I Was Always Told to Challenge Myself
I’m white, upper-class, and “smart,” and I’ve always been told that I was born to do great things. In high school, I developed a reputation as the best student in the school; I was able to do this because teachers and administrators believed in me. They gave me more work, let me take advanced classes, and wrote me recommendations because they trusted I could do well. It is true that I worked hard to succeed, but I can’t attribute it all to myself. I’ve always had a quiet place to study and money to buy textbooks, which not everyone does; moreover, I was always told to challenge myself, but I’ve heard story after story of administrators at my school telling Black and Latinx students not to take AP classes. Again, I was white and upper class, and so people believed in me; I grew up knowing I belonged in academic spaces, and it took me years to realize that this is not something everyone has. When I got to Yale, this sense of belonging was only deepened by the fact that I don’t have to work to make the student income contribution. Yale is telling me that, because I can pay, I get to take advantage of all its resources and opportunities without having to worry about making time to work, too. Just like in high school, it makes me feel like I belong here – like no matter what happens, it’s going to be okay because Yale wants me to succeed. For low-income students and students of color, the opposite is too often the case. Instead of being free to pursue their goals at Yale like they were promised, they have to work long hours and give up incredible opportunities just to keep their place here, let alone feel like they are vital parts of this university. Yale says it offers the same opportunities to all students, no matter who they are, but that’s a lie. The student income contribution perpetuates the same ugly inequalities that exist outside of Yale; that is, the same dynamics of race and class that let me become the “best” student at my high school while hundreds of other students languished in underfunded classes in the very same building. There is no excuse for it.