You’ve Never Lived in Those Shoes

“When you’re black, that’s one thing against you, but when you’re from Gary…”


Hold a Conversation

In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarifying Questions
  • What makes the speaker wonder what she’s gotten herself into?
  • Why does the speaker say that coming from Gary is a second strike against her?
  • What does the speaker feel she has to reassure others about?
  • How does the speaker feel about her peers’ comments in the classroom?
  • How does she feel about her textbooks?
Interpretive Questions
  • How would you describe the speaker’s experience in the classroom?
  • What role does a professor play in this kind of classroom dynamic?
  • Does it matter whether the professor comes from an African-American or Hispanic background? from a working class background?  Why or why not?
Implication Questions
  • What would prepare a professor to play an instructive role in the classroom dynamic?
  • What responsibility, if any, does a professor have to make sure minorities aren’t “pinpointed” with pejorative characteristics?

Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.

Transcript for You’ve Never Lived in Those Shoes

My first day, like most people, you know, do a little college tours, I never really did a college tour here. So my first day of classes for me was a huge shock. Just not… like it wasn’t that culture shock just because I had always did events where I was the only black person there or something. But just the comments people made like, you know, when I said, Oh, I’m from Gary, and the first comment someone made was, Oh, have you ever been shot? Then someone had the nerve to ask me if I had children. It just was like, Really??…okay… Made me too much like wonder what I had gotten myself into kind of.

A lot of times people come off, you know, especially when you say… I feel like when you’re black, that’s one thing against you, but then when you’re from Gary, it becomes even more like, Oh, you’re from the murder capital of the world, and, Oh, you’re from a place where most of the people are uneducated, and all your high schools are failing. And it’s just like, just because this is what people say doesn’t…that’s not necessarily true. Like people so many times try to discount what I learned in Gary and just the education I received because of when you look at statistics, our schools aren’t doing as well as other schools. But at the same time the fact that I’m able to do well here I feel like should prove against that. But it’s always that constant thing where I have to prove to you that I’m worth your time and worth me being here.  It’s just, sometimes, even beyond that. It’s just the looks that people give you and even in classes. It’s kinda like, I feel like people constantly ask that reassurance, like, Do you get it? Like just because of my color, and it might me being sensitive about it, but sometimes I feel like people don’t realize like that I’m capable or just as capable as everyone else just because I come from Gary and because I’m black.

There was one class when we had a topic… I’m a social work major so a lot of times we talk about things like welfare, and you know, how it affects Latino and black communities, and just like the comments that people make they’re like, Oh, but they’re all lazy and they don’t care about anything in life. And I’m personally not ashamed to say that that’s basically the way I made it my entire life. It wasn’t because my mom was lazy. She had no other option; she had two children and because of different issues within herself, she couldn’t really work as much as she would want to, and she had no help from my dad so.  And just to see everyone start looking at me when I started getting offended, and to kind of be like, Oh well, you would say that. No, it’s not I would say that but I just feel like you never lived in those shoes. So you can’t judge people, and you never know those exact people you’re talking about are sitting in the same classroom with you, making the same grades you are.

Even in our textbooks a lot of times, I feel like it’s kind of geared against diversity, just like, there’ll be chapters in books and it will be like ‘African Americans and Latinos and Their Drug Use’ or ‘African American Families… um…. African American Children Raised by Their Grandparents,’ like we’re the only people who have those struggles. Just like I know plenty of other races where children are raised by their grandparents or that use drugs, and it seems like sometimes minorities are just pinpointed out like we’re the only drug users or we’re the only people that kind of have those families that aren’t nuclear families, so I take that to offense.