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UPLIFTT | May 28, 2017

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Why Black Students in Higher Education Need to Keep it 100%

Why Black Students in Higher Education Need to Keep it 100%

In the movie Dear White People there are three types of Black people at the universities and colleges. Being at an Ivy Leaguer and observing my surroundings has really taught me a lot of things in regards to those definitions.

The ‘ooftas’ are those that use blackness in order to gain favor from white people in order to get what they want. According to Kaila Chan: “an oofta is someone who adjusts their blackness depending on the environment”. But there’s a dark side to that definition. An ‘oofta’ can also become president of some black organization or department, in order to get a scholarship, and be in the trends of black influence. Those that only care about other people only if they know someone “important” or are affiliated with important people that can further their own agenda. Those are in my understanding that dare talk about hip-hop, black politics, and black culture within the academy to further their own fame. Those are the same people who have the audacity to talk about multiple forms of identities or black identities while still trying to be Hollywood and forgetting about the people they’re trying to represent. Those that talk “real black” in conferences with their own ego in mind and only invite you to you chill if you’re important or if you published a well-known book. I’ve never seen that before until I myself got into an Ivy League. Once, a black student said: “I’m gonna keep your number because you know people at the Schomburg”. Meaning, I am only important because I know some staff members at the Arturo Alfonso Schomburg Center in Harlem and he thinks he might use me one day. Yes, we need things and favors from each other but not at the expense of that being the only reason we become peoples. I’d rather like someone for our common humanity. These ‘ooftas’ don’t mind competing against other black people and other students of color because all they care about is themselves. They rock a ‘fro for their own politics of greed. Many Latinos have also hopped on this bandwagon of self-mindedness as well. But Latinxs are predictable. Latinx organizations at universities are mostly white/mestizo Latinxs with their white privilege. You won’t catch an Afrolatinx at a university so they take advantage. It doesn’t surprise me when Latinxs say they’re down with black and indigenous Latinxs and other black folk but “forget” to put those initiatives in events of their supposed integrated organizations. I’ve seen this in many universities. The same thing every time.

Then you have the ‘nose jobs’, those that reek of whiteness and imitate whiteness as much as they can because it’s in their social DNA. Like the ones who ask for uppity weird orders in the cafeteria while the guy in the back is looking at them like they’re stupid. Those that act like they don’t see you in the hallways or in classrooms but then only want to be seen with white folks or ‘ooftas’  in order to get what they want. They are very similar to the ‘ooftas’ with their desire to be well known at the expense of their own humanity.

Then you have those who keep it ‘100’. Those of us who are in fact trying to survive and strive the best way we can without selling our souls to the devil. Those of us that care for our people no matter what happens. We are those that walk in the Ivy with our community in mind. We think of those people in the community who don’t have the privilege to hang out with a famous professor but instead with José from his job from down the block. We remain true to ourselves. Those of us that get ignored in the hallways by the ‘ooftas’ and the ‘nose jobs’ because we’re not important and we aren’t recognized by many people. We get looked at like we’re trying to overcompensate but in reality it is the ‘ooftas’ and the ‘nose jobs’ who are overcompensating. There’s nothing wrong with furthering your career and trying to achieve your academic potential but what pisses me off is thinking that just because you occupy a political body of blackness that it somehow automatically connects you with the people you think you’re too Hollywood for. And then have the audacity to look at me like I’m false claiming my blackness because I’m a high yellow Puerto Rican with African beads. It’s not my fault you have limited understanding of blackness and think that most slave ships went to the U.S when in fact they went to South America and the Caribbean. Read a damn book on black people in Latin America before you judge. If you can read Olaudah Equiano’s and Frederick Douglas’ slave narratives, then you can read Juan Francisco Manzano’s slave narrative from Cuba as well. If you’re still doubtful of black Latinxs or still asking me what an Afrolatinx is I suggest you start doing your homework.
I don’t need to prove how black or how Latino I am to anyone. Keeping it ‘100’ can be misinterpreted for being “too ghetto” or “not getting with the program” or “trying mad hard to be something you’re not”, but in reality it is the ‘ooftas’ and the ‘nose jobs’ that are pitiful. My identity is not a bargaining tool for power or influence. Y’all can have it. I am who I know I am. I get it that people before me played different cards but I’d rather be honest about it with my sleeves up. I can smell ‘ooftas’ and ‘nose jobs’ from a mile away. Don’t think you got me fooled.

Honestly, I went to college to build family and to fulfill my highest potential. I believe in unity above all else. How can we unite this way? On a given day I can go to the Ivy dressed casual and the other with a tie and a suit and I don’t have to apologize to anyone. Let’s respect each others’ differences and work for the common good while caring about ourselves at the same time. It’s sad that I admired so much people and now they show their true colors. I didn’t sign up for this but I’m doing the best I can. Being you is being 100. I’ve done come from a group home to Ivy to deal with this nonsense. The only people who have to know me are the people who already know me and will continue to do so in the future by their own free will. The rest are just a bunch of ‘ooftas’ and ‘nose jobs’. You can ignore me in the hallways or in the streets. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Those that know me will prove their love towards me without me having to be famous or well published. Those of us who are 100 need to stick together. I’m not scared of a “when keepin’ it real goes wrong” moment.

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William Garcia is an Afro-Nuyorican by way of Staten Island. He has a BA and a MA in History from the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras. His research interests are Afro-Latino history, hip-hop and reggaeton in the Caribbean and Puerto Rican transnational migration. He is currently an MA student in Curriculum and Teaching at the Teachers College of Columbia University in New York City. You can find him on Twitter @webdubois2014

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