If I am ten minutes late to class with Starbucks it would be a funny but benignly sexist joke if I was a white girl, but because I’m a Black girl then it means that I don’t take my education seriously and maybe do not deserve my academic scholarship.
If my grammar in a paper is not impeccable then it’s because I can’t speak “proper” English and maybe I should be in a remedial class and not an English major. If I am struggling in a class then instead of being directed towards a tutor, I will be encouraged to drop the course.
If I do not have a flawless transcript and academic record then I am unlikely to be encouraged to apply for prestigious fellowships and scholarships, even while non-Black classmates who have the same transcript will be funneled into these programs.
To a non-Black person all of this might sound highly improbable or exaggerated. And yet, this is my life. And it’s the life of many other Black students at PWI’s.
And so it’s no wonder that many Black students at PWI’s learn to over-compensate by attempting to excel beyond their classmates. It is no coincidence that many Black students cannot relate to the hegemonic narrative of college in which students party and occasionally attend class all while largely being protected from the “real world.”
College is a microcosm of the real world for Black students who deal with the omnipresent threat of being viewed as not good enough. And even when we excel beyond our classmates, at the end of the day we will be followed by police and harassed and questioned about whether we’re even students.
The scrutiny encourages unhealthy coping mechanisms. Tokenism after all is cumulative of what occurs when white supremacy, perfectionism, and capitalist notions of individualism and the need to be productive all collide and pressure Black folks to forget they’re human like everybody else.”