School shopping is either finished or wrapping up as students have enrolled in their classes and are headed back to the ivory tower, college, or the castle of whiteness, aka high school. Going back to school for many is a time of escape; escape from home and chores, nagging parents, an escape from the idleness of the summer, or a time to catch up with all of the homies. College and high school frosh are headed to school for the first time, buzzing with expectations and oblivious to unseen realities. Then there are the rest of us, merely going back to the same schools, people, and truths we know.
This post is for the students who have a love-hate relationship with their school, or more hate than anything else and are essentially stuck there until graduation. This is for the students who get angry and form anxiety when thinking about going back to the colorblind Becky’s and the people who identify with your race but might as well be just as bad as the white kids sometimes. This is for the students who are annoyed and fed up with their culturally insensitive classmates, ignorant non-understanding teachers, and professors who do not understand what it is like to be a black student. This is for all of us who got tricked by the posters and flyers of diversity with the one Asian, Latina, Black kid, and white dude all holding hands…suckers.
In addition to all of the images of black death, and the issues that we have going on at home, how are we supposed to make it through school when surrounded by idiots who work in administration, sit in our classes, and grade our papers? This post is here to help get you through the “Hey Alexis, do you have anything you want to add to this conversation? I know slavery is something that hits home for you.”And, the, “Oh wow you have such a regular name! I thought it would be Shaniesha or Shanidaquanda.”
Articles like this illuminate how microaggressions have a detrimental effect on our health. So let this back to school guide help you attain a healthy/healthier state of mind and peace. I identify some ways you can beat the system and ignorance that comes with being a student, being black, and conscious.
Number one my list for a reason; self-care and taking care of your mental health should be a top priority. Self-care is a time for you to chill and take notice of what your body needs especially in a high-stress environment. I have seen so many instances of students and family needing help and not getting it, which has detrimental effects on their body, happiness, and performativity as a student. Most, if not all, college campuses have a counseling center where you can talk to a therapist about whatever you need to -take advantage of that. As a nation we prioritize our physical health; mental health should be just as or even more important. If you are in high school and need to see a therapist, have that much-needed conversation with your parent or guardian.
For me, self-care is a candle-lit bubble bath and a glass of wine; however, when I was a freshman living on campus, that was so not happening in our communal showers. I go to a gorgeous school, so I take my poetry book to a scenic spot on campus with a view of the beach, put my phone on silent, have a smoothie on hand, and breathe. That was my “ME” time, all my friends knew it and respected it.
Self-care looks different for everyone; it may be turning up (responsibly) with your friends now and then as a break from your studies. Whatever it is that allows you a healthy release find it, grab hold of it, and make time for it weekly.
Yes. Every. Single. Week.
Get Involved in Black Spaces (or whatever you identify as)
Find an organization on campus or a group of people you are down with that you can meet up with and talk to every week or as often as you can. Many articles highlight that students who are involved on campus do better. It is critical to find a community that you identify with as it makes for a smoother transition. If you attend a medium, large, or even a small school, it can be incredibly isolating when your demographic is underrepresented. When you have a place or a group of people you identify with you have something in common, and it can make school less isolating.
I would not have made it through my first two years at the University of California Santa Cruz with the demographic of black students being 1.2% on a campus of 17,335 without being involved. It was the most isolating thing to come from a community where I barely saw white people to being in a place where I was the only black girl in many of my classes and could go a whole day without seeing someone that looked like me. Going to UCSC’s Afrikan/Black Student Alliance meetings every Thursday and being in a room with conscious and semi- conscious individuals was dope. We talk about a variety of issues affecting the black community, hold protests, and turn up together. We were not all friends, but if anything ever happened or someone said anything out of pocket to one of us we had each other’s backs.
Acts of Resistance
If you are tired of the unjust system in which we live, institutionalized racism, whiteness, get out there and be resistant! These structures do not crumble overnight. I know some people in the community who did not show up to protests solely because they were focused on academics or it was too emotional to be there- which is cool, they identified what their priorities are. So, if this is something you identify as a priority get out there; be someone who makes posters, or stands on the front lines, maybe you are calling people the night before or the day of to remind them shit is about to pop off. Maybe it is walking out of class with two other black people to protest the anti-blackness spewed by your teacher, or wearing your natural hair.
Resistance takes many shapes and forms so don’t let anyone tell you your form of resistance is not enough. Moreover, if your school does not have any spaces where you can organize on this level, and you have the desire, be the one to start it! If you see a need, chances are someone else is feeling that void as well.
Have fun & A Social life
Whether you are in college high or school, this is an important time in your life full of stress, rollercoaster emotions, and challenges. There will not be another time in your life when you will ever be this young again and able to explore your interests in this capacity. There will always be many things that demand your attention but chose to be involved with people and activities that make you happy and make you better. Have fun! Laugh, and turn up with your friends! School and life can be extremely stressful, but laughter is an excellent remedy.
Going back to school should not be this complicated, but for many of us, it is beyond that. For a lot of us, we are more than students when we are on campus; we have to be warriors. So I hope this helps you identify some ways you can beat the system and ignorance that comes in addition to all the homework and stress. Being a student, being black, and conscious doesn’t always have to be hard.
Comment below on how you get through school!