If I lived in a world where books were banned…

I would memorize the book For Brown Girls With Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts by Prisca Dorcas Monica Rodriguez. Rodriguez covers a diverse amount of topics such as voluntourism, colorism, and toxic masculinity. An important discussion she highlights is the struggles of Impostor Syndrome in a new system. The system for her happens to be a predominantly white space in education. From Florida International University (a predominantly Hispanic institution) to Vanderbilt University (a predominantly white institution), Prisca soon experienced the infamous Impostor Syndrome. One of the challenges she experienced with getting into an elite institution was the historical demographic the institution was catered for: white males. As a woman of color, she questioned whether she was worthy of attending an institution where the majority of the people do not look like her. She grew up in an immigrant household and was surrounded by a large Hispanic population in Florida and she was not accustomed to the predominantly white spaces such as education.

As a woman of color and first generation student, I have felt impostor syndrome in the classroom and outside of the classroom. Lehigh University is a predominantly white institution where the majority of my classmates are white and/or have parents who went to college. When I first came to college it seemed like all my classmates understood the jargon of the institutional space such as “elective” or “credits”. It seemed as if I was the only one who did not understand the simple concepts that should be known as a college student. In certain classes, I found myself being quiet in discussions I would feel eager to participate in. I felt my light was dimmed, as I thought my contribution in the classroom was not valuable. After all- some individuals throughout the United States seem to think Hispanic people and other people of color only get into elite institutions because of affirmative action.

I believe Rodriguez brings up a valuable word of encouragement to those in spaces where they experience Impostor Syndrome:

“Living with impostor syndrome does not mean that I cower in a corner whenever I am in primarily white spaces. It means living fully even when I know I am not supposed to. It means living fiercely. Living with impostor syndrome means doing what I can to provide positive representation for little Brown girls in white cities.

I stand proud and strong, for them. Because teeny Prisca got to see proud Brown people around her, and she got to dream because of it. Even when the current version of me struggles with keeping my lips from trembling when

I speak, I still hold myself up and adorn myself with pride. I will take up space, even when it hurts. I will stand with my head held high, even when I doubt myself. I will prove them wrong, even if I have to prove it all to myself first.”

Rodriguez’s words of encouragement are powerful to me because as of lately, I have begun to understand why I was admitted into Lehigh. I am a smart, capable person who has potential of doing anything I put my mind to. I am deserving of the space and opportunities I have been provided at Lehigh, as I can proudly say I am a resilient individual. Throughout my academic career, I have always strived to perform well in class beyond grades. I have strived to learn. I am curious and I am excited to learn more about the world. If I do not complete a math problem correctly, I will keep working on it until I understand the process. If I do not understand why too much carbon in the air is bad for the environment, I will keep asking questions and looking for answers.

I stress to anyone in the world experiencing impostor syndrome to consider this: you are there for a reason. You are worthy of taking a piece of cake, especially when you were invited to the picnic. Reach for the goals you strive to accomplish, even if you come from a different identity or background than those who accomplished the same goals prior.

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6 thoughts on “If I lived in a world where books were banned…

  1. Many decades ago, I was beta reader for my (now ex!) sister-in-law as she wrote her thesis for her Ph.D – she, of Hispanic heritage, who ‘looked like a white woman’ and how her research into disenfranchisement of minorities, when entering predominantly ‘white’ educational institutions. She was judged as ‘you don’t know anything about us/our group’ when she was a freshman for her B.A., Masters, PhD and tried to join Hispanic groups – she tried to join other groups, who ‘looked like her’ but who couldn’t stand her last name/heritage/what she cared about –

    Now, why would I know this? Cuz I was married to her brother and did reading/editing/feedback on her thesis, when, to my mind? Her mentor/Professor was in the process of ‘losing her mind’ as routinely, entire sections were cut, then added back in as if, AS if, they had never existed (to the teacher’s mind) – I have the highest regard for my long ago sister in law – for so much of her higher education life, she had to stand alone, and was labeled as ‘an imposter’ by so many, many sides – in how she looked, her heritage, her research – I’m happy to report, she made it! has had her PhD for a long time now – but I never, ever, have forgotten the stories she shared with me, of her past, her passion for making a difference, and the roadblocks thrown into her way, by EVERYONE around her, including friends/family who claimed to love her –

    Stay strong – and move forth and yup – Imposter Syndrome is just others winding their small thinking ways into our own brain – she? She said, to me, “You would make such a great history teacher – but you would need to be at College level – and it’s gonna be expensive and a lot of time to get the education in order to serve on that front – but remember, whether you pursue or ya don’t – that’s what you are – and I’ll support you every way I know how, if you choose to commit to that higher education path – but you can also serve in other ways….”

    Me? Still just a high school graduate – and she helped both my sons with guidance on where, when, how, to pursue their higher education, cuz either I or them called her for guidance on ‘what to do on this front?” of financing/applying/testing/essay levels – 😀

    I’m forever in her debt, personally, and for my children – just because, she walked and sacrificed herself, over and over, to be who she was born to be.

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    • This is such a beautiful telling of your ex sister in law. She seems like an amazing woman and I am so in awe for the admiration you have for her. She is amazing for helping out your children with navigating the applications and knowledge of higher education. Your response made my night! Thank you so much for the love and support

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      • I guess, in my own way, I am a history ‘professor’ – With little effort, I remember the stories of individuals, that they share with me or I observe – of the perseverence and beauty of those who may never be famous, but who impact so many lives – and I share those ‘moments’ in history, with others who walk similar paths, or have similar aspirations, or meet similar challenges – both to pass on the story of one, so their life work, isn’t lost to sands of time, fully, but also, to say to others, “you walk this path no alone’ in hopes that during times of great challenge, they remember others have overcome, thus they perhaps, can too! 😀 Thus, I was happy to read your response – it feels as if ‘my job’ here is done! Go forth and prosper, knowing, someday, in some way, someone like me, will write a similar response, to another, but you will be the main character in it! Best wishes!

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