UNCW…It Has Truly Been Real

I’ve learned a lot of things at UNCW. Each of my professors helped to prepare me for whatever is next in life. I am forever grateful to the four professors who gave me the most challenging assignments, the most work I’ve ever had to complete, and the most beneficial learning experiences. Thank you Professor David Bollinger, Professor Jennifer Chin, Dr. Jeanne Persuit, and Dr. Anita McDaniel. You all have shown me so much grace over these last couple of years, and continued to push me forward even when I was falling short as a student. My words cannot express my gratitude and appreciation!

I could tell all of the readers of this post exactly what I was taught in the classrooms, but I plan on showing you all that as I strive for excellence using the knowledge acquired in my 4 years as a communication studies major with a concentration in advertising/PR/IMC. What I learned the most during my 4 years at UNCW was how to keep standing no matter how difficult the obstacles are.

I grew up in a military family and married into the military as well, USMC to be specific (Oorah Marines). Military lifestyles expose you to diversity in the best ways! When I got to UNCW for the first time there was a huge culture shock! I am a black female attending a predominantly white university. While this did not matter to me at first, I realized that it became a matter that I could not ignore. I was faced with the challenge of being different, and forced to handle every negative situation that occurred because of who I am. We assume racism is over after all of these years, but for some, the negative perceptions are still caught in their minds. It was really hard to endure being stereotyped as the girl in the group who was not as intelligent as the others, or knowing that some people felt uncomfortable around me because of a skin color. Even worse was the look of shock on people’s faces when they saw me do well at something in class. Other times, receiving comments such as “I like you. You’re not like other Black people,” or “are you here to be the dance entertainment,” (asked by an older white gentlemen on a tour as I was walking to my dorm) were the things I was faced with multiple times a week. Backhanded “compliments” only opened my eyes to see that, even in 2014, some things may not ever change.

Sometimes I would speak out to suggest ideas for class projects. People would just ignore me as if I never said a word, so I shut my mouth altogether. I began just going to class and not hardly speaking to anyone unless I had to because, at times, I was made to feel out-of-place and looked down upon. Although it was indirect hatred, dislike, or discomfort on multiple occasions, actions always speak louder than words. I used to be angry all the time…always expecting the worst out of people because that’s what seemed to be a normality for me. I was also angry because there was nobody to tell outside of my family or some other black female friends, and there seems still to be no solution!

It’s sad that a black female in 2014 still faces preconceived judgements and has to try to go above and beyond only to prove that she has great worth. This is not to say that UNCW encourages or is affiliated with any of these negative behaviors. This issue happens all over America and probably the whole world to several categories of people. Some people may think they keep their feelings hidden, but I can personally say that I could almost always tell when I had to compete with the stereotypes and preconceived judgements people labeled me with.

In all my experiences I learned to not let anger build in my heart. I learned to not be afraid to speak up for myself in a respectful way, and not to be silenced because people may not want to hear me. I figured out that I have a great responsibility to love everyone regardless of how they view, think, or act towards me. Because no matter what, I’m still standing, and I only hope my love for all others will bring forth a change in how black females (and all who are a minority) are viewed. Finally, I learned not to give up just because things are hard and unfair. Giving up takes away from who I am and what I have to offer to this world. This was my largest challenge during college, aside from the arduous school assignments of course.

Whatever you are doing in life, understand your value and your worth. Learn to love all people and treat them with respect. We all have the power to uplift others with our actions and words, or crush them until they feel unqualified for the things in this life. Be mindful and careful of which outcome your words and actions are bringing forth. Humble yourself to realize that no single person is greater than another! I have no negative feelings towards any of the individuals who made me feel less than, just because of who I am. I only pray that the hearts of man are transformed over time for the better.

Thank you UNCW for an interesting 4 years, and for being a great stepping stool to the next chapter of my life. I’m especially thankful to my husband, family, Church family, and my best friend for strengthening me as I made it to the finish line to receive my B.A. in Communication Studies at UNCW. Congratulations c/o 2014! Go Seahawks!

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Jade Johnson-Grant