By Tamar Davis '16
At Wellesley, I’ve developed a clear understanding of privilege: who has it, who doesn’t, and why it’s bestowed upon some and not others.
I’ve realized that despite the multitude of different backgrounds we all have, just being on a college campus is a privilege that we all share.
But as a woman of color, especially a Black woman, this recognition of privilege is all the more potent.
It’s not necessarily because I’m one of so few. Black women are going to college and doing quite well during our times at our respective universities.
But nevertheless, as a Black woman, my understanding of how deep the gulf is between where I am now and where people expect me to be gnaws at the back of my mind… It comes to the forefront when I step beyond the confines of this campus and realize that just by virtue of my race and gender, people will often automatically assume the worst about my character, my past, and my prospects.
Recognizing the privilege I enjoy here has kept me grounded, on my toes, and working twice as hard. It has also fueled a fear of failure that can overwhelm and stifle me if I allow it. I didn’t know what imposter syndrome was until last year, but it is a condition I quickly realized I’ve always faced. The feeling that I wasn’t meant to be here or that failure was a price I couldn’t afford to pay based on my class position and racial background has for too long kept me from even trying to place myself in uncomfortable situations.
I can still recall the wave of stress and tears that washed over me days before my very first week of classes. I felt inadequately prepared for everything. I remember how gradually I began to eschew things that I used to reap so much joy from—dance, writing—all because I was no longer convinced that my skills would measure up at a place like Wellesley.
It’s odd how prestige makes us so intimidated by institutions: the name, the reputation (sometimes even the physical structure itself) all the while forgetting that those very institutions are made up of and enlivened by people who aren’t much different than ourselves.
People generally recognize college as a place where the ambitious acquire the tools for success. We understand it as an engine where students use their self determination to create new possibilities for themselves. We are rarely told that it’s okay if we’re not successful all the time, or that maybe the moments when we fall on our faces are the very ones that helps us grow the most.
While the stakes for failure may not be the same for everyone, and it’s a privilege for some that their personal shortcomings won’t be used as a strike against their entire race (or class, or gender), stepping out on a limb is still an experience that no one should deny themselves.
Imagine how much happier, more fulfilled, and better cultivated we would all be if we knew that success was based not on how many times we won but on how many times we just pushed beyond our own self-imposed limits?
When I return years from now to reflect on my time here at Wellesley, or even in May when I put on my cap and gown and inevitably replay these past four years in my mind, I know that my regret will not be that I wish I had done better but rather that I wish I had done more.
From February 2016 Issue