Shea Williams’ Blog Series: Congratulations!
I was reading an entry of a book kindly given to me by Faaria recently, named “A Fly Girls Guide to University”. It’s centred around the Global Majority and their approach towards going to such a recognised institution such as Cambridge University. It was quite a thoughtful present, as I’ve accepted an unconditional offer to study there in October.
Of course, I was over the moon when I received the offer, I’ve wanted to study there just about my whole life. The course is amazing, the learning is amazing and of course the prestige of the University will open a lot of doors in life. I’m lucky enough to have never really felt it was impossible to achieve.
Usually (and understandably) the initial reaction from people “Congratulations! You should be so proud!” which no, doubt, I am. There is, however, a difference between being proud and being grateful. If I am grateful that they have let me in, does that imply I am thanking them for letting someone like me in, when it should be the norm already?
Does that imply I owe them, and should stay quiet, moulding myself into their version of what a Black Girl in Cambridge should look like? If anything, I may be grateful that I have been given this opportunity to show other people like me it is possible, but that still might be problematic.
I’m glad I have had longer than most to come to terms with the offer (I applied in my gap year after I received my A-Levels), the idea of living there and grappling with the microaggressions*1 I’ll probably endure. I cannot let that stop me from enjoying the three years as much as possible.
So I’ve concluded, you can be grateful, but that doesn’t mean you have to be silent. You can be happy you are somewhere, and call out the injustices you see around you and improvements that need to be made. I can roll my eyes at the imperial statues all whilst enjoying feeding the ducks at Emma*2.
*1 Microaggression, indirect, subtle discrimination against members of a marginalized group:
*2 Emmanuel College, a Cambridge college popular for having ducks.
Shea joins the Global Learning London team as an Associate, facilitating for our ‘Towards an Anti- Racist Curriculum’ as well as ‘Shared Ground ’ training for school staff.