To every black woman entering the Ivy League as a member of the class of 2018, I have one important piece of advice for you: Be patient.
There are not many of us, so sometimes the world forgets that we exist. But sometimes we are acknowledged and celebrated. We are recognized for our high graduation rates and overall collegiate success. We are performing well which leads to a lack of visible resources—both academic and social.
Black women of 2018, you will have to search a bit further for academic resources. You are expected to perform well. Statistically speaking, you typically do perform well. While there may be organizations with missions to help black men on your campus excel, you may not find too many with specific missions geared towards helping you. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond to find the help that you need. But remember—be patient.
Approaching the social scene will be frightening. You will be placed into a dormitory, and a lot of the people that you will be living with may be of different races. They will want to know why you toss a satin cap over your hair every night or why you tie down that headscarf religiously. Oh, and for God’s sake, why do you only wash your hair every two weeks?
When you do find students that look like you, you may be cautious about approaching them. What if they don’t like you? What if they want nothing to do with their culture and would much rather blend in with the dominant culture? What if the upperclassmen girls are catty? It may seem as though they are giving you looks of disproval, but just like you, they are also curious. Just remember—be patient.
Attending an Ivy League institution as a black woman is a difficult feat. Not only will you have to constantly work ten times harder to prove that you deserve your place on campus, but you will also have to constantly prove your “blackness” to those that discredit your choice of institution. Why didn’t you go to a historically black college or university? Was it not good enough for you? Remember—be patient.
There will be people that ascribe your success to affirmative action. There will be people who think that you have your nose in the air because your university is associated with such prestige. And don’t forget the academics. The library will be your home although you are paying an absurd amount of money for housing.
As a black woman attending an Ivy League institution, you will sometimes feel ignored and insignificant, but once you discover your niche—you will feel powerful. And you are powerful. The strength that you will gain from the experience will energize you as you make your way to join the rankings of women like Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, and Oprah Winfrey.
Be patient, and soon, it will be your turn to change the world.