White privilege or confidence and ambition?

I know this subject is sore for a lot of people and seems to be getting only more sore a topic.  It has caused me, someone who usually pauses and thinks about something objectively before responding or forming an opinion, to have knee jerk reactions and emotions get involved.  All sides of the conversation are guilty of defensiveness and I want to be able to have a candid and open discussion about something I encountered yesterday that I’m struggling with.  No name calling, no assumptions, nothing.  Any ignorance I may display is not intentional and I would gladly be educated if done in a respectful manner.  Trigger warning over.  It makes me so sad that I would even have to put a trigger warning instead of just being able to be open and discuss thoughtfully.  Man things have really degraded in society…

Anyway…

Yesterday I was speaking with a coworker who is an older African American lady and we were talking about how she recently graduated with her bachelor’s.  The conversation kept going and I expressed how excited I was to go back to school and I was looking forward to the challenge of law school and trying to do some good in this world.  She then brought up that she has a daughter working on her undergraduate in Criminal Justice at a community college and she will transfer to a four year university soon.  She plans to go to law school once she graduates as well.  She continued talking about how her daughter has really set herself up well for law school; she currently works as a security guard while going to school, her aunt is a Constable here in Texas and has offered her an internship, her uncle is a Yale law school graduate with his own firm in Dallas.  So I naturally asked, where is she looking at for law school.  She goes on to mention some very small, 2 or 3 tier schools and starts laughing when she says her daughter dreams of Howard or Harvard for law school but knows there’s no way she could ever get in and is just trying to get into one school in a 2 or 3 tier school.

I remained polite and the conversation moved on from there but I was troubled by her daughter’s lack of confidence in herself in her choices of law school.  Her daughter has a decent GPA.  Yes, she is at a community college, but she has really started taking her studies seriously and her GPA has gone up drastically and she will transfer to a four year school soon and will, undoubtedly, do just as well as she has been.  She seems like a very determined, hard working young woman; she both works and goes to school–this is no easy feat.  She has done everything right to set herself up for a law career and has already started studying for the LSATS.  From this description of her, I see absolutely no reason why she couldn’t get into a tier 1 school.

Then it made me think about myself in relation to this.  I went to an academically rigorous, yet small school in the Midwest that no one has heard of.  I had a decently high GPA of 3.68 and pushed myself in extracurriculars and even worked as well, though I was fortunate enough to have had enough in scholarships I didn’t need to worry about student loans and my parents were able to support me.  Unlike this young lady, I wasn’t planning on law school from my undergraduate (lack of confidence and naivete pushed me into dreams of a more academic career) and didn’t properly prepare myself like she has.  I didn’t take on internships…I worked during the summer so I could pay for next years’ expenses and I lived in the middle of nowhere.  I didn’t want to burden my parents with having to support me financially while I trotted around the globe (my dad was paralyzed in an accident in the middle of my schooling and times got rough for us).  Then I moved to Austin and I just started working.  Besides from a major in Government/International Affairs, minors in History (with an emphasis on human right’s in Latin America) and Philosophy, I have no experience with law.  I have no connections.  Nothing that will set me apart.  But that does not stop me from believing that I will only get into a tier 1 law school.  It has never occurred to me that I may fail.  I just have this faith that everything will work out right.

What is my reason for this confidence?  Is it a belief in myself that is unshakeable?  That I know what I’m capable of if given the right opportunity?  Or is this an example of white privilege?  My heart doesn’t want to believe this other theory.  I know I’m intelligent.  I know my skills.  But that comfort I have…that I know everything will work out…does this come from the advantage of privilege?  It makes me feel unworthy of any opportunity that may come my way.  As if I stole it from someone more deserving.  As if my hard work was nothing, that I was already given a head start and extra help along the way that negates my effort.

I’ve been wrestling with it ever since I had that conversation yesterday.  And I honestly don’t understand it.  I haven’t brought this up with my black, though not African American, boyfriend.  I know he would say that it is confidence in myself.  Blacks from other countries don’t seem to have strains of the same thoughts as their counterparts who have been born and raised in the United States, descending from a line of people who came here enslaved (this is an anecdotal experience based on the many interactions I have had with black, non-African Americans).  I have no one to ask about this and I want to sort out these thoughts and have an open discussion.  I doubt I will get that since I have chosen to remain anonymous on here and have a very minimal following (mostly spam people).  But please.  If you are reading this and have something thoughtful to add to this.  Please do.  I would love to speak with you and appreciate your respectful, thoughtful responses.

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