The Burden of Being the Only One in the Room – #BLM Guest Post

Chase Moore is a former college football player at The University of Texas and current Master’s Student in Educational Policy at the University of Texas Austin.

My identity has been forced to be negotiated in a multitude of ways throughout life, and especially thus far in my Graduate School experience. First and foremost, if one were to even slightly examine the classmates that make up my cohort, they would notice that it reeks of homogeneity. The majority of my cohort is made up of women, and the racial makeup lacks diversity too since the majority are white females, with only two Latinas, one black woman, and me being the only black male.

The conversations that are persistent throughout my graduate school experience are led mostly by white female faculty, staff, and graduate students who fail to recognize various identities. Topics that deserve greater importance lack depth, which makes my cohort’s integrity to maintain the tenants of critical policy analysis and critical race theory impossible.

An example of how there was a complete lack of cultural consciousness occurred last semester in one of my white female professors’ classes. My professor began class with an anecdote of the “Funny Names” of some of her previous students when she was a K-12 teacher in an inner-city area. My classmates found this as an opportunity to express other “Funny Names” that they’ve heard over the years of also teaching inner-city black students. Everyone but me and the other black woman was amused. I wrestled hard with the duality of knowing that as the only black male in the class that I needed to speak up and utilize this as a teaching moment to my white peers, while also refusing to speak up in fear of receiving a bad grade in the course.

Aside from my white dominated graduate class and cohort experience, I do not struggle in speaking up in opportunities when I am called to speak. I understand that many who come from humble beginnings like myself do not have access to the number of resources and education that I do have, so I use every opportunity available to speak truth to power. For example, I testified in front of the Texas State Board of Education in November, where I advocated on behalf of adding comprehensive African American studies to the K-12 curriculum in the entire state of Texas, which has since been approved. After posting the experience online, the Public Testimony Video went viral. I believe it speaks towards my efficacy in speaking truth to power.

The most profound aspect that I believe helped the video gain so much traction was the mere factor that my passion did not match my appearance. I am a black male with dreadlocks who grew up around Compton critically speaking about dismantling systems and circumventing the matrices of power. What made the experience even more dynamic was that I mentioned that I played college football for the Texas Longhorns and how I realized very early on in my career that there was no utility in basking in my own success on the football field if I cannot inspire the people that need me the most: inner-city youth. After that exchange, I believe that I sucked the air out of the room.

I now am completely convinced that my positionality is empowering since I had the opportunity to touch millions of people. I was extremely surprised because I didn’t intend to post the video in the first place. I was debating whether or not people would perceive me advocating for African American studies as important, but everyone’s response indicates that these issues are very important, so since the very first week of January, I will be posting a video about Educational Policy on all major Social Media platforms every single week for the next year to see what happens.

I have an unrelenting conviction to see change, so I now fully use my platform to discuss pertinent educational and Black issues. I want to see if my videos can help legislation like the African American studies curriculum can pass in other states, who it inspires, who can learn from what I’m learning, and any other positive externalities. My videos will highlight Personal Stories, Interview Educational Policy Experts, Educational Policy issues, Current Educational Policy Wins and losses, and also pertinent events that speak of the Black experience. 

Working to manifest my convictions and commitments to see educational policy change with my connections makes for a very bright future. I am currently a Graduate Assistant with the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence under the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. I work directly with Dr. Ryan Sutton in the Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males and am a Teacher’s Assistant for the Race in the Age of Trump class with Dr. Leonard Moore. With this leadership position, I am responsible for assisting in meaningful initiatives that enhance the educational experiences of the Black males of UT, who make up less than 2 percent of UT Austin’s 51,832 students, and teach first-generation and minority students.

I am fully convinced that my desire to ameliorate educational inequities for inner-city youth does not have to begin 10 years from now, it begins now. We always hear the phrase: be the change youwant to see. Well, I take heed of these words and refuse to ever hold back from speaking up again. 

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.

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