“If you can find security in where you are, then you can open up your ability to be vulnerable.”
Produced by intern Marcus Boas.
Vulnerability Is Power
I started to understand during my time here…and I found to be effective that, because people would do ignorant things it did not mean that it should prompt the response from me that would be equally ignorant. My goal was always to find ways to be steps ahead of the situations that I was subjected to, and oftentimes when I could look at it from that perspective I could find effective ways to be able to deal with it. And it tended to not impact me to the same degree that I would have if I didn’t approach it that way.
Starting with my first experience coming to Valpo. I started in 2002. I came in from what at the time was one of the biggest football recruitment classes, about 55 students came in, and it was one of two African American football players on a football team with 55 recruits. So it made my experience was very isolated in that the only person I could really talk to about some of the different things that I was feeling and thinking emotionally was one other person on the football team, who happened to be a freshman at the same time as me.
But beyond that, there were statements made when I was a student particularly about me looking like whatever the popular black entertainer was from P. Diddy to Nelly to 50 Cent, and people would sort of express what I would call microaggressions through things like patting my hair because they had never seen someone with long cornrows, asking very stereotypical questions about my family dynamic, making references about my body and stereotypes as relates to that. Those were things that I think I experienced not just in the classroom but even in some social settings, as an athlete.
But I think the beauty of these different types of situations is if you can find, as the individual, security in where you are then you can open up your ability to be vulnerable. And vulnerability, for people who are trying to make a difference in the lives of other people, specifically in terms of empowerment and furthering equity work, gives you an insurmountable amount of power.
Hold a Conversation
Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.