I never appreciated what my Grandmother meant when she would say “time waits for no man” until my son grew up. It seems like yesterday I was holding my son in my arms and now he is 20 years old, at home for his week break from university. Now he is due to return and I am reflecting on his visit.
Our relationship is very different to when he was a child, I could mother him, spoil him and tell him what to do. Now we reason with each other, discuss current affairs, life, dreams and aspirations. But most importantly we reflect on our past and this is what makes our relationship special. We are able to talk about the good times and the challenges we faced in our respective lives.
I share this because we spent time talking about our different and similar experiences as an undergraduate. He is in his second year living on campus. When I was in my second year, I was a single parent with a two year old. Very different lifestyles, but similar experiences of being black and in the minority.
He was sharing his experience of being a black male on campus and I found it interesting and sad because he described similar experiences to those in other public places, suspicious looks fuelled by negative racial stereotypes. We talked about how he felt and dealt with this. He also shared the pressure he felt at the end of his first year to quit university because of racial isolation and missing home.
I anticipate that there will be other individuals who have experience of racial isolation, or currently going through this negative experience. I would like to share some of his insights which kept him grounded and motivated him to continue with his studies. He suggests the following:
Check your perspective.
Do not internalise negative racial stereotypes, it can lead to low self-esteem and self-doubt. You belong wherever you desire to be.
Forget about how you differ from others and focus on what you share with others. Reach out to people, have conversations and share your interests.
You are not a spokesperson.
Resist any urge to be the spokesperson for your race even if you feel pressure to act as one. It’s not your responsibility, focus on your studies.
Stay true to yourself
Be yourself so you remain empowered and practice healthy habits. We both like training, he’s into boxing I enjoy running. Healthy body healthy mind.
I hope these suggestions will empower you and encourage those who may be considering quitting their studies, to stick with it.