Bringing another soul into what often looks like a cruel world is one of the most dangerous events for women, especially black ones. What emerges from the black woman’s birth canal is not only the miracle of life, but also an extension of the psychic, emotional and physical reflections of what it means to breathe while black. Together with her suckling baby, she gives birth to neonatal fears of what will follow her innocent baby everywhere: from the streets to hospitals, classrooms, jail cell and beyond. And through breast milk not only stem cells and antibodies pass, but also an acute awareness of an actively anti-black world.
Sometimes I wake up at night and think about the things I will pass on to my future black baby, and that’s when it occurs to me that along with triumph, tragedy and all the other things in between, one in three children I could give their life from my black womb will probably have the opportunity to walk the paths of Harvard Yard as a college student someday. And while there are many tragic legacies the world may be trying to impose on my son’s life, it’s ironically safe to say this isn’t one.
I guess what I’m saying is: I have no problem with the Harvard legacy that will come from my womb.
Harvard inheritance is in many ways an unfair practice that primarily serves the privileged. Put simply, it’s a symptom of the foundations of white supremacy in higher education – because in the practice of elevating the privileged, those left at a disadvantage are often those who identify as part of minority, low-income, and first-generation populations. .
This critical perspective on inheritance admissions fundamentally – and rightly so – denounces the victors and weaves a narrative from the threads of seemingly clear, progressive and equitable ideas. However, it is a presentist and reductionist narrative with the built-in erasing of some of the same demographics that we believe deserves more exposure. Because the reality is that stories and legacies are complex and justify a nuanced perspective that, although we must be aware of where the tools of oppression are at work, for many to idealize a contempt for the admission of inheritance is not the case. simple.
My future black son will be taking more than my (now decades old) degree from Harvard with him to apply for college admissions. That in three chance of getting a “second look” from a Harvard admissions counselor is accompanied by my daughter’s four in 10 chance of being abused by intimate partners, that of my son in 1,000 of being killed at the hands of the police and my weird baby has at least a four in five chance of facing negative physical, spiritual, and psychological effects on his or her well-being – chances that can’t easily be written off as an unfair advantage of walking the world. From conception, I fear my black son can’t go running, my black daughter can’t rest peacefully in her bed at home, and my weird black baby might fall victim to a heinous hate crime. It is extremely clear that some of the legacies that will follow my children are not the same as their white peers.
The truth is that the world immediately robbed me of a sure and easy ignorance, pushing me into a mode of consciousness that permeates everything in life, from walking the streets to choosing classes, friends and future careers. And the unfortunate reality of the ongoing social dynamic we live in is that by measures beyond my control, the world will likely steal even my son the liberating simplicity of some things in life. Breathing while Nero – being while Nero – is not easy. Inheritance policies are not without complexity and are certainly not lost on us. It’s something blacks know all too well, and often not on the winning side.
So while Beyoncé gave her daughter a Grammy, I’ll be content to give mine a one in three chance to study at one of the world’s leading institutions, because most of the stats aren’t in her favor already.
I will fight like hell to leave my children a legacy of love and endurance to balance everything that sadly I know will follow them in their lifetime. I will dedicate my life to creating the fairest and safest world to take them to. At the very least, if I can’t turn this anti-black world upside down in my life, I know I can give them a 33% chance to not just walk into a place like Harvard, but to make sure they stay in the building with the lights on and bills paid after crossing the threshold, especially considering we were barred from entering the college gates for longer than we were allowed inside. I am giving them a further chance – if they want to – to raise questions about society and why it cannot be what we dream it is, to participate in the continuing education of the community, to fight for a conscious pedagogical ambition and to open more doors. behind them after they are gone.
And hopefully some of the dreams that occupy their nights don’t have to entirely reflect my nightmares.
Kyla N. Golding ’24, Crimson Editorial Editor, is a concentrator of history of science and studies on women, gender and sexuality at Adams House.