Friday, March 21, 2008

Race: Playing The Victim

I have often found that sometimes things seem worse than they really are. For me, when things go wrong, there is usually a really good reason that leads to a much better outcome than if things had gone the way I wanted them to.

I'm not going to go into details as to what I went through this week, but the bottom line is now I can say a little more confidently than I could all semester that I will graduate soon. And that was really, really hard to say all semester. Things fell completely apart first. It was one of those times when if someone asked you how you feel, you couldn't answer. I guess it was a combination of emotions and thoughts, no single one prevailing except, perhaps, the survival instinct. I didn't have time to sit around angry or depressed.

And, actually, someone did ask me how I feel, at least about graduating. And that's another question that brings up different emotions that are hard to put into words. It's one of those questions people expect you to answer the same, that you're happy or ecstatic because you're finally done with schoolwork or because you're now going to make money. Schoolwork is not what law school has been for me; it's a lot more complicated than that. And I've been so caught up in dealing with graduating that I have barely searched for a job, so one thing I can say for law school is that I seem to jump one hurdle and immediately encounter another one. This has been so for, actually, approximately four years of my life now, starting with the law school admissions process and won't stop until I pass the Bar exam or get a job, whichever comes first. Now that I have the graduation thing pretty much squared away, I have to focus more on finding employment.

My friend Angel asked me how I felt about graduating. Excited? Nervous? I responded that it was neither of those things. I think my latest experience has been a case in psychology and have thought this for a long time. The truth is I don't want to leave. There are two reasons why, despite this, I worked hard to graduate: appearances and money. By appearances, I mean how would it look to get this far and not graduate? Or to graduate and then immediately enroll in another program at this school just so that I can stay at this school, in this town...which is really what I want to do? By money, I mean law school costs too much to spend another year here, and another program here would also cost too much. I have to move on.

Thus, the story has been a tale of conflicts: sadness over leaving, worrying about not being able to. But perhaps the reason that I had to worry all along was because I didn't want to leave, i.e. I was subconsciously sabotaging myself. And then there's the fact that I want to stay here, but, on the other hand, I want to go to Chicago. It is probably the case that neither will happen. I am thinking of taking either the California Bar or the NY Bar, because they both have way more job opportunities. If I don't get a job where I'd like to before I graduate, then I will have to choose California or NY because the deadline for registering for the Bar exam will be really close at that point. Although I don't want to go to NY and certainly don't want to go to CA, I already have the feeling that if this is what happens it will be because it's better for me somehow.

By the way...the reason I say that the struggle to graduate turned out for the best is I ended up getting probably the easiest path to graduation that I could, at this point. The path I was trying to take would have been more difficult. And with the newer, simpler path, I wondered why I'd never thought of it before. So, this leads me to believe that the job thing will go the same way.

I've been reading a little about the fallout from Obama's speech on race, and I was going to write a separate post about it...but. I think the most important part of my reaction to white people's reaction fits here, because a lot of white people seem to partially take Obama's speech as yet another black person playing the victim all because he essentially said racism still exists and is still a problem in the US. What I want to say is some people really are victims. It's not exactly the same, but I wonder if white people think it's okay to tell a rape victim to "get over it" or stop acting like a victim just because she tells her story and says rape is a problem in the US. Rape is a problem in the US, and this woman really did get raped--what's wrong with admitting it? The rape is over and done with, but the effects still live on and her story is still important. Some people really are victims. There are more victims in the US than not.

But that's not the point. The point is how do you let being a victim affect you. Obama is a victim because of race, even though he's mixed. But he went to Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He's running for President and is beating a white female who went to Yale Law School and has way more political experience. And he's running on a cheesy campaign of "change" and "hope." He makes one speech, probably the truest speech he's ever made, and to whites and Asians like Michelle Malkin, it's a vital mistake that could be the undoing of his campaign. He never stands up and speaks honestly about racial problems; it's always about uniting people rather than pointing out what's really wrong. And yet, to a lot of people, he is now just like "every other" black person, playing the victim and blaming white people (neither of which he really did). Tell me, who sounds more irrational and delusional--him or these people?

Obama is successful, no doubt, but being successful doesn't mean you don't have more difficulties because of some group to which you belong, and being successful from one of these groups doesn't mean others in that group don't experience more difficulties. Obama knows race is a problem, but, clearly, he has not sat around and let race destroy him or his efforts to succeed. Still, apparently, any time a black person gives their perception of race in the US, unless it is something people from other groups want to hear, they are being the victim. I see nothing wrong with telling it as you see it, or even with complaining and getting angry at times; what I do see a problem with is not taking action. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I discuss this latest turn in Obama's quest for the Presidency because I do complain and get angry, and I do think all blacks are victims whether they want to see it or not. The same is true for gays, Asians, Latinos, the poor, the elderly and many other groups of people in the US. Furthermore, I agree with the ideas motivating parts of the speech by Pastor Wright that I saw quoted. I haven't seen the whole speech, and I can't find right now the article that I saw. I just remember that the basic idea was that blacks are not treated fairly in the US, and, for that, we should condemn the US. I'm not sure I would use the word "condemn," but if you've read enough of my blog you know that I am not all sunshine-y about this country, in large part because of race. So what I'm saying is I agree with what led him to make that part of his speech, that what drove him truly is a problem here (and this might be what Obama was basically saying in his speech).

But despite the problems the US deals all those groups of people I listed, we also have opportunities and, at least, ways to fight for our rights. Obama knows that. I know that. If being black was a problem in every situation, then I wouldn't have been able to go to [white] people at my university and work out my graduation issue just the way that white students can and do. If being black was always a problem, I wouldn't feel that if I keep looking for a job I will get one. If being black was always a problem, I wouldn't have several [white] people out there helping me find a job the way I do now. If being black was always a problem, I wouldn't be where I am. Just because it's not always a problem doesn't mean it's never a problem. But being a problem sometimes doesn't mean that you shouldn't try.

If a black person isn't where Obama is or where I am, it doesn't always mean they haven't tried or that they are just blaming race without it being a factor. I believe I have run into numerous times since I've been in law school where race has been a negative factor, most importantly in the many job interviews I've done over the past three years. I've seen many fake smiles, critical eyes, intimidated demeanors, and once even got hostile tones--to my surprise, more so from white women than white men--followed by rejection letters. Making the claim is not what tells you that I "play the victim" in a way that unfairly blames all my problems on others; giving up looking for jobs after a few of those experiences is. I could go home and live off my parents. They are paying my undergraduate loans; why not let them pay the law school ones? Or I could work harder to find a man who will take care of me, which I actually hear more white women at universities discuss as their plan than black women. But I will not do these things. I will consider places I don't want to live and apply for jobs there, whether law-related or not. It's hard, especially right now with the economy, but I will make the effort.

If you read this blog, then it's no secret: I hate law school. It was a mistake. However, coming here was not. Out of everything bad comes something good. I love the university. It's hard to explain, because you never think someone could love a school. But I do; it could be a person. It's going in my will, and not just the law school. I will be trying to encourage my nieces and nephews to attend this university, and if I ever have kids I will be one of those parents whose kids will grow up having the school shoved down their throats. They will watch every football game, every basketball game and they will attend some. They will visit the school, wear the school's shirts/jackets/hoodies/hats/etc and they will be forced to apply. It's true; it has already spread to others in my family.

This is something I thought only happened on TV sitcoms until I came here and saw it. I'm not the only person who is like this. I know of no school other than Harvard that inspires pride, fanaticism and loyalty to this degree. I see families wandering around with their really little kids all the time and have heard of kids being raised to attend this school all their lives, which could be a lot of pressure since this is one of the hardest schools to get into in the nation. One day, I tried to count how many students I saw walking around wearing some article of clothing bearing our school's name, and I couldn't keep up. And those people who have been eager to give me advice and/or help me find a job have generally been graduates of this university. I can contact anyone else out the blue, including other blacks--most of them don't respond. And I haven't even mentioned the friends I've made that I wouldn't have made otherwise.

I jumped hurdles to get here, and I jumped hurdles to get out. As I said, this has been my life for four years. When something goes wrong, I come up with solutions and move on to the next issue. As with the graduation situation, sometimes the hurdles are solely my fault. Other times, as with some job rejections and the situation I described about a year ago in my blog with LA Girl, race plays some role. But the response, for me, is always the same, regardless of the situation. Everyone has to do what simply needs to be done, no matter the reason. This is not me saying "get over it" because I know better. Keep your struggle with you. It makes you stronger, and it makes you appreciate what you have more than those people who somehow expect you to get over inequality when they (if they're white) also complain when they perceive themselves to be the victims of it. You don't have to try to convince anyone, because if a black person like Obama can't convice white people then no one can. If you wonder why I say unity cannot be achieved in the US, why we'll never eradicate race and/or why racism will never go away, our best symbol of the possibility of all these things played a part this week in demonstrating why.