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'Minorities' in 'Majority' Departments


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For starters, I have been graciously offered a fully funded masters to one of the top programs and public health schools in my field. I am also a black female from the south in a very....almost exclusively....white male dominated science department and field. As a matter of fact, I believe I am the only black female in my department---ever (not confirmed) in its 60 years of existence so I certainly feel that pressure to set the standard. I visited the department on an initial recruitment visit and everyone was exceptionally enthusiastic, accommodating and nice, even setting up a visit with a particular department on campus dedicated to diversity in graduate education. My background is upper-middle class, so I am familiar with being the "only black person" in a class, sporting team, etc. I also attended an HBCU (historically black college or university) for undergrad. I feel that I have to work harder than everyone else as to not re-enforce the stereotype consciously or sub-consciously associated with my ethnicity and gender. The fact that I am also funded increases that sense of responsibility. I think I am making more of it than what it is as I have not moved yet, but I can't help but to feel anxious about the unknown.

Has anyone ever been in this type of situation (not just ethnic minorities, but women/men, homosexual, disabilities, religion, customs, etc.) where you've been the "only" one or one of the only ones in your department? How did it effect you? Did you feel a greater burden or sense of responsibility? I'd appreciate your input.

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I know I am joining this discussion late, but I wanted to say something. CageFree, so far your comments on this thread have promoted colorblindness, the shedding of labels so that people are treate

Right and I disagree. I'm only speaking for myself, of course, not for the OP. I know you said you weren't making a comparison and that you don't know the minority experience, but stating that "but I

I don't know why you keep making it specifically about race... it's minorities in general. Gender, LGBTQ, ethnicity, age...there are many people who face stereotypes each day. The OP has come to a

Hi there,

I have not been in a situation where I have felt like a minority, so I can comment on that...but I can say that 99% of graduate students feel that they have to work harder than the next person to re-enforce that they are a competent student. I think graduate students always feel they have to meet some unknown bar that is set especially high just for them, and that they have the responsibility to themselves, their department and advisor to meet an unrealistic goal. I think that's just who we are.

I hope others can offer more advice to your specific question about being a minority...but I think you should feel a bit comforted that these feelings you have might be due to the fact that you're just a grad student, and we all have those feelings.

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Broken Record,

I'm an African American female who can relate to you on pretty much every level, and I have felt a greater sense of burden my entire life. This may have come from my parents who continually reinforced the importance of never taking advantage of your education, and remembering those who struggled during the civil rights era. In my case though, I feel as if it is hindering my ability to properly gauge where I should be applying, and/or, where I can actually get in.

I believe the pressure you're putting on yourself can definitely be attributed to trying to set a high standard as far as gender/ethnicity are concerned. This also is essentially ensuring that you always are at your best, which is a goal everyone in higher education should aspire towards. Good Luck!

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As a black male pursuing a degree in mathematics, I can empathise. For the final two years in undergrad I was the only minority (of course, I went to a state school in which the majority of students were local and white). I think that there is a higher standard that we push ourselves to reach (b eit self-inflicted, through family or peers or through the media) however I found that as I progressed that I was being praised and valued for my contributions and output by itself. Ultimately, I found that I was striving to meet my own standards of work because I was able to and wanted to do so. Entering grad school this year I imagine I'll have that same sort of feeling since there's going to be a higher degree of difficulty and less room for subpar work but as stated above I think that's generally a normal feeling.

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I enjoyed reading a book relevant to this issue recently: _Whistling Vivaldi_ by Claude Steele is about the performance of black Americans in college. It's aimed for more of the popular science sector, although Steele is an academic and the chapters are more or less summaries of scientific studies he had been involved in. Unsurprisingly, stereotype threat significantly effects academic performance in lots of ways, but it's surprising subtlies are often quite unexpected; a lot of has to do with the subect's self-perception of his or her own identity, and how sometimes the striving and the pushing in an effort to fight the stereotype threat and to overachieve actually backfires, resulting in perpetuating the original threat. It's quite interesting to read about, and not to mention just how even the tiniest amounts of self identity when associated with stereotype threats can have a very disproportionately large influence.

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Hi there,

I have not been in a situation where I have felt like a minority, so I can comment on that...but I can say that 99% of graduate students feel that they have to work harder than the next person to re-enforce that they are a competent student. I think graduate students always feel they have to meet some unknown bar that is set especially high just for them, and that they have the responsibility to themselves, their department and advisor to meet an unrealistic goal. I think that's just who we are.

I hope others can offer more advice to your specific question about being a minority...but I think you should feel a bit comforted that these feelings you have might be due to the fact that you're just a grad student, and we all have those feelings.

With all due respect, I don't think that's an accurate comparison. The weight of an entire society's (negative) perception of your race and the pressure that one would feel to supersede that negative stereotype is not equivalent to the normal pressure of performing and achieving in academia.

ETA: To the OP, I hope that you find a good balance between your own expectations and goals for yourself and what may be forced upon you by your environment. Although I'm not in the exact same position, I also often catch myself strictly regulating my actions because of whatever stereotypes have been foisted on my race... and it SUCKS when you realise you're regulating yourself in that manner.

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With all due respect, I don't think that's an accurate comparison. The weight of an entire society's (negative) perception of your race and the pressure that one would feel to supersede that negative stereotype is not equivalent to the normal pressure of performing and achieving in academia.

ETA: To the OP, I hope that you find a good balance between your own expectations and goals for yourself and what may be forced upon you by your environment. Although I'm not in the exact same position, I also often catch myself strictly regulating my actions because of whatever stereotypes have been foisted on my race... and it SUCKS when you realise you're regulating yourself in that manner.

.

I said outright that I do not know how it feels to be a minority and/or the pressures that come along with it. My point is that I think most- if not all - grad students feel they have to live up to above standard expectations, and they are always striving to impress and prove that they are qualified and competent enough to be where they are. Whether or not these are in comparison to what the OP and/or students of minorities are feeling I do not know...but I do believe that regardless of race, sex, income, age, sexuality, , weight, single parents, physicially and/or mentally impaired... grad students are prone to feeling they need to prove themselves- regardless of the 'stereotypes [that] have been foisted' on them.

Also, I would like to point out that I think every grad student should "find a good balance between your own expectations and goals for yourself and what may be forced upon you by your environment"..

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I said outright that I do not know how it feels to be a minority and/or the pressures that come along with it. My point is that I think most- if not all - grad students feel they have to live up to above standard expectations, and they are always striving to impress and prove that they are qualified and competent enough to be where they are. Whether or not these are in comparison to what the OP and/or students of minorities are feeling I do not know...but I do believe that regardless of race, sex, income, age, sexuality, , weight, single parents, physicially and/or mentally impaired... grad students are prone to feeling they need to prove themselves- regardless of the 'stereotypes [that] have been foisted' on them.

Also, I would like to point out that I think every grad student should "find a good balance between your own expectations and goals for yourself and what may be forced upon you by your environment"..

Right and I disagree. I'm only speaking for myself, of course, not for the OP. I know you said you weren't making a comparison and that you don't know the minority experience, but stating that "but I think you should feel a bit comforted that these feelings you have might be due to the fact that you're just a grad student, and we all have those feelings." is reductive and is making a comparison.

I'm not trying to be confrontational or start a fight. I merely find it borderline insulting to bring up some universal student insecurity as a "comfort" for the vastly different experiences of ethnic/racial minorities in predominantly white environments.

Yes, absolutely, every student will have some feeling of insecurity and having to prove themselves when in grad school. Is that relevant to the scrutiny that many, if not all, ethnic minorities must face in those institutions? Not really.

It's strange that you start off by making the requisite statements about not knowing minority experience but then by the end, your rhetoric starts sounding somewhat "colour blind". Statements like: "grad students are prone to feeling they need to prove themselves- regardless of the 'stereotypes [that] have been foisted' on them." really, really rub me the wrong way. It's here that you're, again, making comparisons, and I vigorously disagree with that.

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I don't know why you keep making it specifically about race... it's minorities in general. Gender, LGBTQ, ethnicity, age...there are many people who face stereotypes each day.

The OP has come to a graduate student forum asking graduate students about their experiences and opinions- and my opinion is that she should not feel alone and should also be comforted by the fact that some of what she feels is what we all feel. The OP is not alone in feeling overwhelmed and anxious, many of us (regardless of our backgrounds, individual circumstances or environments) feel this way....these feelings are undoubtedly going to be amplified if you are facing additional pressures as a minority. People come on this forum all the time explaining a personal and individual situation/scenario and asking for advice and experience about how they are feeling. A lot of the time I haven't been in that situation, but I can relate on some level to how their feeling and choose to offer my advice and opinion on that in hopes that they are comforted by the fact that another person on some level is experiencing the same feelings/emotions they are going through.

I do not believe I ever tried to discount, down play or reduce how the OP is feeling or their personal situation of being a minority. My only intention was to offer support and suggest that they are not alone in some of what they are experiencing. If you would like to manipulate and misconstrue my intentions, you can. But saying I am acting as if I am "colour blind" and suggesting that I am insulting racial and ethnic minorities is completely incorrect. That was not my intention nor how my post was delivered.

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I'm an ethnic minority (Chinese) and an international student (Singaporean), so I'm not sure how well I can relate. I do think that your experience probably depends a lot on your field and program, and I'm happy to hear that it's gone well for you so far.

I can sort of understand what it feels like to be representing a specific group (in my case, country), but obviously race is a lot more salient in the U.S. That said, on purely rational grounds, nobody has the right to burden you with the responsibility of setting an example. It's your life - you should succeed and fail on your own terms.

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I don't know why you keep making it specifically about race... it's minorities in general. Gender, LGBTQ, ethnicity, age...there are many people who face stereotypes each day.

The OP has come to a graduate student forum asking graduate students about their experiences and opinions- and my opinion is that she should not feel alone and should also be comforted by the fact that some of what she feels is what we all feel. The OP is not alone in feeling overwhelmed and anxious, many of us (regardless of our backgrounds, individual circumstances or environments) feel this way....these feelings are undoubtedly going to be amplified if you are facing additional pressures as a minority. People come on this forum all the time explaining a personal and individual situation/scenario and asking for advice and experience about how they are feeling. A lot of the time I haven't been in that situation, but I can relate on some level to how their feeling and choose to offer my advice and opinion on that in hopes that they are comforted by the fact that another person on some level is experiencing the same feelings/emotions they are going through.

I do not believe I ever tried to discount, down play or reduce how the OP is feeling or their personal situation of being a minority. My only intention was to offer support and suggest that they are not alone in some of what they are experiencing. If you would like to manipulate and misconstrue my intentions, you can. But saying I am acting as if I am "colour blind" and suggesting that I am insulting racial and ethnic minorities is completely incorrect. That was not my intention nor how my post was delivered.

I still disagree. And I don't think you're consciously trying to reduce the issue, but in some ways you are. Anyway, I could go on for paragraphs, but I won't because I don't want to hijack the thread any further. We'll have to agree to disagree, I guess, and I certainly respect your intentions.

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Thank you everyone for the comments as they were all insightful and inspiring, even given the diversity.

In general, I do believe we are all the consequence of our experiences--and the responses are a unique example of that. As such, we may do a disservice to ourselves and the nature of commonality when we become insular and critical to those who may have tangential--yet, well intentioned, advice and viewpoints. I know from experience that it is very difficult for some people to truly understand the dynamics of racism primarily because it is uncomfortable and reinforces an undue sense of guilt upon the ethnicity of the historical oppressor. It is much more comfortable to generalize issues of race in the context of everyday insecurities, especially when issues of race are beyond the scope of their direct experiences.

With that said, we all have negative stigmas, bet it major or minor, that are societally reinforced, but it is the common thread of empathy, the ability to place ourselves in the position of others, that offers us the best solution as we can't possibly place ourselves EXACTLY within the experience others. Race and gender just so happen to be my own, but the same also applies to those who are disabled--which I am not, those who are poor---which I am not, or increasingly those who are homosexual---which I am also not. I don't think that makes me any less of an authority to share my experiences. Its an effort to relate and provide a source of comfort for the most part (as we are all on this fora for a reason), and not to minimize its complexity.

At any rate, many thanks for all the wonderful comments!! :D

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My first brush with discrimination happened not long after I arrived at the US at age 16... despite having good grades from K-10, my high school counselor discouraged me from applying to four-year universities. She said my education in Latin America had not been a good as if I had lived in the US... for instance, she dismissed my A's in Physics saying that the Physics I had studied was not the same as what was taught here. Then she suggested a vocational school so I could "help my family." Maybe cosmetology?

I ignored her, applied to several highly-ranked universities, and got into every single one. And that's when I realized that I was going to ignore counselors and forge my own path. I also told myself I would NEVER let anyone else define me... she defined me as a minority, and thus someone inferior. Never again.

Although I can easily be l labeled as "Latina," I don't identify myself as such. I am very proud of my heritage and I'm very much in touch with the culture I grew up in, but I'm an American. I don't see myself as a member of a minority, and I don't feel I have to prove myself BECAUSE I'm a "Latina." I already work hard because I set very ambitious goals for myself... and it's not worth it to stress myself out over whether others will have some preconceived notion based on how they wish to define my identity.

I think sometimes people who are members of minorities pay way too much attention to others' perceptions of one's minority status (whether it be race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, etc.) and set themselves up for additional stress... your "status" becomes yet another hurdle to jump through, and in my experience as a student and as an educator, it often is a hurdle of our own creation.

Just go in there and do the absolute best you can do. Don't ever let them see you as a "black female" and treat you as such... Let them see you as the brilliant student and scholar you are, and demand the respect you have earned by being so darned awesome. :)

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Although I can easily be l labeled as "Latina," I don't identify myself as such. I am very proud of my heritage and I'm very much in touch with the culture I grew up in, but I'm an American. I don't see myself as a member of a minority, and I don't feel I have to prove myself BECAUSE I'm a "Latina." I already work hard because I set very ambitious goals for myself... and it's not worth it to stress myself out over whether others will have some preconceived notion based on how they wish to define my identity.

I think sometimes people who are members of minorities pay way too much attention to others' perceptions of one's minority status (whether it be race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, etc.) and set themselves up for additional stress... your "status" becomes yet another hurdle to jump through, and in my experience as a student and as an educator, it often is a hurdle of our own creation.

It's just so backwards to say that anyone who doesn't have the strength of will to see past the limitations that society places upon them are the ones at fault. This is the textbook definition of internalized oppression. The fault lies with those with prejudice, not for those of us who have to suffer it. I repeat we are at fault for being victims.

I applaud your ability to succeed in the face of prejudice, I really do. And I like your message of positivity and am in no way trying to delegitimize your personal story of success. But to pretend that it's just as easy as pulling yourself up by your boot straps and everyone who doesn't is just "setting themselves up for additional stress" is frankly just naive. It's good that you see yourself as it should be: an American. But you know as well as I do that there's probably a majority of people in the country who will see not you, but a host of stereotypes. I'm not into total victimization, I'm being a realist. Unfortunately, the way that society works is that these peoples' perceptions of you will often have a direct and salient effect on your life. These real, tangible issues of power that daily keep some people of minority status from rising up need to be addressed, not de-emphasized.

There are millions of people out there that are living the "hurdles" that you speak of and it's not due to any lack of determination on their part... some simply cannot face those odds like you have for a multitude of reasons. To whitewash over all those complexities by saying "Just ignore peoples' perceptions of you and be you! It's easy!" is doing a disservice to the real issues of oppression that people of minority status face. We (a general 'we', not that I'm saying all people of minority status are accountable) need to talk about these limitations and what leads to them instead of just ignoring it and letting people in power do what they will with no consequence.

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It's just so backwards to say that anyone who doesn't have the strength of will to see past the limitations that society places upon them are the ones at fault. This is the textbook definition of internalized oppression. The fault lies with those with prejudice, not for those of us who have to suffer it. I repeat we are at fault for being victims.

I applaud your ability to succeed in the face of prejudice, I really do. And I like your message of positivity and am in no way trying to delegitimize your personal story of success. But to pretend that it's just as easy as pulling yourself up by your boot straps and everyone who doesn't is just "setting themselves up for additional stress" is frankly just naive. It's good that you see yourself as it should be: an American. But you know as well as I do that there's probably a majority of people in the country who will see not you, but a host of stereotypes. I'm not into total victimization, I'm being a realist. Unfortunately, the way that society works is that these peoples' perceptions of you will often have a direct and salient effect on your life. These real, tangible issues of power that daily keep some people of minority status from rising up need to be addressed, not de-emphasized.

There are millions of people out there that are living the "hurdles" that you speak of and it's not due to any lack of determination on their part... some simply cannot face those odds like you have for a multitude of reasons. To whitewash over all those complexities by saying "Just ignore peoples' perceptions of you and be you! It's easy!" is doing a disservice to the real issues of oppression that people of minority status face. We (a general 'we', not that I'm saying all people of minority status are accountable) need to talk about these limitations and what leads to them instead of just ignoring it and letting people in power do what they will with no consequence.

I'm quite used to the condescending tone of your post. I find it quite funny that the only ones who ever do try to minimize the things I have accomplished are other minorities. "Oh, you make it sounds easy" (it wasn't). "Not everyone is like you" (aren't I a special snowflake?). Please. People on here have accomplished something that most people will never be able to accomplish (i.e. graduate from college) and are seeking to go further... no one who is on their way to a getting a graduate degree should think of themselves as "oppressed."

I was raised in a country where tens of thousands of people, many of whom were in college, were kidnapped and killed by the government. A generation of intellectuals, gone. THAT is oppression.

Perhaps a little world perspective would show just how NOT oppressed Americans really are.

What I said is that people stress themselves out NEEDLESSLY over how things "are going to be," and how to deal with "being a minority." When you encounter real discrimination, deal with it then. But trying to "deal with it" before it even happens is a pointless exercise. It's like freaking out about whether the new group of people you're about to meet is going to like you, and trying to think of ways of dealing if they don't. It seems to me a much better use of my time would be to address any instances when they occur... not try to plan for them assuming they will happen.

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CageFree,

I really enjoyed your first uplifting post. However, I think your rebuttal to 1Q84, be it in frustration, really demonstrated what you wanted to say initially, but didn't have the platform to do so.

I find it quite funny that the only ones who ever do try to minimize the things I have accomplished are other minorities.

I don't understand how you can generalize an entire group of people based on the one comment of someone on the computer screen. In what ways have 1Q84 and other "minorities" minimized your accomplishments? It seems to me that you have some very deep seeded insecurities and are probably more conscious about your ethnicity (being a Latina) than the blase', "I'm just an American/don't focus on being a minority" nature you attempt to portray in your posts. What you are studying doesn't seem to help that justification either.

What I said is that people stress themselves out NEEDLESSLY over how things "are going to be," and how to deal with "being a minority." When you encounter real discrimination, deal with it then. But trying to "deal with it" before it even happens is a pointless exercise.

If what you said is within reason, none of us would be here. Many come on this fora seeking advice, expressing their anxiety, frustrations, anticipations about the unknown--especially those just beginning to start graduate school. My worries are no different than anyone else who is seeking advice about dealing with a new situation. My only scope of educational experience was at my undergrad university (which happens to me majority black) and now attending a university, in a totally different location and environment, which far....far from that. And if you were to really stop and think about it, had I not already experienced "real discrimination" as you term it, I wouldn't have had a reason to create my OP, as issues of race wouldn't be on my radar screen. To minimize my insecurities as "stressing myself out needlessly" about something that is a reality---so much so that my grad university has dedicated a whole BUILDING and task force to addressing---is something that is quite beneath anyone here. If you think it is something that is needless, fine, there is a little x at the top right hand corner of your screen that would make better use of YOUR time.

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I'm quite used to the condescending tone of your post. I find it quite funny that the only ones who ever do try to minimize the things I have accomplished are other minorities. "Oh, you make it sounds easy" (it wasn't). "Not everyone is like you" (aren't I a special snowflake?). Please. People on here have accomplished something that most people will never be able to accomplish (i.e. graduate from college) and are seeking to go further... no one who is on their way to a getting a graduate degree should think of themselves as "oppressed."

I was raised in a country where tens of thousands of people, many of whom were in college, were kidnapped and killed by the government. A generation of intellectuals, gone. THAT is oppression.

Perhaps a little world perspective would show just how NOT oppressed Americans really are.

What I said is that people stress themselves out NEEDLESSLY over how things "are going to be," and how to deal with "being a minority." When you encounter real discrimination, deal with it then. But trying to "deal with it" before it even happens is a pointless exercise. It's like freaking out about whether the new group of people you're about to meet is going to like you, and trying to think of ways of dealing if they don't. It seems to me a much better use of my time would be to address any instances when they occur... not try to plan for them assuming they will happen.

I wasn't being condescending to you.

This was, however:

I think sometimes people who are members of minorities pay way too much attention to others' perceptions of one's minority status (whether it be race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, etc.) and set themselves up for additional stress... your "status" becomes yet another hurdle to jump through, and in my experience as a student and as an educator, it often is a hurdle of our own creation.

And I didn't dismiss your accomplishments. You did. You glossed over it like it was a breeze!

It's so utterly insulting to say people who graduate college haven't or will not experience oppression. My God! I'm just flabbergasted. A little world perspective? Please. We had to flee China when Tiananmen Square happened. What's that you were saying about generations of intellectuals being killed?

I never advocated stressing yourself out before something happens. I'm saying that some people are born and bred in this society with those insecurities and limitations and handicaps internalized. I'm saying that some people couldn't see past it like you, who made it seem so easy.

I really don't understand the vitriol I'm getting for insisting that race and minority are really important and impact people in really serious ways. I'm not trying to be down on people and tell them their life is hell because they're minorities; some people know and live that already and we shouldn't be minimizing that. If you succeeded and live your life to the fullest because you're able to look past those limitations that are set upon you by society, then, like I said, bravo and you should be proud. But don't blame those you left behind for being weaker than you. Again, that's blaming the victim.

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CageFree,

I really enjoyed your first uplifting post. However, I think your rebuttal to 1Q84, be it in frustration, really demonstrated what you wanted to say initially, but didn't have the platform to do so.

I don't understand how you can generalize an entire group of people based on the one comment of someone on the computer screen. In what ways have 1Q84 and other "minorities" minimized your accomplishments? It seems to me that you have some very deep seeded insecurities and are probably more conscious about your ethnicity (being a Latina) than the blase', "I'm just an American/don't focus on being a minority" nature you attempt to portray in your posts. What you are studying doesn't seem to help that justification either.

If what you said is within reason, none of us would be here. Many come on this fora seeking advice, expressing their anxiety, frustrations, anticipations about the unknown--especially those just beginning to start graduate school. My worries are no different than anyone else who is seeking advice about dealing with a new situation. My only scope of educational experience was at my undergrad university (which happens to me majority black) and now attending a university, in a totally different location and environment, which far....far from that. And if you were to really stop and think about it, had I not already experienced "real discrimination" as you term it, I wouldn't have had a reason to create my OP, as issues of race wouldn't be on my radar screen. To minimize my insecurities as "stressing myself out needlessly" about something that is a reality---so much so that my grad university has dedicated a whole BUILDING and task force to addressing---is something that is quite beneath anyone here. If you think it is something that is needless, fine, there is a little x at the top right hand corner of your screen that would make better use of YOUR time.

Hopefully three times in the charm... I've lost my posts TWICE to Windows Update and to the back button.

Perhaps I didn't express what I wanted to say clearly... it was typed at 3 AM. I doubt this is going to be any more eloquent being my third attempt, but I'll give it a shot.

We all have insecurities about grad school. It's natural... and I think that those of us who haven't had it all handed on a platter are even more prone to "impostor syndrome" than those who have. It's those insecurities that drive us to succeed... to prove ourselves.

You were admitted into a program that has a history of NOT admitting minorities, and are breaking new ground in that regard. They could have admitted yet another non-minority person but they took YOU instead because clearly you're a rock star. However, you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself because you're the first, like you have to set a standard... and I think that the pressure and stress are more harmful than good (and that's why I called it needless). You're already under pressure because it's grad school, it's a top program, and you're naturally driven.. you're probably your own worst critic... why add more stress to a plate that's already full? Some people thrive on that type of pressure but many crack, and thus the pressure has become another barrier (which is what I meant by "of their own creation").

Now, as for the rest of the post.

I don't identify myself as "Latina" because I don't like labels, and would greatly appreciate not being labeled that way, as a matter of respect. It's not about "insecurity," as you say, but because I think the world would be better off without such labels. I don't find them empowering... I find them restrictive.

Not that I owe explanations, but as an undergraduate I studied Classics. I switched because I became interested in government oppression and genocide, and Latin America offers great examples for that, which I'm closely familiar with because my own family came to the US escaping them. I happen to be interested in modern East Africa as secondary field, and I'm not African.

I don't know about you, but I find being called "naive" insulting. The few times I've encountered that mentality (that I must be naive in thinking you can get ahead and overcome barriers if you work hard enough), it's always been a member of a "minority." So you're right that my post was out of frustration.. it was frustration at having someone tell me that I really am "oppressed" even though I "refuse to acknowledge it," and that I made my life sound "easy" just because I didn't spend time detailing my "accomplishments" in detail and "glossed over them." Maybe I "glossed over them" because they are not relevant to this thread, or maybe I don't think my "accomplishments" are greater than those of many others, minority or not, who are in grad school.

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I wasn't being condescending to you.

This was, however:

And I didn't dismiss your accomplishments. You did. You glossed over it like it was a breeze!

It's so utterly insulting to say people who graduate college haven't or will not experience oppression. My God! I'm just flabbergasted. A little world perspective? Please. We had to flee China when Tiananmen Square happened. What's that you were saying about generations of intellectuals being killed?

I never advocated stressing yourself out before something happens. I'm saying that some people are born and bred in this society with those insecurities and limitations and handicaps internalized. I'm saying that some people couldn't see past it like you, who made it seem so easy.

I really don't understand the vitriol I'm getting for insisting that race and minority are really important and impact people in really serious ways. I'm not trying to be down on people and tell them their life is hell because they're minorities; some people know and live that already and we shouldn't be minimizing that. If you succeeded and live your life to the fullest because you're able to look past those limitations that are set upon you by society, then, like I said, bravo and you should be proud. But don't blame those you left behind for being weaker than you. Again, that's blaming the victim.

1. I have not blamed anyone for anything.

2. Your post was FULL of condescension. You called me naive, you said that "most" people will not see me but "stereotypes" (how do you know? do you live my life?), that I made my life sound "easy" because I didn't write about it in excruciating detail, and made it a point in multiple occasions to point out that while you "applaud me" (I don't need your approval, thank you very much), my experience cannot be universal because... oh, I don't know, you think I'm stronger than what, Superman? You have to be pretty darned strong to get into grad school, and even stronger to make it. I don't think I'm stronger than the average person going to grad school. Again, I'm not "special." I'm not "unique." And what I have accomplished, others can too.

3. Saying that people SOMETIMES focus too much on other people's perceptions is not "condescending." It goes to the heart of the OP... you place such high expectations and pressure because you want to 'overcome' their perceptions that you end up doing yourself more harm than good. It's an observation. Grad school is hard enough as it is, without the pressure of being a "model" or having to "prove yourself" as a member of the ____ minority. That pressure can be unbearable and can cause a person to crack. THAT was my point.

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All right, it's quite obvious that when discussions of minority come in to play, things and feelings get heated. So I apologize if I said anything to you that was offensive. I wasn't trying to force my "approval" on you, I was trying to say I appreciate your experience and find that mine and many people that I know have it different. I got heated, so I spoke more passionately than I normally do. The last thing I want to do is take part in a minority vs. minority thing. So I'll leave my piece at that and hope we can leave that as water under the bridge.

We are all in it together, for sure!

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No hard feelings. I tend to write rather bluntly myself and like I said before, when you're trying to type something at 3 AM things are going to come out awkwardly. :) I did not mean to offend anyone either.

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All right, it's quite obvious that when discussions of minority come in to play, things and feelings get heated. So I apologize if I said anything to you that was offensive. I wasn't trying to force my "approval" on you, I was trying to say I appreciate your experience and find that mine and many people that I know have it different. I got heated, so I spoke more passionately than I normally do. The last thing I want to do is take part in a minority vs. minority thing. So I'll leave my piece at that and hope we can leave that as water under the bridge.

We are all in it together, for sure!

I'll concur with this! Sometimes when we loose our heads we have nothing to think with, I am the poster child. We are all in this together! :)

Edited by BrokenRecord
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Sorry everyone--I'm jumping into this conversation late, but it's a topic that's important to me, so I wanted to share my thoughts.

Don't ever let them see you as a "black female" and treat you as such...

This statement is loaded, and I wanted to address it. First, you can't control how other people see you. It's kind of like a game of "I think that you think that I think" . . . I was doing some people watching at the airport today and wondering why people were dressed the way they were. The overweight, balding man with the navy blue blazer and shiny black shoes? Was he trying to look more professional as a way to compensate for his body because he thought that I, or any one else for that matter, would think better/more of him if he looked sharp? In turn, this made me think about how I wanted to present myself at orientation next week--by dressing a certain way, I try to send a message to other people about myself, but there's no way I can guarantee that they will pick up the same message that I'm trying to send out.

So basically people will see you through their own perspectives, which have been influenced by their upbringing, values, experiences, etc. Unless you can get into the heads of every person you meet, you really can't "control" how they "see" you. What you can control is how you respond to them. And, I also want to add that however people interact with you may or may not be based on your being a black woman. It may have more to do with who they are. We all have multiple identities and one or more of them may be at play at any given time in any given situation. If any one is interested in learning more, you can search for: James Paul Gee, Identity Theory (he focuses mainly on education but it works in any context).

I'm appalled at the second half of your statement . . . treat you as such? The implication to me is that generally black women are treated poorly (and CafeFree's statement supports that). Let's be honest here. Out of all the different combinations of race/gender, our society views black women as one of the lowest. I think the OP is right to be concerned about her identity as a black woman in a predominately white and male culture. I think it's darn courageous of her, and I wish her the best of luck.

I really don't understand the vitriol I'm getting for insisting that race and minority are really important and impact people in really serious ways.

I'm with you, 1Q84. I agree 100%. Being "color blind" belittles the effects of race/ethnicity on people's lives. I could go on and on... so many examples of work that has already been done on this topic, yet we are as divided as ever.

To the OP, as an ethnic minority woman, the only advice I can offer you is what I hope to do for myself--to watch, listen, observe, speak up when I can, take action when I can, and play the game really really well. Once you're in a position of power, you can change the game for others. It's starting to happen here and there, but if you look at the majority of universities and colleges, especially in certain fields, you will find that the majority culture is white and male.

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OP, I feel you. I'm a Black woman who grew up in a town that was 90% Black. I'm also a Black woman who went to a mostly White high school, mostly White undergrad school, and who will be attending a mostly White grad school starting next week. I'm pretty comfortable with it at this point, but I am hyper aware of the fact that, for a lot of my newfound midwestern friends, I'm one of the first Black people they've ever known besides the ones on tv (I'm not making that up btw. I've been told this more than once). There's so much pressure to not be a stereotype, and there can be so much frustration from people when they realize you're not a stereotype.

As far as I know, there's only one Black prof in my department and maybe only one or two other grad students that are POC in my department. I'm very familiar with the concept that we have to be better than best. I remember reading something recently about how a Black man with a degree has a harder time getting a job than a White man with a felony on his record. Not sure how many were studied off the top of my head, but I'd be lying if I said I was entirely surprised. That being said, I do my level best not to live for other people. I'm just trying to do my thing and let that be enough. *keeps fingers crossed*

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\I'm appalled at the second half of your statement . . . treat you as such? The implication to me is that generally black women are treated poorly (and CafeFree's statement supports that).

No, that's not what I meant at all. It's about shedding labels altogether. If the OP had been an Asian male, I would have made a similar statement. I don't want to be ID'd for my ethnicity... I want to be known as ME and evaluated on the merits of what I do. And while it's true you can't control everyone's views of you, you CAN shed the labels with many people if you simply choose not to use them yourself. This has been my experience. For instance, as a teacher, I didn't let on to students where I was from... I just taught them. When they DID hear me speak Spanish, they were shocked because a) I don't have a thick accent, and b ) I never TOLD my Civics students I was raised in Latin America. Not because I'm embarrassed, but because it's really not relevant to their education, or to the subject I teach. I did bring it up in the AP class I taught because it was Human Geography, and I could pull many examples from life experience in what I taught. They never saw me as a "Latina" teacher... I was just their teacher.

Same was true with many of my coworkers. Many had no idea I speak Spanish, and I worked with them for 6 years.

Edited by CageFree
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