Stay Woke: How to Avoid Falling into The Sunken place of Academia
The Huffington Post presented an article specifically aimed at explaining the “sunken place” from Jordan Peele’s massive hit Get Out. In Get Out: What Black America Knows About the Sunken Place, blogger Joy Moses offers 7 things “we” (Black people) know about the sunken place and they seemed oddly familiar to what I am experiencing in the academy. Black people are constantly being told that the way “out” is through education but what do we do when the thing that’s supposed to get us out is the very thing drowning us?
1. Getting There Happens Quickly and Without You Even Noticing
People will say college is hard and that by finishing, you have become “smart”. WRONG! There are tons of morons at every level of the academy. I’m not always convinced my classmates can read without having their finger under the words, but before you know it, you’re writing papers and spitting out information that you “just know”. Your friends back home say you talk differently and your social media posts become less about eating ass and $200 dates and more about the 64,000 Black women currently missing in the US. “They” got you reading books and now you’re “different” and you didn’t even know it.
2. The Key to Entry is Focusing on Your Perceived Failures
How many times have you heard that there are more Black men in jail than in college? Well…it ain’t true. But there are folks out here really believing it (Charles Barkley’s hating ass is one of them). So the narrative becomes “come to college and don’t be a statistic”. Now you have Black folk in these classrooms where they are dealing with microaggressions from every angle. I’m not saying don’t go to college. Just don’tthink it’s the only way “out."
3. The Sunken Place Paralyzes You, Stealing Your Sense of Agency
One reason I have stayed in the academy for as long as I have is because I don’t want to have to get a “real job” because I did that once and it was trash. I like getting the refund check at the beginning of the semester. I like having an excuse to read and argue with folks but at some point, I am going to have to leave and that’s when reality will hit me. I’m dependent on the sunken place to sustain me and that is a scary reality.
4. Some Visitors Try to Rationalize Their Uneasiness
I’ve been at my current academic institution for 2 years and I have met some amazing people. In those two years, at least 5 people that I know personally have either left or have seriously talked about leaving (that includes myself). College at every level is exhausting. If you have to leave to maintain your sanity, then…GET OUT! This place ain’t for everybody and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for leaving. People who aren’t in it will never fully understand it. Selfcare is top priority.
5. Some Are Permanently Lost to the Sunken Place
I have been doing this for over 10 years! I have just started collecting degrees because school is the only thing I know how to do. I research and I write. If you are going to play around with this thing called the academy, you better make connections and find applicable skills or you will be the annoying old person in class who read EVERY. SINGLE. WORD of the assignment and doesn’t let the professor forget to collect the papers.
6. Being Cut Off from Your Family Could Make You Vulnerable
If you are lucky enough to go to a school close to family, do it! There’s nothing like missing holidays or birthdays because you are 12 hours away from home. This is where the PWI vs HBCU thing can come into play. Ideally, the HBCU experience is supposed to be more familial. We all watched A Different World. But just like your real family, there are some shiftless, thieving, nasty people. I call those people “Them Heffas in Financial Aid.” Make sure you have coins and backup coins because no one needs to eat Ramen 3 times a day for 4+ years.
7. It Robs You of Your Opportunity to Live Your Best Life
The academy doesn’t care about your life. It doesn’t care if you ever find love or have children. It wants you to devote your all to it and it doesn’t even pay you well. I was told that if I was hungry, I should write. If I am tired, I should write. If I am sad, I need to cry and then get back to writing. The academy don’t care about you man.
We don’t even know what will happen to Chris the next time he’s in a coffee shop and someone stirs their drink. Maybe he will be like a lot of the other people in this sunken place and will just set up shop with a laptop and write.