Growing up, I remember always being told to try new things and to remain optimistic. There was always a catch with this advice; the new "things" and optimism suggested should still be safely within my norms and comfortable limits. I followed this advice for years before realizing that I was exemplifying an oxymoron in all that I did. The ideas of trying new things yet remaining in my comfort zone were contradictory.
As I continued to search in efforts to identify my limits of familiarity and own perspective, I had to reevaluate myself as an individual and my goals.
I am currently a student at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. For those unaware, Spelman is a multifaceted institution wearing four hats: private, liberal arts, all women's, historically black college. A mouthful, right? Well, being in such an environment has taught me more than I could imagine, serving as a space to grow academically and individually. My freshman year, I took a required course titled "African Diaspora of the World." This course covered a plethora of history relating to not only my culture but, my power and potential as a woman and more specifically, a Black woman.
The course introduced me to the term "intersectionality," and when questioning which lens I see the world through, I could think of no other one-worded definition to better suit my complex and ever-changing combination of identities. I believe that as I evolve and am exposed to more, my categories under the intersectional umbrella may grow, but I have a few that will forever define me and my perceptions in this world.
First, I am a woman! This is pretty obvious, but I like to believe I am a strong, confident, and developing feminist. I haven’t personally experienced discrimination or neglect of equality due to my gender, but I am aware of the impact and possibilities that inequalities provide. While abroad, I know that being a woman can come along with other unwanted attention, so I strive to avoid that at all costs, while also being an advocate and educating about respectability and fairness.
Next, I am undeniably and unapologetically Black. Living as a product of such an oppressed history can be difficult at times, inside and out of America. It's a constant battle to prove that the color of my skin doesn't define what's within. Breaking barriers and alleviating color lines continues to be a goal for others who look like me. Being an African-American has given me a different vantage point compared to other races, I've had to be robust, heedful, and assiduous to achieve my aspirations. Rather than considering what some may discern as a downfall, I take pride in my once oppressed attributes and use them as incentives for how I move throughout the world.
I am educated. This quality of education is a highly desired yet, sometimes underappreciated opportunity. I am an avid learner and always searching for new experiences and information. The schooling I have previously received will hopefully better equip me to handle situations I may face and give me the knowledge to excel out of my familiar environments. There is so much to learn, my education and drive to gain more prepares me to do so.
Lastly, I am fearless. I am a Christian and a believer that everything happens for a reason. I am super adventurous and enjoy stretching my comfort zone, now that I've done that self-evaluation I mentioned earlier. My religion and support I've received have encouraged me to be optimistic and explore the world. I remain open-minded and follow where my heart leads. I'm very passionate about having a purpose in the world, and as I search for my exact purpose in life, my lens will always be modified.
Although I'm forever changing and growing for the better, those four characteristics will always be true. I am an intersectional being who'll perpetually inspect the world through several lenses as a woman, a black American, an educated student, comprising fearlessness. My focal lens has transformed already, evolving from fixed and constrained within an environment I was used to, to welcoming differences and adapting to any experience.
I want to leave with a quote by George Lucas, "We are all living in cages with the door wide open." The world is ours, and it's up to us to decide how we take it on!
By: Alexis Peterson