“There are no stupid questions.” A statement that I’m sure everyone has heard at least one time in their lives. But, did we really believe it? Do we really believe it? I don’t think so.
Or maybe that’s a blanket statement. At least, I don’t think we believe it. Earlier in the semester, in one of my business classes, I asked myself "Is this a stupid question?” And the fear of my question being just that kept me silent. Of course, there was a supportive professor at the front of the class that always opens the floor for questions, but at the end of the day that wasn't enough. Some classroom environments don’t often support the space to ask whatever questions you are actually thinking.
In this course specifically, I am the only black student in the classroom. Not only that, but I’m also the only black student in the classroom for the Miami University Altman Institute of Entrepreneurship. A Nationally-ranked Entrepreneurship program. And to top it off my majors, which are Media and Culture & Fashion have almost nothing to do with Entrepreneurship. Most people are probably asking, “Well, Jermaine. What does that have to do with anything?” I personally think the intersection of these three things means very much.
Inferiority complex is the basis of the instantaneous anxiety I feel when faced with the decision to ask my question or keep it to myself. Mostly as it relates to my identity as a black man, it is my absolute worst nightmare to be seen as that black kid with a stupid question. In fact, one time in my first Entrepreneurship course last semester I built enough courage to ask a question and it was met with chuckles from the entire class. In that class, I was one of...wait for it...two black students in the classroom. And at that moment, I was the black kid with the stupid question.
As black children, I believe that most of us are taught to never be caught slipping. Never let them find you falling behind. Those teachings are based on the fear that we will immediately lose all credibility at the sight of a misstep. It’s almost as if we are one mistake away from being deemed unintelligent and unworthy of the space we inhabit.
Black people always have to fight to belong.
Quite the mental set back, right? But what does it look like to come back from that? It looks like realizing that at the end of the day, everyone is faking it. We’re all confused. We all don’t know what the professor wants out of this project. We all don’t know where post-graduation is going to take us. We all don’t know.
And I choose to find solace in that. Although my classmates’ uncertainty may lie in different areas, it still exists. So, to the young, black student in the classroom: Ask your question. You deserve to be in that classroom, and your question does, too.
Source: Readers Digest
Originally Posted: October 25th, 2019