A Millennial Politic: When You're Not Graduating
As a millennial today, I understand how my will has little to do with the environment around me. Networking is my path to access for all things. Social media, and the internet can give me just as must information, if not more than one book, one class, one conversation. I understand being a millennial today, as being one person in control of their destiny. No border, no adult, not institution can restrict my connection to the rest of the world. And, thus my thinking is limited to no identity or historical moment. I am exposed to so much difference from my lived experience everyday that my expectations are high in respect, intersectional thought, and ability to strive for more in life than we are given. What we are given as truth and fact, and we are given as limits of reality and structure of society.
For those of you graduating, congratulations! You made it in a process we learn is so easy, necessary to our future, and essential to our success in America.
However, this post is not for you. This post has no intent to bash you or discredit your effort to that degree. You earned it.
College is not for everyone. College is not free. College is not accessible. College does not the level playing field.
A degree does not make you smarter. A degree does not end your education. A degree does not ensure your success.
Identity politics is where I have found my power. I have developed pride in myself through the struggle to be my wholistic self at all times. My stunted education has been only used to invalidate my intelligence, not to be uplifted or added in my complexity and self-made status. Why is that?
That's bullshit. Rethink your expectations and judgements on people based on a piece of paper, or lack thereof.
The college experience is a privilege broadcasted as a necessity and it isn't. It is a tool of subjugation that is broadcasted as the gateway to success. To divest from it is to divest from the will of the state, to save thousands of dollars, and to [re]imagine a world without respectability politics.
Realize college as an institution of power towards wealth and increased wealth, not knowledge.
As a young person who had always achieved academic success, I used to not understand why people dropped out of college, besides extenuating life circumstances. This belief changed after my freshman year of college. In my freshman year, I fought extremely hard to get involved and find my place on campus, and spent most of my time completely occupied with extracurriculars, working on and off campus, and sports. I did great in that year, but found my efforts did not nearly reflect my reality, and I was not okay with that. What I spent so much time on in class did not manifest in everyday life, it was barely relevant. What was relevant was how I was changing and growing as a person. How I navigated college without parents who went to college to guide me. Navigating life insurance, financial aid, living alone, taxes, all of that.
This disconnect from school education was not because I could not grasp it, it was because I barely saw it applied in everyday life, especially mine. I went to an event the other day titled Black Panther: Image, Futurism and Action that validated that experience. A young Black pastor from Baltimore had talked about how he had appointments to prestigious places of higher education. In each of these places he felt microaggressions, and that what he learned was not representative to his identities or experiences. What led to the end of those academic journeys is that did not feel appreciated on his campus. For the history of your people to be an elective, for your interests to remain so far in the margins regardless of your proximity to the most selective institutions of knowledge in the United States is damning.
Overall, I feel college is integral for all people, because it is often the first time someone is wholly responsible for themselves. They can study what they want, choose when to go to class, and present themselves how they see fit. For many, they do not absorb that freedom and continue to conform to those around them including parents.
When college is not your testament to maturity or adulthood, what does it symbolize?
When you ask someone who did not attend or graduate college, what college means, you will get varying answers.
I would say my college years were the best and worst in my life so far. I cultivated my interests, sharpened my character, heightened my expectations, and started living my truth. I began to live under my own will and make decisions for myself. That was not due to some college assignment or project. School unraveled for me, my attention was scattered: what I wanted to do and needed to do were no longer the same. My survival evolved from a balance of school and work, to my mental and physical health.
It's not accurate to say I dropped out of college.
What is accurate:
-I took a medical leave of absence from my studied to focus on my healthcare full time - therapy twice a week, psychiatry every three weeks. This schedule was impossible to keep up with even a minimal class schedule below 12 credits.
-When I was cleared to go back to school I lost my aid
-I could not pay for school out of pocket
-My school could not and would not make an environment that was accessible where I could succeed
In my medical leave from school I started organizing on my campus against the racist incidents happening around me. I started this site where I refined my writing for a broader audience on topics that no school curriculum would have fully scratched the surface of in content. I turned my 2016-2017 strife into a personal research project that I presented at Georgetown University's B.R.A.V.E. summitt.
It's not as if college is obsolete.
College still acts as a physical hub of academia, where research is presented, where conferences take place, where facts are written into existence.
Colleges are not obsolete, but have become extremely inaccessible to the poor, Disabled, and those who at all live none cookie cutter lives.
To recognize this fact is to realize how much we value college degrees. Degrees that reflect access to wealth and the norm, the ability to seem like everyone else in society on a level playing field. To dismiss those without college degrees is ridiculous, but much of our society works that way - seeing degrees as the only indicators of intelligence and work ethic.
Think about the college admissions process.
Systemic racism has created an environment where my story, and my struggle are fetishized for white tears. These elements of my intersections have become gateways for funding, access to education, and most of all, a spotlight for white conversation. As our human rights are not readily accessible in America because of our skin color, in the mainstream we are left powerless. Only in organizing ourselves and remastering our stories are we building power. Only in not being gatekeepers and being dedicated to Black liberation for all Black people are we different from our selective oppressors. I am in audience to Black people and work for Black people first and foremost. When my grief becomes a tool for white validation, in this case for institutions, I lose my power and they absorb it.
In my year out of school, I could not get or maintain a full time job. I bordered the line of poverty. Poverty is a threat to some in which they lose all power and resources. Hence, in that fear, people strive to maintain privilege as well. I did not grow up in poverty, but became impoverished. Being impoverished meant being unable to eat regularly, not have access to vital medication, and all the same be judged for my own desolation. In being intersectional, I recognize disability is often synonymous with poverty. Not being able to get or keep a job because of necessary accommodation, because of access to your healthcare and medicine simply because of income and wealth is a product of a capitalist society and globalized corporations. Today, I have access to healthcare and exist still unmedicated because I have community in my employer, friends, and family willing to step out of their privilege in order to help me navigate this decentralized medical system that barely serves the community most affected - Disabled people. That's not taught in school. Collegiate institutions also reinforce that lifestyle.
I now know that there are so many factors as to why people don't finish, and often these factors are out of there control. Before I would ask, why don't they go back. Now I would ask, why they should.
Gucci Mane - "Extra"
Textin, smokin' and flexin' at the same time
Pick ya weapon, n*gga
AR-15, Mac-11, n*gga
I if you a Blood got beef with Guwop I don't wanna B ya
If you a Crip got problems with me I wouldn't wanna C ya
LC's all over me, no Vice Lord tho I Louis V up
Big up to Jeezy but the 12 disciples they betrayed Jesus
RIP to MLK he was a born leader
Malcolm X man dat there, them my damn people
Its a revolution second graders smokin' reefer
And killin' people, god deliver me from evil
My momma told me in the county jail in visitation
That shes not sad I took her ? shes happy that I made it
I buried the trash they threw at me and know its my buried treasure
And every hurdle in life I leap, it make me more successful
Life so stressful, n*ggas they gone test ya
So Icey and you can't make a diamond without pressure
Just to wake up and breath, man I'm blessedful
I used to pay my momma rent with the extras
Dope man, b*tch want a bag I got extras
Don't measure lean pour up and don't measure
Dope man burry a mill, its buried treasure
Extra extra read about it, b*tch I'm in the paper
Finessed the college out a loan, dropped out the first semester