“I think you misgraded my exam.”
“Did I give you extra points? Don’t worry about it”
“No, it’s an 88 and it’s supposed to be a 92.”
“Are you sure?”
“I compared my exam with the other students in the class and this questions was marked wrong, but it was actually correct.”
I went to a high school that wasn’t particularly elite or prestigious, but my classmates and I were all fiercely competitive. We either barely discussed the specifics of our exams or labored over them so much so our teachers told us we all needed to chill and be less intense.
I recall my graded exams as lower than they ought to have been just a few times, but the first time was enough for me to ensure that it never happened again. In some instances for other people who looked like me, they never check their grades to see if it was graded correctly but were OK if it was a passing grade. In other instances, teachers were more vigilant about grading accuracy to avoid the ire of the many, many helicopter parents where I went to school.
But at the core, it was always “You have to be twice as good…” I don’t know any high achieving minority who hasn’t had this instilled in them. There is a downside to this well-intended mantra. There can come a point where you lose sight of why you are doing what you are or the passion that you had (if it was ever cultivated). You also can start to live life in defensive mode, always ready to beat out others.
YET there’s this inflection point where this mentality takes you to the top and that’s when pro-social behavior and teamwork is more greatly prized. So then you have to find a way to balance these forces with a smile. It’s often called “the double bind” and it often associated with the challenges women face 24/7. It’s also what life is like for any underrepresented group.
And that leaves us to watch Olivia and Rowan playing out a conversation every single one of my black friends I think has had (let me know if you never had this convo, bc I’m curious to know what if anything took its place). I get chills watching it because it’s so ingrained I can’t even remember the specifics of my own version of this, but it’s like a muscle flexing up throughout the whole scene.
But also, Rowan and Olivia have played iconic characters in black media that they’d deserve their own post.
Part of a 28-day series of reflections, stories and feelings for Black History Month 2017. Read all parts (here).