Art by Danielle Wierenga
This is not a piece for Black undergraduate students, sorry y’all. I have a masters degree already. This is about my preservation. This is about saving my mind. This is about loving my body. I need to leave the OU for a couple of days (or weeks, or years), and I need to do it soon.
As a black man at OU, I am constantly subjected to the idea of what I am, rather than the truths of who I am. My first semester has been a unique kind of purgatory, and I’m sure this is the truth for countless other Black people existing here. Daily I personally see taunting, harassment, and isolation; I feel my community dying.
I am slowly spiraling downward, finding myself in the University Counseling Center’s waiting room every week. Weekly I learn of a new way to survive: shuffling from office to office, attempting to advocate for myself, hoping someone will hear me screaming.
The stereotypes and microagressions
are debilitating and painful. I have been left feeling marginalized, invisible, and marked non-important by this institution. As lucky as I am to be accepted into this Tier I Research Institution that historically would have never let me attend because of the color of my skin, now that I am in, I am more angry than ever before.
I did not apply for the toxic racial climate.
The application did not tell me my humanity would be lost.
The GRE did not prepare for this emotional violence.
This was not supposed a OU student’s experience, but it is mine.
The tour guide lied to me.
I need a break.
This dark space I am in right now is not successful nor is this healthy. Yet, I am told by the institution that is my problem. I am told by the institution that I am making up this despair. I am told by the institution that my Black hole of depression belongs only to my Black thoughts and applies only to my Black body.
The answer is not for me to work harder. I need a break. I need a moment to get away and recharge, reflect, and realign, because, frankly, I deserve it, because I need to stop waiting on someone to validate my decision to study here.
In all reality, I am too tired. I am exhausted. On one hand, this experience solidifies my desire to keep going and earn a PhD but on the other it is a confirmation of how I always knew others saw me. I am so emotional about this decision. I am super suspicious of my own success. I know the system is broken. I know institutions like OU are successful at erasing the narratives of people like me with a photo op. I know OU STILL has a lot of work to do to fix the lack of diversity and understanding among marginalized students, but I do not have be here to watch them not do it.
Advice from the Author – Action Steps
1.) Develop a better understanding of who you are and how your identity impacts your life. Use resources like the University Counseling Center (UCC) or other mental health service provider.
2.) Develop conversational skills, active listening skills, and helping skills in order to dialogue across difference. Use resources like the Diversity Experience, One Sooner training, or the UCC (above.)
3.) Collect peer-reviewed information and build knowledge about your identity and identities different from your own. Use resources like your reference librarian, the writing center, the Women and Gender Studies Department, and the African American Studies Department.
4.) Get involved in low level systemic change. Use your resources like the Women and Gender Studies Department, the Writing Center, and Orgsync or take this OU petition, for example.
Charles Terry, M.Ed, partners with students and leaders to create energizing performance art. Charles’s hope for humanity is that performance art will empower students and leaders to critically engage communities.