I am on the admissions committee of a competitive graduate program. I’m also the only black/biracial woman on the committee. Today, I interviewed a young woman who shares my racial background. She was bright and accomplished and we had a great interview. At the end, I asked if I could answer any questions for her, particularly as one WOC to another. Immediately, her whole body relaxed, her voice changed, and she said, “Girl! I had to wrestle my ‘fro into this bun. I’m getting Dominican straightening before my next interview!” And I laughed and said “My hair may be straight today, but we are texture twins!” and we laughed and high-fived. She was the same bright, accomplished young woman I’d met 20 minutes earlier, but she had dropped the mask she (and I) learned to adapt to make white people comfortable. She knows that to make her way into academia, she has to assimilate a white manner of speech to be taken seriously. I wish she… I wish we could do this more authentically.
I miss all the Black women I have been able to do this with. It seems like, at the moment, I am mostly surrounded by Black women who for whatever reasons would not drop their masks with me. I am happy for those who have let me in and I am trying to release all of my anger towards who wouldn’t. Regardless I have to keep on moving.
I had a Black woman tell me a month or so ago that the purpose of graduate school was to break us down and rebuild us as white men. This is true to me, at least in our behaviors, at worst in our thoughts.