It was a Monday morning, a few hours ago today to be exact and I was in the first lecture of my Comparative European Employment Relations module (class) here at Warwick. Professors in the UK like to do the whole tell us where you’re from and why you took this class just like professors in the US do (as if anyone really cares). Anyhow, the class starts going around sharing at some point someone says they’re from the States. The professor then asks if they’re an exchange student from Cornell because the Warwick Business School has an exchange program with Cornell (this student was not from Cornell but boy, Cornell is really out here man).
This student said no because she’s not an exchange student from Cornell, I am. Excited to hear our university being highlighted, Jakira and I excitedly raised our hands, only to be greeted by surprised looks on our classmates faces that the two Black girls in the back of the room were exchange students from Cornell University.
Cornell University. The Ivy League. The 10th best university in the world. The 15th best university in the United States. The university far above Cayuga’s Waters.
Maybe one day, I’ll stop being in awe of the university I will be so fortunate to call my alma mater. Maybe, one day, people, at home and abroad will stop being so surprised when I say I go/graduated from there (May 29th, 2016 come my way).
Now, obviously reactions vary based upon the crowd of people I’m in. But generally speaking, it goes from surprise to “Wow, you’re really smart.” or “Cornell, that’s an Ivy League right?” to which I always smile, and reply yes, and yes. Yup, I’m smart and yes, Cornell is an Ivy. Did the melanin in my skin make you think I couldn’t achieve such a feat? Why are you instantly more comfortable around me once I tell you from where I will have my degree? (I’m sure not all of these reactions are negative or due to the belief that a Black girl couldn’t make it at a place like Cornell- but when you’re told you only got in because of affirmative action or code-switching by professors and peers alike, well sometimes you’re just not sure…)
Dont get it twisted. I earned my acceptance letter from Cornell and I will have earned my diploma- with its resulting rights, privileges, and prestige, come May. I just sometimes wish that society didn’t need to know that to see the value in me.
My brilliance, beauty, brains, brawn, and body are all unapologetically Black. I can only hope one day, the world will see the value in that. No matter what countries I’ve traveled to, awards I’ve won, or colleges/universities I’ve attended.
Cornell may get my foot in the door or name on your radar, but it is my brilliance that will keep me there. Brilliance that has only been enhanced by the education I’ve received. 😉