Why must we always outperform White folks at elite institutions? Resilience. Grit. Strength. Resistance. Surviving, thriving and surpassing against all odds, statistics and the status quo. That intuitive, rebellious nature and aspect of almost all people of color (POC), domestically and globally, is what seems to garner respect, validation and acceptance from White folks and their institutions everywhere. We get to attend these elite universities, such as Columbia University, because we survived, “succeeded,” and prevailed against all the forces, obstacles and adversity that White supremacy has yielded and pitted against our independent and collective survivals. We get a token seat at the table because our lives, actions and initiatives are eye-opening, inspiring and profitable performances to maintain White supremacy. It is a fascinating experience for White folks and even complacent POC who buy into White supremacy, whether intentional or not. They get to learn, benefit and profit from our individual and collective suffering, pain, loss, grief, angst, frustration, and/or trauma while protected by their elite privilege and positions of power within such elite institutions. What about our humanity, well-being and rights, though? What of our constitutional right to the “pursuit of happiness” in America? What of the reparations almost all POC are owed through the violent and oppressive history and legacy of Western colonialism, imperialism and consequential capitalism plaguing our lives and ancestral/native nations and/or communities?
Why must we always outperform White folks to be able to have a seat at the table of elite institutions, in order for our humanities to be recognized and perhaps even valued? How are we so dehumanized that our main value and acceptance in such elite spaces is based upon how much we can output and produce, inherently commodifying our existences?
Doreen (right) and Fatima are first-generation Americans, first-generation college folks, and low-income who started and survived Columbia together.
As a minority woman of color of Bengali descent, a first-generation American, and first-generation low-income college student at an elite institution like Columbia University, I am tired of seeing my fellow POC peers being primarily valued, respected and even fetishized for their “superhuman” abilities of resilience, grit, strength, resistance, survival and ability to thrive. I am tired of our individual and collective value being dependent upon our ability to survive while constantly and systematically being pushed to our limits—internal and external—
all the time. We deserve much better than that as human beings.
Our lives do not exist to be trauma porn and entertainment for White supremacy’s consumption and consequential profit. Our legitimacy, rights, humanity and survival should not be dependent on our ability to "prove" something. We deserve to be allowed to be “mediocre,” to make mistakes, to fail and still have our humanity recognized, respected and valued. We deserve the benefit of the doubt and the support that most White folks tend to receive at such elite institutions—especially straight White privileged men—even though many of them did not have to survive, thrive and surpass against all odds, statistics and the status quo. It is long overdue and time for us to speak out and rise to assert the power of our voices, existences, and resistance for our individual and collective liberation. We will not be silenced, oppressed and marginalized any more. Enough is enough; justice is long overdue.