Getting Ready for College

This is something different than what I usually do, but given that I’m about to be done with school soon, I should occasionally use this platform to provide some kind of service. This powerpoint is a section of a webinar I created a couple of years back and I think it would be a real help for anyone about to go to college or anyone who knows a future college student.

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  1. Tips for Starting the Search. Most high schools offer some days that students can use to go visit colleges so these days should be taken advantage of.There are also several college fairs that are hosted in the city throughout the year.  There are also days that colleges will host groups of students and take them on a tour of the campus.  These are great opportunities to gain more information about colleges that you may not get from just looking on the school website.
  2. College Entrance Exams.Most colleges will accept either the SAT or the ACT, but most schools have a preference between the two.  Check with the school to make sure which one they prefer. A good time to take either test is during the fall or spring semester of junior year.  If you want to take the test again to get better scores, this gives you enough time to properly study and prepare for another test before college applications are due. Each test also offers fee waivers, so check the requirements of each test to receive a fee waiver. There are differences between the two tests.  Generally speaking, the ACT is based more on the curriculum that students learn from in school, while the SAT is more of an aptitude test.
  3. SAT vs. ACT. There are some important differences between the two.  The length is about the same, but the ACT has an optional 30-minute writing test.  The SAT has reading, math, and writing sections.  The ACT includes English, math, reading, science, and the optional writing section.  The scoring scale for the SAT is 600 – 2400 and the scale for the ACT is 1 – 36.  For the SAT, 1/4 is deducted for wrong answers, so there is little benefit in guessing.  For the ACT, there is no penalty for wrong answers so it is a good idea to guess if you don’t know the answer.
  4. Preparing for the SAT/ACT. 
    • The College Board Web Site — Free test preparation materials, excellent resources for finding, selecting, applying to and paying for college
    • The ACT website — Free ACT prep materials, good information, and resources for college search and admission process
    • Number2.com — Excellent free site for SAT and ACT prep and personalized vocabulary builder
    • Test Prep Review.com — Free practice test questions, and subject area self-assessment modules for the SAT, ACT and PSAT
    • The Princeton Review — Test prep company offers some free study materials for the PSAT, SAT, Subject Tests and ACT. Click on “Free Practice Tools” section for each test.
    • Kaplan — Test prep company provides some free SAT and ACT prep materials including access to free “Quiz Bank,” “Practice Tests” and “Practice Questions”
  5. Personal Statement. The personal statement is a major part of the college application.  It allows the college to more easily identify stand-out students within a large pool of applicants and provides more information about a student than test scores and grades.  Personal statements usually fall into two categories: a general and comprehensive personal statement and a personal statement that answers very specific questions.
  6. Tips for Personal Statements. Here are some tips for writing a good personal statement.  Make sure that you answer the questions that are being asked, no matter how well written your statement may, it won’t matter if you do not answer the questions that are asked.  Be specific.  Whatever claims or statements that are made should be backed up with specific reasons.  Telling a story also helps because it provides concrete experiences that can help you to stand out above other applicants.  Doing research on the school benefits you because you can explain in more detail why you are applying to the school and what resources provided by the school that you can take advantage of.  Avoid cliches, so that means staying away from the types of things that a lot of people say in their personal statement.  Include original thoughts.  Make sure that there are not any errors.  The readers will not be able to focus on your unique experiences if they are too distracted by errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation.  To prevent having any error, have multiple people proofread it.  Having multiple people do it helps because one person may catch something that another one didn’t.  Finally, statements should be tailored to each college.  While there should be a general structure that may apply to different school, the personal statement should fit what the college is explicitly asking for and other things that may grab their attention.  So this goes back a to the previous point of doing research on the college.
  7. Financial Aid. One of the biggest issues facing college students is financial aid.  It will help to understand some important terms.  The award letter basically tells you what financial aid the college can offer you.  Exactly what information is included can differ. So while a school will tell you how much they can offer, they may not tell you the actual cost of attendance.  Expected family contribution is what it sounds like, how much the family is expected to contribute to your college education. This is important for filling out the FAFSA, which will be discussed in the next slide.  Grants are money that can come from different sources such as the government and the school that do not have to be paid back.  Loan have to be paid back federal student loans don’t have to be paid while in college.  Scholarships are usually awarded for some type of achievement.  Work study or work awards are funds given by the Federal Work Study Program to students for part-time employment to help cover the costs for college.
  8. FAFSA. The FAFSA or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid determines how much you or family has to contribute to your education.  This is the previously mentioned Expected Family Contribution.  Expected Family Contribution in turn determines how much you are able to receive in grants, loans, and work-study.  There are different application deadlines for each school, so check with the schools to find out their FAFSA deadlines.
  9. Tips for Parents. Parents also have to be aware of certain things in finding and dealing with financial aid.  Understand what the colleges are offering.  The distinction between grants and loans is important.  Colleges may not differentiate whether they are offering grants, loans, or both.  Get up to date information, costs are subject to change without notification so it always a good to keep in contact with what is going on.  Apply for financial aid on time.  This is very important because paying on time can mean the difference between being registered for all classes and having to sit out a semester or more.  Don’t be scared away from the more expensive private colleges.  They tend to provide more financial aid because they have the additional resources to do so.  The costs could end up being the same as going to a cheaper public college.
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Top 10 Things Dominique Ain’t Got Time For (not in any order)

  1. Grad school shenanigans. #Time2Graduate

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  1. Subpar White people. I’m not going add the disclaimer “not all White people” because you can read. That’s a skill, use it.

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  1. Donald Trump. Because he’s the worst. And he’s orange. With a bad hairdo. And he’s a specific breed of #2.

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  1. Racism. I’m a Black person in America. Fill in the blanks.

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  1. Denial of racism. Particularly in the face of psychological, sociological, and historical evidence. So is this what they mean by “post-truth?” People don’t have to bother accepting evidence if they don’t like it?

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  1. White people who want you to be the token Negro so they can say they’re not racist. “But we’ve had you in our home!” They say stuff like that.

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  1. The NFL. There’s just so much going on there. So many problematic things.

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  1. People who think diversity research is unimportant or not scientifically rigorous (I’m looking at you GSU psychology faculty).

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  1. Legitimizing bigotry (saying alt-right instead of, oh I don’t know, White Supremacy).

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  1. All Lives Matter. Because y’all weren’t saying that until we started saying Black Lives Matter. Damn, some of you really hate when Black people start asserting their humanity. I guess you’re fine with us as long as we’re not seen or heard. Or not fine with us at all. That’s equally likely.

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The System Was Always Rigged

I’m bout to let y’all know the reason why a White supremacist got in office and is about to bring in other White supremacists in office with him: it’s because the structure itself is a tool of White supremacy. Exhibit 1: Electoral college. Southern states were able to maintain the power that they did because of the 3/5 Compromise. What most people think of when they hear the term is the idea that Black people were only considered 3/5 of a person. This is only part of the truth. The other part is that their population counted toward the electoral college even though they were not considered human/citizen, not allowed to vote. This essentially stacks the deck in favor of southern Whites during that time, which afforded them more political power than their population (at least the population considered human) would warrant. Exhibit 2: Voting Rights Act. This is the first election since the Voting Rights Act was gutted. You don’t think that had an effect on voter turnout? I know Black folk showed up in this election, but I feel like the number would have been better with those 900 poll stations would have been open if they hadn’t got closed due to the Voting Rights Act being gutted. Poll stations that coincidentally served communities of color. Hmm I wonder why. We can get into conversations about Jim Crow, mass incarceration, and other things that disproportionately impact African Americans’ ability to vote, but do a Google search and read some news articles or something. I’m just saying this was an inevitable conclusion. Now we just got to do the work to make sure we all make it out of this period okay.

For Smart Colored People When Their Credentials, Knowledge, and Experiences Aren’t Enough

I’ve never been one to try to throw my intelligence or education in people’s faces. I have my thoughts and opinions about things and I make them known, but I don’t feel the need to puff out my chest and prove that I’m smarter than everyone. However, I do feel some kind of way when there are matters of which I am knowledgeable, but my statement is completely disregarded and dismissed. Particularly when I’m talking to White people and especially White men. There have been times in which I felt like people either immediately brush off my opinion, lecture me about how I am wrong, or just try to show me up in my own area of expertise. And that pisses me off to no end, especially when it involves matters of race. It is frustrating because I don’t want to get caught up in an argument, but I know that my statements and opinion are at least backed up some evidence in a field that I study for a living. I feel talked down to. I sometimes feel as if my skin color immediately invalidates my perspective in the eyes of these people. Never mind that my master’s thesis is in this area, my dissertation is in this area, I have publications in this area, and I have particular life experiences. I am not saying that you should agree with me; what I am saying is that I should not be brushed aside as if I am some child who is unaware of the world.

There are some members of this group who may end up reading this post and feel some sort of anger. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. Your opinion does not really matter to me (see what I did there?). Just ask yourself why when a person of color tells you something about their experience, you feel the need to immediately dismiss their opinion or tell them that they’re wrong? Why do you feel the need to immediately lecture them without actually listening to them? Why do you feel the need to center yourself when it is not about you? Why do you need to assert your “authority” when and where it is not asked for? Why do we not matter enough for you to listen to and empathize with? To anyone who feels silenced or invalidated: you have a voice. Your voice matters. Your experiences matter. Your knowledge matters. You matter. We do have something to offer to the world. Those of us in higher education, our research matters and helps to improve the situation of the communities we come from. Activists, the work you do on the ground brings attention to the social inequities we face and through your efforts change happens. Loud and emotional change. The best kind. Everyone else, you don’t have to be a scholar or activist or politician to matter. You live these experiences even when there isn’t some scholar to research it or an activist to protest for improvement. Your experiences matter. Your experiences cannot be denied and should not be denied. We’re all in this together and damn anyone who wants to deny our humanity or disregard what we have to say.

A Message

I’m all for debate and discussion of ideas; however, the things I’ve seen regarding the elections and views lead me to say this. Some people need to really check their privilege and realize that when people from oppressed groups express their concerns about the likelihood of certain candidates winning this election: you need to listen. Don’t just shut them down. Don’t assume that just because you’re some “special snowflake” aka some bland, mediocre, and unimpressive cisgender heterosexual white man, your opinion immediately trumps the legitimate concerns everyone else has. Do not expect us to willingly be the scapegoats for your “political revolutions” or your third party candidates who are actually no different than the mainstream political candidates. We deserve to navigate this terrible system however we can manage to and we don’t need your patronizing commentary about feeding into the system. Last time I checked some of you benefit from this system. Not everyone can actually afford to be a part of the “revolution.” A “revolution” that would see the same people in power under a different name.

So Let’s Talk About This Third Party Thing

I tend to stay away from posting anything that’s too partisan (unless one of the candidates is truly terrifying). Given discussions during this election cycle, I’m going to waive this rule just once. There has been increased talk about the viability of third party candidates and how if you don’t like the Democratic or Republican candidates, then you should vote for the third party candidate. On one hand, it is an appealing idea because it goes towards changing the broken two-party system and allows for a diversity of viewpoints to be represented. However, I have two issues with this argument.

My first issue: as an African American voting in this election, I have to be very careful about where my vote goes. This is a right that my ancestors protested for and died for when it was illegal for African Americans to vote and when Jim Crow laws functionally prevented African Americans from exercising that right. It was known then that the African American vote would help to improve our situation and shift some of the power back into our hands. African Americans largely have voted Democrat for the last 50 years and it is for good reason. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were signed into law by Democratic presidential administrations. The War on Drugs, the prison industrial complex, and mass incarceration developed and flourished under Republican administrations. While the Democratic party has not always been the most responsive to our issues, we do realize as voters that they are the party most likely to listen to our concerns and pass policies that at least won’t send us 50 years back.

I frankly believe it is disrespectful for people to assume that African Americans blindly support Democrats. Such a sentiment completely disregards and minimizes the level of political savvy that we have to demonstrate in these scenarios. I also find it problematic that other groups are allowed to vote in their own best interests, but African Americans are not given that same space. It is unfair to expect African Americans to forego the political power they have acquired through our forcing the Democratic party to take us seriously as a voting bloc for a third party that has not demonstrated the same level of commitment to our issues or is not a truly viable option given the political system. I have also noticed that many of the proponents of voting for third party candidates during this election have been seemingly well-off White people. Their privilege allows them to use their vote as a way to prove a point, given the fact that they have the least to lose if their candidate loses and/or a more problematic candidate is elected. They fail to realize not everyone is in the position to use their votes in that way and that this election can have a profound impact on anyone who is not a well-off White heterosexual man. I’m not here to debate the merits of Clinton or Trump, not the point of this, that is another conversation. What I am trying to do is illustrate that the concept of the third party candidate cannot just be taken at face value, which goes into my second issue.

The Libertarian party has emerged as the largest third party entity and their presidential candidate this year is Gary Johnson. I’ve seen and heard quite a few people campaigning for him and saying how he is the alternative to Clinton and Trump. I had never really heard of him before this year, but I finally decided to look him up and get an idea of his views. I went to a number of online sources, but decided to discuss what I found on his official websites. This is to counteract any accusation that my sources are biased against him. Seeing where he stands on issues, I find him to be another problematic candidate. First, his views on education. I’ve provided a direct quote from his website and also have linked the quote to his website as well.

More broadly, Gov. Johnson believes there is no role for the Federal Government in education. He would eliminate the federal Department of Education, and return control to the state and local levels. He opposes Common Core and any other attempts to impose national standards and requirements on local schools, believing the key to restoring education excellence in the U.S. lies in the innovation, freedom and flexibility that federal interference inherently discourages.

Eliminating the Department of Education is a huge problem for me. In college, I was in the Ronald McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement program, which is a program designed to train students from underrepresented backgrounds (students of color, first-generation, low-income) for graduate school and beyond. This program is funded by the Department of Education. Eliminating it would put many programs such as this in jeopardy. Programs that are designed to even the playing field and provide access to high-quality education for individuals who may not have had the opportunity otherwise. This also negates the research that the Department of Education conducts that helps to illuminate some of the inequities that exist at all levels of education. The DoE has an Office of Civil Rights which has that explicit goal. As a researcher in education, I find this particular view to be narrow-minded and short-sighted.

I also have a problem with the idea of “returning control to the state and local levels”and his opposition to any attempts to “impose national standards and requirements on local schools.” Such a position is ahistorical. When education was left completely in the hands of state and local governments, we had segregation. The process of desegregation was slowed when Brown II (not the original Brown v. Board of Education case, but the addendum) allowed states to desegregate with “deliberate speed.” This essentially gave state and local governments an out and allowed them to desegregate at their own pace which too often meant not at all. Additionally, some schools flat out refused to desegregate until the government intervened (see Little Rock 9). I understand that people want the government to have limited involvement, but history has shown that state and local government are not always equipped or interested in ensuring the good for all of their citizens. Not all of us are lucky enough to live in states in which they can be trusted to do that. I could ramble on about education, but my other issue with him is his views on the privatization of prisons. This quote is from his official Tumblr page.

It was a serious and urgent problem, and the legislature was unwilling to address it. I explored the available options, and it quickly became obvious that the solution was private prisons that could be operated at significantly lower cost,  meet the standards necessary to get the State out from under Federal oversight, and resolve what was a tremendously costly and, frankly, embarrassing situation. At the time, the “per-prisoner” cost in the state prisons was $76 per day. The cost to house prisoners in the private facilities was $56 per day. Better service, lower cost.

On the surface, it does not seem that bad. He talks about lowering the costs and how the prisons supposedly had better services. For those who have issues with his idea, he had this to say:

Never in that process did I experience any pressure to “fill beds” in the private prisons we built. And if I had, it wouldn’t have worked. It might happen elsewhere, but it absolutely did not happen in New Mexico when I was Governor. Anyone who has actually overseen a prison system and dealt with the politics thereof knows that the real pressure to fill cells comes from the public employees’ unions intent on keeping their jobs. They consistently lobby against sentencing reform and go to war to prevent common sense privatization of inefficient, incompetently managed government services.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. He may not have intended for it to become a scenario that promotes mass incarceration, but he says himself that it could happen in other places that use this strategy. Privatization of prisons feeds into mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex. These two interconnected phenomena have their roots in the post-Reconstruction era. The modern-day incarnation of the prison system was birthed as a method to reintroduce the institution of slavery under a different form. This led to the criminalization of many aspects of African American life through Black codes and Jim Crow laws. It is no coincidence that to this day African Americans are overrepresented in the prison population. Having prisons that are private and for-profit exasperates this because it provides additional financial incentive. This article that I’ve attached helps to explain some of these issues in better terms than I am capable of at the moment. Or go read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. In short, privatization of prisons is not a good look.

My frank and honest read of all of this is that these are people whose interests are only in keeping their money and corporatizing a lot of things. Any aspects of preventing inequalities and promoting social justice are barely secondary, if even a concern.  What gets lost in the third party discussion is that there is an implicit assumption that the third party candidate is automatically going to be better than the two traditional party candidates. It’s actually some level of arrogance. Do the research, don’t let people hype you up to vote for someone who isn’t going to look out for you.

P.S. if you don’t agree with me, please don’t come at me with the “but my Black/PoC friend said”–just no, don’t do that. We are not a monolith nor are we rhetorical devices for you to use to further your own argument and to silence people of color who don’t agree with you. Stop doing that shit.

Existential Terror

There’s no need to repeat the things that have happened over the last week. You all know what happened. I’ve been debating whether I wanted to write anything related to this, but I’ve been so consumed with feelings of fear, powerlessness, sadness, and anger that it has been difficult for me to really think clearly. Now that the noise in my head has subsided to a degree, I’ve been able to more coherently gather my thoughts and contemplate.

I still have no idea what to really do. I’m still not quite sure how to react to everything and I feel very torn. It is not mutually exclusive to advocate against police brutality and mourn the lives of the Dallas officers; however, I also wonder if our (Black people) mourning of their deaths is being forced upon us. Forced upon us in the sense that we have to show that we are not violent or like the person who decided to take matters into his own hands. Or due to the fact that person’s actions would be used to discredit Black Lives Matter or any anti-police brutality movement. Or because we always have to show compassion/forgiveness towards those who treat us unfairly.

How can I reconcile feeling sadness about that event while still hating and fearing the very institution they represent. My community psychology training tells me to look at it from a systems perspective. It’s not about individuals, it’s about the systems and societal forces. When you think about mass incarceration, the prison industrial complex, and police brutality, African Americans are all too often the victims of these oppressive forces. The modern-day versions of these forces have their roots in slavery and the response to African Americans’ emancipation from it.

I feel myself slipping more and more into a sense of fear and hopelessness. I wonder how anything I’m doing right now can make any kind of a difference. I continuously wonder when time will run out for me (a preoccupation I’ve had since childhood, being a Black man from Mississippi and knowing its history from a young age). I already know my degrees won’t save me, so what good are they if they can’t improve things? I’m also tired of having the same debates with White people about these matters. Both on the macro level (institutional racism, police brutality) and on the micro level (privilege, safe spaces, being an ally). I’m just so over it. People are dying and some people’s concerns are only their damn feelings. It just feels like we will never be considered fully human, even by those who say they are our allies. Their hurt feelings always trump our humanity. How can you even talk to that person?

And I frankly don’t want to hear another “not all White people” or “not all police” comment. Yeah those statements are true, but they usually are stated to distract from the issue at hand. It is also disingenuous because they won’t ever say “not all Black people” and that is the problem. Black Lives Matter would not exist if the statement All Lives Matter was actually true and meant something to everyone. I’m just exhausted from all of these things and I just wish it would all stop because I don’t know long I or we can keep going at this rate. It just all leaves me very disheartened. I think about the phrase Black people say sometimes when we’re told to do something we don’t want to do. I ain’t gotta do nothing but stay Black and die. It’s usually said in a sarcastic or jesting manner, but after thinking about it, that’s all we’re guaranteed in this society. An identity and an inevitability. I have no control over either, just how I identify with being Black and how I cope with death. My only hope is that no one attempts to exercise control over when I die because of the fact that I am Black. Even that’s not a guarantee, history has taught us that.

Comic Book Movie Rankings

So my girlfriend and I were bored one night and we started ranking all of the comic books movies that we had seen (we’ve seen a lot). We broke it down by universe/franchise and then broke it down more by favorite movies vs. objectively good movies for each of our tastes. I know people will disagree, but whatever. Here’s our list (and no we don’t give explanations, that might be a future podcast or video). Have at it!!!

Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)
Objective Good (Dominique) Favorite (Dominique) Objective Good (Josie) Favorite (Josie)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Captain America: Civil War Guardians of the Galaxy/Thor Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy Captain America: Civil War/AntMan Thor/AntMan
Captain America: Civil War Captain America: The Winter Soldier Captain America: Winter Soldier Avengers
Avengers: Age of Ultron Avengers Avengers Iron Man
Avengers Avengers: Age of Ultron Iron Man/Avengers: Age of Ultron Avengers: Age of Ultron
Iron Man Iron Man Captain America Captain America: Civil War
Ant Man Ant Man Incredible Hulk Thor: The Dark World
Thor Captain America Iron Man 2 Iron Man 2
Captain America Thor: The Dark World Thor/Iron Man 3 Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 Iron Man 3 Thor: The Dark World
Incredible Hulk Thor Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2 Iron Man 2
Thor: The Dark World Incredible Hulk
X-Men Films
Objective Good (Dominique) Favorite (Dominique) Objective Good (Josie) Favorite (Josie)
First Class X-Men: Apocalypse Deadpool/First Class Deadpool
Days of Future Past Days of Future Past Days of Future Past Days of Future Past
X-Men 2 First Class The Wolverine/Apocalypse First Class
X-Men: Apocalypse Deadpool X-Men X-Men: Apocalypse
Deadpool X-Men 2 X-Men 2 X-Men
The Wolverine The Wolverine The Wolverine X-Men 2
X-Men X-Men X-Men: The Last Stand The Wolverine/Last Stand
X-Men: The Last Stand X-Men: The Last Stand X-Men Origins: Wolverine X-Men Origins
X-Men Origins: Wolverine X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Batman (Burton, Schumacher, Nolan)
Objective Good (Dominique) Favorite (Dominique) Objective Good (Josie) Favorite (Josie)
The Dark Knight The Dark Knight Batman/Dark Knight Dark Knight Rises/Batman Returns
Batman Returns Batman Returns Batman Returns The Dark Knight
Batman The Dark Knight Rises The Dark Knight Rises Batman Forever
The Dark Knight Rises Batman Batman Begins Batman
Batman Begins Batman Begins Batman Forever Batman and Robin
Batman Forever Batman and Robin Batman and Robin Batman Begins
Batman and Robin Batman Forever

Suggested Reading List

Here are some books that I’ve read that I think quite a few people could benefit from reading. Forgive me if it’s a bunch of Black shit (actually not really, deal with it). Most of these are books that played a really big role in my personal development, scholarly development, and my overall worldview. I’ll try to update this list as I read through more books. I’m pretty sure you can find most of these on Amazon for cheap. If you are interested in any book in particularly, please comment and I can tell you more about it. Some of these books I have not read in a long time so bare with me if my memory is spotty for some of them. Or alternatively, if you have any suggestions for books I should read, I would be happy to get those as well.

  1. Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving From Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap, A. Wade Boykin & Pedro Noguera
  2. Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race, Derald Wing Sue
  3. Of the Dawn of Freedom, W.E.B. DuBois
  4. Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois
  5. The Gift of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois
  6. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  7. No Name in the Street, James Baldwin
  8. Stolen Legacy, George James
  9. Democracy Matters, Cornel West
  10. Hope on a Tightrope, Cornel West
  11. Silent Covenants: Brown V. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform, Derrick Bell
  12. Black Sexual Politics, Patricia Hill Collins
  13. Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon
  14. Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon
  15. The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, Glenn C. Loury
  16. Fences, August Wilson
  17. Postcolonialism: A very Short Introduction, Robert J. C. Young
  18. Native Son, Richard Wright
  19. The Outsider, Richard Wright
  20. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, Dorothy Roberts
  21. The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson
  22. A Gathering of Old Men, Ernest Gaines
  23. A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines
  24. Pedagogy of Indignation, Paulo Friere
  25. Undoing Whiteness in the Classroom: Critical Educultural Teaching Approaches for Social Justice Activism, Virginia Lea
  26. Segu, Maryse Condé
  27. Malcolm X: The Last Speeches, Malcolm X
  28. African American Perspectives: Family Dynamics, Health Care Issues and the Role of Ethnic Identity, Marian Harris (I co-wrote a chapter in this book, shameless plug lol) 

Constrained Blackness

I think I have figured out at least one reason why graduate school has been difficult. I am rarely around more than one or two Black people at a time. Many times I am the only Black person at social gatherings. Most other times there are only one or two more. I’ve talked about this before, but not so much regarding the cultural mismatch. This is something that really hit me yesterday. It is challenging to go through this period when you are around many people who do not share the same cultural background as you. It is valuable to be around people from different backgrounds certainly, but something can definitely be said about having those shared experiences. I want to be able to talk more about the music I like to listen to without getting a blank stare or some kind of dismissive comment. I want to play my music at my desk without worrying about getting weird looks. I want to freely suggest movies to watch without wondering if people will assume some kind of negative stereotype about me or use the movie to stereotype Black people. And then the food. That has been really rough for me too. Particularly when there is a potluck event and hardly anyone eats the food you bring. The food you spent four hours making. And goddamn I want to have someone to talk basketball with. Basketball is my favorite sport, but I guess it is too lowly of an activity for some people to engage in. I wonder why (this is sarcasm, I know why). I just want to freely express my cultural background without fear of being stereotyped or insulted. I do not like to feel that I have to constrain my Blackness for the comfort of others. Sometimes I wonder if that is why some people are okay with me. Black enough to say you have “diverse” friends, but not too Black to make you uncomfortable. I think this is always something I am going to struggle with: being a Black face in a mostly White space.