by, how quickly it’s going by, having it and wondering when I won’t anymore.

This year, I had a birthday, got older. I am one of the lucky ones. People like me don’t get these luxuries of aging and going to college and having your family available. I get to eat food, drink, laugh, and have fun, but there are so many others who don’t get to. Because their lives were destroyed by a system that our country and many of its citizens rely on so heavily: the police system.

For people of color, and especially black people, there has always been antagonization of overall blackness, and in addition, the criminalization of blackness. Black people, from the time they first reached this country, have been antagonized due to white supremacy amongst other things. With the ending of slavery came the opening of prisons and the beginning of mass incarceration of black people.

The police have been conditioned to believe that people of color are easy targets and are the primary victims of abuse and brutality by the police and those in the majority, white people, are conditioned to not only be okay with this but to continue to justify it. I tend to not fear the outright and blatant people, as least not as much, because at least I know where we stand. I tend to fear those who claim vehemently that these people deserved to die because cops are always right.

There’s probably going to be a part two to this, but I really need to focus on self-care right now.

-JWv

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The Difference between Integration and Desegregation at Colleges and Universities

After the conclusion of my third semester at Duke, it has come to my attention that there are many things that even the best education does not properly or even at all. Concepts, concrete events, whole movements of Othered people (totally throwing some shade). Something that I feel needs to be addressed is the progress of our country and just how far we have come from the time of Jim Crow and its gruesome history. The Civil Rights movement has been and continues to be whitewashed in history due to its resistance to Eurocentric standards and way of life. In class, we learn about how the state of our country is improving constantly, some have even gone as far to say that we have reached a post-racial status. But with Black Lives Matter, movements fighting for the rights of the indigenous people, the rejecting of refugees, college protests, and grotesque police brutality, just how far have we moved from the times of Jim Crow and ‘Whites Only’. Fountain signs?

If you’re a minority and you’ve ever called out some type of racism, no doubt that you’ve heard “well I have __ friends, so I can’t be racist.” Or you’ve gotten the lecture about how this is 2015, not 1915. Or, if you’re in college, especially a predominantly white institution like me, you’ve gotten the whole “well, you came here, so this place / I / my thoughts can’t possibly be racist.” I feel like I’ve spent so much time trying to explain why something is racist or offensive that I haven’t had near as much time to explain how to change it. And while I do understand that picking and choosing your battles are key, there is a need to react with some form of patience, depending on the situation.

At Duke, and other colleges and universities across the nation, they are both bound by the public and by the students. They need for the public to feed into the prestige, but it also needs these students to continue to have that social clout. They also owe it to the donors and financial backers who help fund these institutions. So when it comes to recruiting students and financial contributors, they work to appeal to them in every possible way. One of the most effective methods is to promote diversity and to make it known that they work toward encompassing a holistic approach of the world. But just how diverse have they gotten, and where does integration fit in?

This is such a big topic, and I could go on for a while, but for now, I want to address the populations of people of color and marginalized people at these institutions and where they fit into environments. When those students at Mizzou who protested made national news we got the idea that this was the first time they had stood up against the ineffectiveness of their President, and we continued to believe that as other schools stood up. But in actuality, there’s been struggle long before the time of smartphones and Twitter. The difference now is that with the increase of the public view and advancement of technology, we have more opportunity to publicly critique and judge.

Marginalized students come on to campus expecting to find a community that overall accepts them and welcomes them as they go through the next phase in their lives. Instead, what they get is emotional, and sometimes physical trauma as well as fatigue. At schools like Duke and Yale, most of the students and faculty are white. And what isn’t told to the marginalized students is what is expected of them upon arrival. They are expected to unpack their painful experiences at the expense of their classmates and professors learning more. These students are the diversity, but are expected to do the work of educating these students and faculty about their history, struggle, culture, and more. And while that would make for a perfect opportunity for cultural exchange, which would actually help with diversity, it leads to white validation, which puts those who are white at an advantage.

These institutions were never meant for these marginalized students to be there. They were built to educate those who fit into the sphere of whiteness, to give them opportunities that would advance them further than those who are marginalized. These institutions are built on the wealth and bodies of those people, yet they were created so that they could figure out ways to further marginalize them, while they continue to benefit.

After Brown v. Board of Education, schools began welcoming more and more students of color, but not without reluctance. There were many sit-ins and protests for basic rights, such as designated spaces for them like living areas and buildings. And we have seen recently, these struggles are still ongoing. There have been many instances in which students have been questioned by campus security as to whether they are trespassing, like a recent incident with a recent grad student on Duke’s Perkins Library, or they have been severely harmed in proximity to campus, like Martese Johnson. When students face macro aggressions on campus, these colleges and universities tend to turn away from the students’ voices and ignore the fact that there are students that feel unsafe.

We have reached a point where you can go onto most campuses and see faces from different countries and backgrounds, but that’s a superficial way of determining whether we have reached a state of integration. Integration means the combining of different things into a whole, and that is not where we’re at yet by far. We have desegregated, brought two groups together, but these groups are not merged together, simply due to the inherent nature of these institutions. Without making any changes to the way education is done, or the way you center the students and faculty, you can’t expect students to feel as one. Perhaps there isn’t an easy way to fix this problem, but by expecting those who are marginalized to fix a problem that they did not create, it only perpetuates the issues.

-JW

Duke Sophomore Year Semester Reflections

Hey everyone! I know it’s been awhile, but I need to give an update. I just finished my third semester of Duke, so I am now going into my second semester of sophomore year. First and foremost, I would like to say that when I got into Duke, and especially this time last year, I did not expect to be here this long. I honestly thought that this was some big fluke and that people were finally going to realize that I am a complete imposter. But this semester, academically, I’ve been alright. I think that it’s more than one factor, but it’s been good. But that’s not to say that there haven’t been some things I have had to struggle with. Lord, so many things… Because this is an update, and I do want to give a holistic approach to my experience, I’m going to break this down to a few categories.

  • Friendships: This has definitely been a different year than last year. I’m now more used to Duke, and I’ve gotten to know some different people. I have also learned that you aren’t going to vibe with everyone, and that’s okay. I am naturally a people pleaser, so I’m always trying to say yes to everyone and everything, and I can’t be everywhere at once; it just isn’t realistic. I’ve learned that some of these people are genuine, and I can talk to them and expect them to be there, but honestly, there are going to be some superficial friends. And you don’t have to be genuine friends with everyone. You just have to learn how to discern what type of friend that person is. There are friends I have for going out, friends I have for staying in, friends I have that will help me dismantle various forms of oppression. I have friends in every category. You don’t need to have one group of friends for everyone.
  • Personal Relationships: I am not going to talk too much about my relationship status, because I’m not that type of person, and that’s just in general. I’m not the type of person to make sweet and cutesy Facebook posts, and I’m not the type of girl who needs to be by their partner at all times. I am a busy person. I’m going to let my partner do what they need to do, and I’ll do what I need to do, and we’ll come together, and we’ll come together when we need to. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially since I’m a college student who works part time and is always trying to find a side gig. My school and personal life are something I value, in addition to my independence. I’ve been independent from my parents since I was 17, and to date, I put myself through school and pay my own bills and all that jazz. I like being on my own, but I also like having personal relationships. However, not everyone is like that. Relationships are going to be different depending on the person, and I shouldn’t worry about those who are in different places, nor should I worry about those who can’t keep up with me. I don’t have many standards, but I shouldn’t have to lower the ones that I do because “I can never get a partner that could possibly meet them.” My standards are standards for a reason, and there’s always going to be someone who can keep up with me, and I’m not going to give up because it takes longer to get to that person.
  • Academics: Academically, coming to Duke, I thought I was not at the mental or educational capacity to keep up with this school. My grades were certainly nowhere near what I was used to, I would come back from class and break down, and I always felt like I wasn’t going to make it. I have had many thoughts of transferring or dropping out, to the part where I was looking for different schools. This semester, I felt generally good. I kept waiting for the intense academic burnout that I had last year, but it didn’t come. I liked going to (most) of my classes, and I enjoyed speaking up and participating. I felt like I was good in my classes, and that motivated me to keep going. Now, here I am, already finished with finals, not because I slacked off and turned in crap, but because I pushed through and worked hard so that I wouldn’t come back to see my family with classwork still looming over my head. Last year I felt like there was one way to make a lot of money, and now, I just want to figure out how to make money doing things that I love. It may take some time, but I’m going to take advantage of the time I’m in college to get myself together. I may not be the richest person, but I want to be happy.
  • Activism: I don’t consider myself an activist, honestly, if you check out my other post I made recently, you will see why. But on campus I have definitely been viewed as one, and people want me to make appearances and promote things. It’s interesting, and weird, to be honest. I am not used to being the person that people look to for help. I do things because I feel moved to do it. My work is never enough in my opinion, so I’m always striving to do more. This blog and my vlog are different, but they both encompass the ways that Duke has changed me, as well as the way I do work. Having people revere me as some activist has no qualms about getting her hands dirty honestly scares me. I have no intention of becoming a martyr for any of the fights I take up. I just want for others, as well as me, to have a better quality of life, and to not be held back by things we cannot control. I have a passion for fighting for what’s right, and while this certainly didn’t start and will not end at Duke, being here has given me a privilege I did not have in the ghettos of Texas.
  • Family: Families are weird, but you only have one. I have definitely used my family for support, and my baby siblings have been my light and motivators when I worked late nights to make money. Being with my family has been key, and being without them at Duke has forced me to figure out different ways to interact. It may not be what I’m used to, but that’s what makes it so rewarding
  • Oppression at Duke: I think I’m going to make a video about this, so stay tuned, but I will address it briefly here. There has been a lot going on at Duke, and I started vlogging because I realized that I cannot trust the institution to properly document my experience. This school wasn’t made for me, therefore I need to figure out how to make it work for me. The university understands completely what needs to change, and they act as if they don’t, which has fueled even more issues. Duke is an academically amazing institution, but there are so many issues that need to be addressed.

I know that this isn’t everything, so I most likely will be posting a video to get more into detail. But here’s my life update, and now that I’m out of school, I should be able to post more.

-JW