I have never seen challenges as it is, but simply an obstacle to improving myself. My biggest challenge or setback is oddly enough an experience I cherish most. It might sound strange, but I say this with confidence because without it I would be a completely different person. This set back has shaped who I am today, and I’m proud of the outcome. However, as a young black woman, I knew the effects of this challenge would impact me greatly as I got older. The challenge of racism is an obstacle every black child, teen, and adult must experience, and not by choice.
I grew up in a predominantly white community, so it was a given that I would have to face obstacles that not many of my other peers had to. Not only did I face the unfair challenges that came with being black, but I did so in an environment that was unfamiliar. I was brought up in a culture that wasn’t mine, kids that didn’t look like me, and adults that couldn’t understand why I felt uncomfortable hearing the N-word. Stares and racist stereotypes were nothing new to my perspective as a 14-year-old. However, when I started high school I began to feel and understand the deeper side of racism. From “look I’m almost as dark as you!”, to a boy’s parents not allowing him to date a black girl, to being called the N-word so easily, my realization had settled in by the end of my freshmen year. I am outnumbered and unheard.
The ignorance of my peers would have tanked me as an individual, a student, and an athlete. Maybe some would have decided to follow the mindset of working ten times harder to get half of what they have, but I refused to see it that way. From the household I come from astounding work ethic is not an option, so I knew my worth in that aspect. I may not have known my full self, but I knew I didn’t need anybody else to determine my success. At this moment I decided it had nothing to do with the ignorance of my peers, and everything to do with who I am as a person. However, I found it to have led me to another setback because I didn’t know. What I did now is that I wouldn’t be able to find myself in this community.
With this prejudice so deeply rooted in society, and then knowledge of myself, or lack thereof, I fell into a weak state. Groundbreaking, nonetheless. Not knowing who you are as an individual is a common setback for many, but to do so in a foreign, prejudice, and ignorant community, is a different type of ominous. It was the unsettling feeling of being the center of attention, yet so absent at the same time that led me to my solution. In the middle of my sophomore year, I decided to transfer high schools. I moved to a more diverse area which allowed me to thrive with others who understand my perspective and challenges.
Another part of my growth as a young minority woman would be taking advantage of a significant educational opportunity. This would be the running start program offered in Washington. This is a program that allows juniors and seniors in high school to take college courses and graduate with an associate degree. When I first heard about this program, I was a freshman that only thought about my social status and education. Of course, as I went along throughout the year I matured.
Entering my sophomore year I began to think about my future and what I wanted to do. Running start was a program that not many adults encourage teenagers to do. This is because while it can easily set one up for success, It's just as easy to mess up one's future. I say this because many students go into running start not considering the dedication you must have. You are essentially giving up your high school lifestyle and trading it for a matured version. I had a plan for my education, and running start allowed me to get ahead. I couldn't figure out how the cons could ever outweigh the pros. It was simply a matter of me being mature and dedicated enough to understand what the next two years would look like.