The MAAP program at UB was a program for minorities with high school averages over 92 and SAT scores over 1000. Some of us were also Empire State Minority Scholarship winners. Regardless, being part of the program as included a book stipend and a paid summer internship which also provided housing.
Basically a dream come true for any minority student like myself. If only in my mind I identified with being a minority. If only in my mind being identified as a minorities was a good thing and not a really, really horrible thing.
How else was I supposed to feel? I had never been socialized to understand and appreciate all that was involved with “being Black.” That my socialization was that of a white, rural working class girl. That was how I thought.
Unfortunately how I think and what the world responds to are two different things. And my young mind was having difficulty grasping all of that. There are also studies that show that adoptees in generally, not just Trans racial adoptees can start to have difficulty with identity issues in their late teens and early 20’s. I can only guess because I don’t remember specifically that the constant having to reanswer all my adoption stories to a brand new group of people was probably very triggering.
Why are your parents white?
Where is your real family?
What’s it like to be adopted?
I know that every phase of my life, I will have to answer those questions. They don’t bother me anymore. But 18 year old me, I would have been acting ok, but inside been sad.
So it was a very confusing time. One where my identity was being questioned and I had to start looking at the fact that my socialization didn’t fit reality or my physical appearance. I was Black outside but white inside. How do you reconcile that? I didn’t know how to fit in with the Black crowd, so I hung with the White crowd. And it’s not that they didn’t accept me and love me and I them, I was still that little bit different that I still acutely felt my differences.
But I couldn’t fit in to the crowd that I knew I looked like and where my physical differences didn’t stand out. An in spite of the fact that I took MAAP classes with Black people and went to MAAP meetings with people of color, I still never felt like I could fit in. So I eventually drifted away. I never really got in touch with my Black identity until years later, when I first moved to Tennessee. But when I was at UB, I never was able to connect with that part of me. I didn’t shun it, I just had no idea how to tap into it. And I had plenty of friends of all races, so I was good.
As I look back on this time, I know that MAAP is an extremely valuable resource for students of color at UB. Ms. Jenkins, who was our mentor, was like a mom to me. And Dr. Staley was like a stern old school teacher. I could have learned so much from them about Black pride. I could have learned so much about myself. Instead, I ran away. I ran away from confronting that I was indeed Black.
This is not to say that this time was not without one of the biggest lesson of my life. The lesson that The myths about Black people were total lies.
At UB, there were Black students studying to be neurosurgeons and biochemical engineers and they were brilliant. They got internships at companies like Lockheed and Calspan. Dr Staley and Ms Jenkins showed me that Black people were cultured and educated. There was this world of Black artists and poets and writers and inventors that I had never heard of.
Before being part of the MAAP program, I did not know this. Again, I don’t know if my young mind was able to process all of this, but I am sure that I felt a profound sense of sadness and betrayal and loss at learning this. But also pride, that my intelligence was mine and not just a product of my environment. My people were smart and classy.
I just wasn’t able to identify myself as being part of them yet. So there were these Black people. So different from anything that I had been taught or told about. It confused me and I ran away.
I left all the benefit of the MAAP program behind as my madness increased and my darkness began to try to overcome me.