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Maya Edwards is a PhD candidate in Spanish Literature at Texas Tech University. Her primary research is focused on nineteenth-century Spanish Peninsular literature, centering on intersections of gender, mobility, and affect. Other research interests include cultural studies, social justice, digital literacies, and study abroad.
By Maya Edwards.
My story, while a personal narrative, is but a single piece of a much larger historical narrative that has not been spoken about often enough in our country. It underlines issues of race that persist, and speaks to the different (almost liminal) human experiences in common spaces. It speaks to the weight of fear and trauma carried into new experiences, invisible to many people occupying the same space. My story speaks of navigating a world with an ever-present fear of the possibility of confronting police violence and other threats, and a rehearsal of what to do in case it happens to you. These days we hear a lot about “the talk” that black families have with their children to prepare them for such situations in order to survive.
There is another talk: one about education. This other talk is intended to prepare black children for the inevitable moments ahead when people will question their worthiness to take up space. It begins something like this: “to be successful, to make it in school and in life, you’ll have to work twice as hard just for it to be noted that you’ve completed your task.” We are prepared to engage with people along our educational journey who are surprised that we occupy the space we are in. And yes, it continues into graduate school.
The iterations look something like this:
-“You’re so articulate!” (I’m surprised that you are eloquent and well-spoken.)
-It’s “the look” when you mention that you are presenting at a conference, or that I’m researching…
-It’s “the look” when it is known that you are the Spanish teacher. I’ve not seen my white (also non-native) peers get the same look…
-It’s having been told by a superior that to be successful, I should not wear my hair as it naturally grows from my head.
-It’s discovering massive salary disparities that do not align with experience and preparation.
-It’s being one of few, often times the only, in a space of academics.
I do not share this to paint myself as a victim. This is not to say that I consider my graduate school experience to be negative. Truly, I’m surrounded by and supported by incredible people, for whom I will always be grateful. I do share this to acknowledge a facet of my life experiences that I’ve internalized and do not often discuss. Experiences have made me stronger and even more determined to be part of the change I’d like to see in the world. Indeed, as a black woman in graduate school and in life, I carry fears, frustrations, and trauma that others don’t see. Nonetheless, as stated in my digital story: I am bold. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I’m an agent for change on a journey about education: “the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” -Nelson Mandela.
- The Burden of Being the Only One in the Room – #BLM Guest Post
- Silenced By My Peers – #BLM Guest Post
- Healing Racial Trauma in the Academy (Part II) – WOC Guest Post.
- Where You Show Out Is Where I Show Out: On Micro Macro Aggressions – WOC Guest Post
- 5 Anti-Racist Practices White Scholars Can Adopt Today – #BLM Guest Post