Special episode! Join hosts Dallas and Aryn as they share how their first-generation, lower-income, and Black identities intersect at Northwestern and beyond.

Are you interested in sharing how your ethnic/racial background interacts with your identity as a first-gen and/or low-income student at Northwestern? Please reach out to us– [email protected]

Dallas: Hey everyone, this is Dallas Thurman.

Aryn: And I'm Aryn Honaker.

Dallas: And welcome back to DiscountEDU, a podcast where we talk about our experiences FGLI, or first-generation low-income students at Northwestern.

Aryn: In today's episode, we will discuss intersectionality considering being Black and FGLI. It will be just me and Dallas this episode as we are the two Black hosts out of the four of us.

Dallas: Okay, so honestly, just being Black in general, I guess it has its own generational history and trauma, I guess. But outside of the Black Lives Matter movement, I haven't really had to deal with anything super life-changing to my identity. But I would say that I guess here at Northwestern, being Black is something that's a conscious thing sometimes. But it's definitely different from my high school because there were only five Black students per grade or 10 Black students per grade. So I would definitely say it's an improvement. Yeah.

Aryn: Um, I guess it's kind of an improvement. I mean because there's definitely more Black people at Northwestern I would argue than at my high school, but there are still times when I find that I'm the only Black person in my class or the only Black person in my discussion group and stuff like that. But it’s not a new thing because I also experienced it in high school. You know, it's something I'm conscious of, but it doesn't bother me as much. Like I said, I went through all four years of high school – and middle school actually – dealing with it. So it's not a super big thing for me. But I am conscious of it sometimes.

Dallas: Yeah, I would definitely say being in Evanston – I mean, there's Black people in Evanston, obviously – but I would say it's definitely different from Chicago, at least the neighborhood I'm from: Austin, which is on the west side. Definitely predominantly Black, except for five minutes away, is Oak Park, which is technically one of the most diverse communities. But to be honest, it still kind of feels predominantly white, I would say. I don’t know, it definitely is interesting, because even in journalism, it's still kind of white-dominated, I would say. But there's definitely more POC taking journalism classes but I would find that I'm usually the only Black student in those journalism classes probably.

Aryn: I agree. I think I'm the only Black student in my current journalism class, although there are other people of color which is nice. But as for how my hometown compares to Evanston, the good thing about Evanston is I think, overall it will tend to just be a more progressive sort of demographic, definitely more left-leaning. Because my hometown, Swartz Creek, they were very conservative, which is fine, but usually, our political values don't necessarily align all that much, and I felt I had way more microaggressions, way more racism there. Even if it wasn't directed towards me, I saw it towards other Black people and other people of color. There were entire groups of people at my school that would just say slurs, not just the N-word, but any slur, and they just thought it was the funniest thing ever. It was so goofy and silly. It's just a lot more of a conservative and oppressive sort of environment there. So even though it is still pretty predominately white in Evanston, I still feel I don't get as much racism, I don't feel as I guess uncomfortable about being Black. I don’t face as much ridicule or discrimination as I did when I was in high school and back home.

Dallas: Yeah, I completely agree. Even Indiana itself. Indiana, it's kind of, it's mixed, but where I was was in rural Indiana, so it's more Trumpy, Blue Lives Matter. Literally my freshman year, it was probably one of the first times going to my campus. It was either when I was moving in or I went home for something, and I was on the drive back and there was this rundown house 10 minutes outside of my school, and they had a confederate flag hung up on the house. And I was, “Oh,” and I was asking other people, “Oh, have you seen this driving by to go to school? And they were, “Oh.” Either some people said, "yes" and some people said, "no." It didn't– I don't know– I can't remember how it made me feel. But it was definitely interesting because I feel most people think that, "Oh, civil rights and slavery was so long ago." Slavery kind of was a long time ago, sort of, but civil rights was only 50, 60 years ago. My grandparents went through that. And even my mom and my uncles and stuff, in the 90s, it was still racist in the 90s. Yeah. So it kind of reminded me just to be cognizant of my surroundings. And also, for basketball, there was this one, there were a couple of times, but I wasn't on the court. But we were playing against this other school, I don't know where it was maybe someplace in Indiana next to Culver. And it was like, I think the other team was losing and we were shooting free throws, one of the Black players was shooting free throws. And it was me, and three or four other people on the team were Black. And they were making monkey noises and a bunch of microaggressions and other stuff, like making monkey noises. I can't think of something else. And also, one of my closest friends in high school, she was playing – I think it was that same school year in basketball – and they wouldn't let her play at one game because she had – when you have braids, you can get beads or different decorations for the beads. And they wouldn't let her play because it was some, I don't know. But they didn't do that at any other school, which I thought was a little racist. But yeah, it's definitely a step up at Northwestern.

Aryn: Yeah, and your stories kind of reminded me of some of my own stories. Because I know, usually because the same group that would just think that slurs and discrimination was just peak humor, they were the same kids that would drive their pickup trucks to school and they'd have the American flag in the back or the Confederate flag in the back. And they also hated Joe Biden as well. They'd always be like, "F Biden." And they were also big Trumpets. They loved Trump.

Dallas: Trumpets? I've never heard that. Trumpets?

Aryn: I kind of just made it up on the spot.

Valentina: No you didn't.

Aryn: I'm sorry queen. I remember, because we used to have this period in the middle of the day. I can't remember what it was called, but it was between third hour and fourth hour, and I would sit at this table. I can't remember their names. I would just remember, one time this girl just straight up said the N-word with hard r and everything. I was just, I didn't know what to do. I was in shock.

Dallas: I think also when there's so few Black students at schools like that, it's like, I don't know. Well I know there were also problems with saying the N-word at my school. It's kind of just, what do you even do when you're one of the only people? Or you heard it, but, no one else is gonna validate what you're doing. Like, “Oh, I know, this person, they wouldn't ever do that.” Like bruh, you don't even know them for real. So it's kind of just, it's hard to find strength in numbers in schools like that. But I think in Northwestern, it's easier to find other Black students like we have the Black house and stuff. So there's a community for that. But, yeah, it’s definitely hard.

Aryn: For sure. Also in my high school, I think this is when I was in 10th grade, there were these two women. They were on their Snapchat story – and this, I feel like this is kind of a common story that you kind of see online and stuff – but they were on their Snapchat story and they just said the N-word. They were doing the whole joking, giggling as if it was just super funny, you know? And it was a big scandal at my school, it was getting spread around. Everyone was like, “Oh my gosh, did you see the video?” And it was kind of just made out to be a spectacle, and no one was really actually discussing why it was a bad thing. And ultimately, nothing ended up happening to them at all. They were not held accountable to any extent, and they could just continue to go to school peacefully. I mean, obviously, they got exposed for the video, but I can only wonder, how many other white students held those same beliefs and do that in private? So I think it just kind of amplifies, I guess how uncomfortable you can feel especially being in a PWI because even if they're not outward about their racism, if they don't make it obvious it's still possible that it's there, which I guess is unfortunate. But, you know, we move I guess.

Dallas: I mean, yeah, it's so awkward being around people who are so out of touch. It's not even a hatred thing. I kind of feel bad that you haven't had any type of education. I don't, it's always people who think that nothing's gonna happen to them that they're untouchable or that their way is only what's the right way. I don't know if that makes sense. I don't know, some people kind of just piss me off when they’re like that because it's just annoying like bruh, you're not the only, just because you have money doesn't mean that you're more valuable than I am.

Dallas: Since DiscountEDU is about being FGLI, we also want to touch on the way that being Black kind of coincides with being FGLI. Not necessarily one is dependent on the other, but how being Black has affected me being FGLI. At least for me, not to be stereotypical, but the system kind of makes it hard for Black people to accumulate generational wealth, which is kind of the boundary for even being able to afford a school like Northwestern. So I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to be here, but I would definitely say that has impacted my education in general. My family has money, but not having the extra funds to pay 90k a year has kind of affected how I identify and how I take education more seriously because I can't just dilly dally. Because I'm on a scholarship and I need to keep my grades up, and I need to do what I need to do to get my education. Being first-gen, just even when I don't want to do work, kind of motivates me because my parents work hard to get me here, and I work hard to get myself here so it would kind of be a disservice to not do right at school. So being able to balance a schedule, be myself, do all that, can help me be the first in my – well, my grandmother actually listened to our last episode and was like, “Well, I have a degree.” So I'm not totally, my family has never gone to college, just my parents. But being able to make my parents proud and my family proud by graduating and saying, "I can do this as a FGLI person, as a Black person, as a woman" is good.

Aryn: Yeah. For me, as Dallas said, there is a system built up. Institutional racism exists and it doesn't only affect our ability to accumulate wealth, but also just our school systems in general. Because I remember when I was in Flint, my school was fine, but you could tell that it was obviously underfunded. It wasn't the best education and it's kind of, it sucks to say, but that's kind of why I had to end up going to a PWI.

Dallas: Yeah, same.

Aryn: Just because these predominately Black schools just don't have the money and don't have the staffing. So I am thankful that I was able to go to a school where a lot of different opportunities were opened up for me, but it kind of sucks that limited the amount of people I was able to see that look like me. But same thing, I'm very thankful for being able to go to Northwestern. I'm also thankful for all the scholarship opportunities that were aware, just more aware of people's financial situations and also how race can affect those things, so I was able to get a full ride here with QuestBridge. We talked about that last time. But yeah, I'm very thankful. I also hope to make my parents proud with my academic performance and I will be very proud of myself if I make it the four years and I walk that lovely stage. It'll be very exciting and fun for me.

Dallas: Hopefully our grad speaker is good.

Aryn: Yeah.

Dallas: This concludes the fifth episode of DiscountEDU. I'm Dallas.

Aryn: I'm Aryn.

Dallas: And come back next episode to hear Jezel and Valentina talk about their intersectionality with being FGLI and Latina. Bye!

Aryn: Yippee. Oh bye.