I have what is perhaps one of the most confusing (to other people) college degrees of all time.Â I went to school for English…and Africana Studies.Â Iâ€™m a tall, gawky white girl from Albany who grew up in the â€˜burbs, and if I tell people I have an English degree, nobody bats an eye.Â When I mention Africana Studies, the answer is always the same.Â I get a super confused look and the same sentence:
â€œAfricana Studies? Why?â€
Well, why the hell not?Â Isnâ€™t the point of college to learn new shit?
The fact that one course of study is accepted while the other is chronically questioned does not sit well with me.Â If it were Womenâ€™s Studies, Fine Arts, or even tap dancing, it would be accepted without question, just like my English degree.Â I’m a photographer; none of these things apply to my trade. Also, nobody wants to see me and my five miles of elbows earn a tap dancing diploma; thatâ€™s a fact.
While at college, I had one single teacher (besides my beloved Jeffrey Berman) who challenged me, a little peep of a woman fresh from the state of California. Â She previously taught at Stanford, with all their intelligent, motivated students.Â This poor woman ended up teaching at UAlbany the year we had been voted the â€œ#1 Party School in the Nation,â€ and with all the slumped-over partiers snoring in the lecture hall, she had her hands full.
The first thing she made me and my lazy-ass classmates do was memorize every single country in the entire continent of Africa.Â Carlene, the Overachiever Extraordinaire, had just met her academic soulmate.Â Â Her class was my gateway to the rest of Africana Studies, where I learned everything from the geography of Africa to the meaning of race and black culture in American culture.
I loved it.
My English classes required me to read miles of Shakespeare, which sucked in comparison.Â He wrote 16th century bromances, and they were boring.Â The end.
Since it’s 2012, the reaction to what I picked to read about in college floors me.Â Itâ€™s my turn to ask: â€œWhy?â€Â Am I really that alone in skin tone not being an item in the â€œThings I Give a Crap Aboutâ€ column? I’ve met white girls who tan so much they’ve started a whole new race called “Snooki,” and I’m supposed to get worked up because someone’s ancestors are from Nigeria?
Things Carlene Cares About:
1. Are you nice to strangers?
2. Do you kick kittens?
3. Are your toes poking over the tips of your shoes?
That’s about it. It must not be everyone’s list, though, because all the time I still hear, â€œWhy?â€Â The English degree is fine, but why would I get a degree learning about â€œthose peopleâ€?Â There are quotation marks there because someone really said that to me last week.
Iâ€™m sorry, which of â€œthose peopleâ€ are you referring to? Â ”The gays”? Â ”Women who vote”? Â ”All â€˜dem Jews we gots in New York”?Â Ohhhh, you mean “black people.”
It was one of those rare occurrences where I simply walked away mid-conversation.Â I canâ€™t handle that much ignorance on a Tuesday.
As someone who is already not a fan of judgmental-ness, Iâ€™d love to see it reserved solely for things people can control, such as personal hygiene, bad dye jobs, and Canadian Tuxedos worn with anything other than total irony.Â If skin color were an option in the womb, I’d have been born a petite, Latino hot mama with perfect curves, huge brown eyes, and lashes to die for…which still has nothing to do with what I wrote my term papers about.
Iâ€™m looking forward to the day Iâ€™ll be able to say â€œI studied Africana Studies!!â€ to a total stranger, and have the only thing they find odd is my excessive use of exclamation points and the fact that I still carry around flash cards with African Fun Facts.Â Which is definitely, totally, 100% normal.
(African Fun Fact: Quinine is found in tonic because gin and tonic was a popular drink amongst the English soldiers in Africa, making it an easy way to deliver a regular dose of quinine and prevent malaria.Â Drinking: solving the worldâ€™s health conundrums one sip at a time.)
Also: if you nodded your head at anything Iâ€™ve written, “bitches gotta eat” is worth a click (itâ€™s safe for folks with a very open-minded sense of humor, and is definitely NSFW unless your boss is super cool like mine).