Coping with Reality
Tiandra Bennett came to Schoolcraft College after being a stay-at-home mother for many years. She decided to begin her college journey as her youngest child was entering kindergarten. Despite her many responsibilities at home, Tiandra was active in many organizations at Schoolcraft, including Vice President of Student Activities and President of the Phi Theta Kappa international honors society chapter. Today she owns her own business (T.G.B.D. Management) and has a joint venture with TNT Boxing Management.
As I’m writing this essay, I’m numb because in order for me to be in a happy place or see this life in a positive light, I have to file my negative experiences in a locked file cabinet. I only realized that I do this from talking to my sister who listened to me as I told her how I didn’t want to be viewed as an angry Black woman or my words misconstrued. This caused me to look at the racist issues that I had encountered like making sure that I straighten my hair to go on an interview so that no one judges my outer appearance before viewing my knowledge and work ethic.
I feel the pain and injustice as I dredge up all of these memories of my child being treated differently on the playground because he is Black. Or a cashier questioning if I can afford the Chanel clothes that I was buying my sister. Or a cashier at Kroger denying my brand-new checks because she states that it was from out-of-state when it was only from three cities over.
These experiences are just a few of the many issues that African American women go through and then get up every day and dust yourself off to be better than your colleagues, fellow students or to compete in the world. The intent is to shake off the negativity because it conditions you to create coping mechanisms to deal with life’s woes.
Lastly, your perspective is so powerful that it influences and helps shape the world to be either a beautiful place or a horrific nightmare. This is why self-reflection is a must and please do your best to make sure you are doing your part in making the world the better place to coexist with everyone in it.
A Subtle Introduction to the Prominence of Racism
Nyia George was born and raised in Detroit. She is currently studying business administration and aspires to pursue entrepreneurship and a career in marketing. Nyia is the Vice President of Leadership for Schoolcraft College’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, an international honor society. Schoolcraft College’s Phi Theta Kappa Omicron Iota Chapter attained a 5 Star status in 2020.
My first interaction with racism was subtle and unexpected. Similar to when driving a car, thinking there is no one in your blind spot, only to be jolted to attention by a blaring horn when changing lanes. This experience was so well-concealed it has taken a number of years for me to recognize it for what it truly was.
In my eighth-grade English class, while reading one of our daily English lessons, we fell upon a story about slavery. The passage led to an open discussion, during which my English teacher said, “you guys are all my monkeys,” to a class full of students, some which were African American.
Although I was aware of the implications of the word “monkey,” I initially decided not to tell my parents, hoping to avoid any altercations. Eventually, I worked up the courage to tell them about the incident, and within hours, my father had contacted both my English teacher and principal.
The following week there was a conversation between the three of them, my principal defended my teacher without fully considering the issue. My English teacher played the role of the victim who felt innocent and unaware of the historical implication of the word “monkey.”
Yes, He Really Is the Professor
My name is Cedric Howie. On most days, in my professional life, I have a unique privilege that a small percentage of people in the world have. I am a professor of economics at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan. With the support of my parents and family, I have been soundly educated and trained. Before Schoolcraft, I had five years of experiences as a full-time faculty member in higher education. I am writing an essay about an event in my life and how it changed me. I am writing about an experience I had when I was younger to show what I learned and to tell how this event was important to me.
While the nation around me is experiencing anguish from racially charged incidents, there is often an insulation that comes with teaching in higher education. One fall day in 1991 I was reminded how quickly a sense of power can shift. It was my first semester teaching at Schoolcraft College. At that time, the college had four full-time Afro-American professors. We were in different disciplines: Communications, Computer Science, Economics, and English.
On that day, I began my lecture as usual. I was walking back and forth across the room engaging the class in dialogue about graphs drawn on the board. I could see the class attention was focused at the door. I was told that a mystery lady keeps peeking through the window in the door.
Suddenly, without warning, the door opened and in came the dean of the social science division along with the mystery lady. I was told that the student had come to the dean’s office three times and reported no economics class in session. She did see a Black guy in front on the class entertaining the students.
The dean calmy told her I was the professor. Her eyes looked at me. I could see her heart pounding. The sweating on her skin. She took a seat as the dean exited the class. Just like that, I went from being “Black guy in front of the class entertaining the students” to a worthy professor. The authority was shifted in my favor. I went on having a very engaging lecture.
That event demonstrated that racial stereotypes are constructed beliefs that all members of the same race share given characteristics. These attributed characteristics are usually negative. The stereotyping of African-Americans as theatrical is not uncommon. This method of representing African-Americans as “shuffling, dancing and wisecracking” evolved over time.
It is also important to explore how stereotypes are formed and dispelled in order to intervene in the problem. Educating people about damaging, inaccurate stereotypes is recommended. Small focus groups involving individuals of different races could be organized through schools, universities or churches. Discussion of racial stereotypes and attitudes in a safe format would allow people to explore and possibly discard stereotypes.
Even though it has been many years, this event still stays in my mind. I remember that day a lot, and I am thankful that my parents and growing up in North Carolina prepared me for that experience.