College Essay: The Skin I'm In
Kayla Broomfield is a recent High School graduate, who has taken advantage of her opportunities as a student to voice the point-of-view of a Female African-American teenager. For her college essay, she recalled an interaction with a librarian who appeared to challenge her reading choice. Here is an insightful look at how the African-American Woman's mindset is constructed.
“Excuse me? Excuse me, miss? Are you lost? Because the bus for Kings Plaza should be here any minute.”
“No. I’m not lost.” The librarian just sort of stared at me for a long minute. “I’m here to get Walden by Thoreau.”
“Yes. Henry David Thoreau.”
Just in case you weren’t aware, Kings Plaza is where all the kids in my neighborhood hang out. By “kids” I mean the Black kids, which I am.
“Oh okay...umm... Walden is over there,” she said as she pointed towards the memoir section of the library.
As I walked towards the memoir section, the librarian suspiciously continued to follow me, forcibly making an effort to converse with me. “So, are you picking this up for a friend of yours or is it for you?”
“It’s for me.”
“Oh, wow,” she sounded surprised that the book was for me, but she tried to hide it, which she didn’t do well. “Is this a book for pleasure or for school?”
“School, it’s for my A.P Lang class,” I said as I picked up the book with a picture of a pond titled Walden.
As I walked back to the front to checkout my book, the librarian just stared blankly at me as if she was baffled that someone like me was in a library and was going to read such a difficult book. After leaving, I pondered for quite a bit on what just happened. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time I’d been questioned for doing something — scholarly.
Being Black does come with a lot of obstacles regardless what religion, nationality, or region you’re from; we all face the same issues. As a child I was always told this mantra that is still instilled in me to this day, that said: no matter what, I always would have to work twice as hard to get to where I aspire to be. During that time, I never really understood why I had to work twice as hard, but I did it anyway. The color of my skin often seems to make a statement for me, before I make a name for myself.
I’m not interested in fame or immeasurable wealth. I want to be an orthopedic surgeon, but when I inform people of my future goals, I get raised eyebrows and unnecessary information about it being a predominately white male field. Although it’s not the intention of many, people judge me, and others like me without even realizing it, just because of the color of my skin. I’m not the type of person who sees the world through a racial lens, but sometimes when it’s brought to my attention, I like to use it to propel me to get closer to achieving my goals.
I understand that not everything is about race, but when you’re consistently judged in silence because your race or ethnicity is only expected to be satisfied with mediocrity and not excellence, it eventually becomes frustrating and overwhelming. Being Black and successful in contemporary society, is unfortunately like mixing water with oil: it just doesn’t seem to go together. For me, to be a product of Black Excellence is like carrying a boulder on my shoulder, but still jumping over every barrier that could possibly stop me. Of course, the raised eyebrows and confused looks will continue, especially as I climb the ladder of success. It seems as if, when I’m seen or someone like me is seen in a place that is dominated by others, there’s a level of disbelief, as if the fact that Black people can excel comes as a surprise, proof of something that needed proving.