At least I’m not a whiteboy

Julia Rivers,
Milwaukie, OR.

As a high school student dependent on scholarships in order to attend college and reach my goals of a much higher level of education, every day I am consumed by the thought of how I can make myself stand out. What will make the people in charge want to give me their money out of all the other students that are consumed by the same thought every single day. As a white girl from an educated family who’s only “pity” case is the death of my dad and being a hardly out lesbian who has not suffered from any discrimanation, my odds of earning scholarships are dependent entirely on my academic ability and my interest in STEM as a female. I am not one for labels-not about my sexual orientation, not about IQ’s, not about religion and not about race, but if you can not label yourself as something unique, you’re more or less SOL when it comes to earning scholarships.

A peer of mine is being recruited by well known schools across the country. Not the best schools, but decent ones I would consider safety schools. Her SAT’s are significantly lower than mine. Her GPA is lower than mine. The difficulty of classes she takes is lower than those that I take. The hours and diversity of community service she participates in do not match up to mine. Her “well-roundedness” consists of running track and school. Her family income is significantly higher than that of my single mother who is a school based therapist supporting two children …and yet, she is able to apply for a vastly larger number of scholarships than am I even eligible for, simply because she is a first generation college prospect who would add a dash of color to those mediocre college campuses. I understand the need for diversity, it is one of the top criteria for my upcoming decision of which colleges I will be applying to-but diversity should be attained without handpicking students deliberately for their race. I should not be excluded from competing with my peers simply because I am a mix of races that do not alter the color of my skin and come from an educated family. It is presumed that the education of my family means I have greater educational opportunities than first generation college prospects, that being a majority means I can walk onto a college campus, have a check and an education handed to me and provide a stellar education for my future children. And yes, I am acutely aware that the color of my skin has made my walk of life significantly easier. But the opportunities I have are no greater than my peers.

As students of one of the worst public education systems in the nation, it is a feat to get Oregon public school students to graduate, let alone be accepted into a decent university, and being a long time resident of a low socio economic town, every student here needs all the assistance paying for college we can get; regardless of race, family history, gender, sexual orientation, athletic ability or any other factor that forces us to wear a label on our backs saying “I’m the scholarship kid because (insert label of choice here)”. So my coping strategy, as I learned from my single mother who has shouldered her fair share of stresses in her life is this: add humor. I will not influence the powers that be to change their minds about my lack of labels, but at least I’m not a white boy.

 

Tweets by Michele Norris