Chris Rock once made a joke in his stand-up comedy about 20 years ago, where he stated that, “If you are black you will get more respect in the “hood” coming out of prison, than coming out of college.” Mr. Rock was saying that since African Americans were in the lower rank of society, higher education was not really an option. Even if one had obtained a degree, no one would care since it was so far away from the reality most African Americans would have. Stereotypes like this have affected me as a student.

These stereotypes can also affect anyone and our perceptions of others. My hope is that people open their eyes to the pressures and stresses that a normal student faces while going through their college life.

No one ever said that college would be a breeze. Stress will eventually happen to everyone who goes through the rigors of higher education. But one thing affected me when it came to stress in college; that was trying to deal with the negative stereotypes of being an African American student. I was raised in a harsh neighborhood and my story did not follow down the path that was expected of me; it was vastly different from the lives of my friends and even some of my family.

When I got accepted into Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois in 2009, my mom was the only one that celebrated with me. Friends called me an “Uncle Tom,” family asked “why bother learning the white man’s education that is against the black population.” Not to mention I was going to a school that did not have many African Americans. There were classes skipped, others blamed and lots of pain that acknowledged that fitting in seemed impossible for me. There were many days where I truly acted out in school because, in my mind, it made me feel blacker. I was truly caught into the stereotype, which in turn led to me failing out of school and the only thing my friends and family did was laugh and said “we told you so.” At the time, I did let the stereotype win and it took years for me to get back into school because of it. This, of course, is just one example of how a bad stereotype can affect one’s education.

But what happens when we place the stereotypes on others? 

You see, I learned that we all have stereotypes, not only within ourselves but also how we perceive others. Remember when I said I could not fit in? Well, that is because I had stereotypes of white people being rich and preppy, or that Asians were only smart because their parents put pressure on them to be so. Hypocrisy comes to mind when I think of it now and how I was labeling people, while not wanting to be labeled myself. But, as I learned more about people, a realization finally hit me and that was we are all the same. Yeah, some students are better off, but that doesn’t mean they do not get stressed out too.

No matter what background one is from no one likes to be stereotyped. We all have issues, and we all know the stereotypes placed on us by our families and society as a whole. What I am getting at is that we are all human beings and that it should not matter what these stereotypes suggest. We are all apart of humanity. The best way to overcome these stereotypes is to start listening and showing compassion. We should remind each other that labels should not bring us down; more importantly, knowing that we are all trying to be successful in college. 

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