I Came to Africana Studies Because I Was Suffering

Bell Hooks once said: "I came to theory because I was hurting." 

I came to Africana Studies because I was suffering. 

There were days that I was too fearful to wake up and face this world. There were days that I was afraid to even say my own name. There were days that I sat in the classroom, looking at those red bricks and thinking about the fact that those bricks were built by slaves. There were days that I walked to Commons, feeling angry and terrified as I looked at those cotton plants. There were days that I looked at those construction workers who built Wall, the building that I have the privilege to sit in and study. I questioned if they were undocumented immigrants. The fact that this college, this country, and this society moved from exploiting and oppressing slaves to immigrants frightened me. There were days that I looked at my friends who are extraordinarily intelligent and talented and all of the sudden, all the joy and gratefulness that I had for them as my friends were being replaced with worries since I remember the fact that they are African Americans who live in this country facing racism and oppression. 

I came to Africana Studies because I was angry at humanity. I was angry at the fact that people questioned my patriotism for this country due to the fact that I am Asian. I was angry at male classmates who underestimated my ability due to the fact that I am a woman. I was angry at the fact that our police and justice system systematically and violently used force to murder unarmed African Americans. I was angry at the way that my white classmates sang the N-word in a song and thought it's okay to say that word when I and their African American friends were not around. I was angry at the historically dehumanizing term FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) that my classmate used to describe immigrants and African Americans. 

I wake up every day, enduring those white lashes that tear my skin apart and walk to class like a normal person. Unfortunately, that is the life of every person of color who lives in this country. 

The idea that people give themselves the right to repress the minds and bodies of one group of people is obviously degrading and dehumanizing. Racism is not a problem of one group of people. It is a collective problem that aims to destroy our mankind and humanity. I see racism as the root of any form of injustice in this society. Racism reinforces any kind of oppression, ranging from homophobia, sexism, violence, exploitation, marginalism, powerlessness, imperialism, systematic oppression, colonialism, etc. 

I see Africana Studies as an art, a transcending form of literature, a theoretical research framework, and a historical curriculum. Africana Studies enables our scholars to learn more about the ethnic, racial, and religious diversity within the category of "blackness" and the knowledge about the African Diaspora. 

In the social science aspect, this major allows me to learn about the social relations between individuals from different ethnic groups and the socialization that shapes our behaviors. To me, the black experience illustrates the experience of any minority group who lives in the U.S. In the literary aspect, I see no difference in majoring Africana Studies and majoring in English. The passion and love that English students have in learning Shakespeare are no different than the love and passion that I as well as other Africana Studies students have in reading the Black Reconstruction by W. E. B. Du Bois and learning about the works of numerous of African American thinkers. The complexity of the Black literature allows me to challenge my critical thinking, my analytical skills, and my writing. These are the skills that help me to succeed post-graduation. In the historical aspect, we cannot learn American history without deeply looking at the African American history, studying the narrative of African Americans, and learning about the transnational immigration of Africans. Our history is not completed without the African American's narrative and history. Our textbooks and educational institutions have treated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. like he is the only African-American leader who stood up for the liberation of African-American people while discrediting thousands of African American civil right's leaders who have fought to end discrimination and racism. Our students are uninformed when it comes to the African-American history. The truth is African-Americans have been resisted and fought for their freedoms since the day that they arrived in this American land. In the scientific aspect, a lot of scientists discredit the science and underestimate the importance of Africana Studies with the historical contingency argument. Africana Studies requires you to take partial perspective and observation, the combination of objectivity and subjectivity, and individual's experience into considerations. The combination of different academic factors engenders a form of science that is more accurate and applicable than the empirical science.

As an Asian American, I often receive various reactions when I told people that I am going to major in Africana Studies. One of my classmates told me: "Economics is probably a more realistic major for you." Or "What is Africana Studies? Why do you want to major in Africana Studies? You are Asian". My reason is simple. I truly care about the lives of others. 

I have this guy friend, his name is Maurice. Maurice is very smart, bright, and kind. He reminds me of my brother, Kevin, who I love dearly. My brother loves me without saying a word, always secretly protects me, and views me as his hero. I want him to grow up to be like Maurice. I want him to have a better life than me. I envision him becoming an incredible human being who has a vision and potential to change the world. And, I imagine: what if my brother is black? I look at Maurice, who has been discriminated because of his hair, his skin color, and his identity. He has to tame himself down, change the way he dresses, the way he does his hair, and the way he acts, in order to go to college. He, as well as thousands of African American men, must wake up every day, mourning the loss of one of his brothers who being murdered on the street and fearing for his own life. I look at Kevin and imagine what if my brother has to live that life. My tears and fears become my motivation and strength to fight for Black lives as I fight for my own life. 

I don't expect Africana Studies to give me the answer and solution to all of my struggles. I come to Africana Studies with a vision to learn the history of racism, to scrutinize and analyze the complexity of race, class, and social hierarchy, and to educate my uninformed self when it comes to "blackness" in America and the African diaspora. 

Therefore, dear my fellow Davison College classmates: 

"I hope that you don't question why a White, Asian, Muslim, Mexican, or non-black students who want to major in Africana Studies. I hope that you have a respect for Africana Studies as the way that I, as well as other Africana Studies students, have respect for your major. I hope that before you voice your opinion about Africana Studies, read my article, or do some research. And, if you think that Africana Studies is an easy major, please come to one of the Africana classes or please help me to finish my paper. Don't allow yourself to be uneducated with your privilege of having a good education at Davidson."

Sincerely, 

Uyen Nguyen (aka Win Win)