So in case you aren’t following the Obama’s lives with bated breath as you mourn their impending departure from the White House, it was recently announced that Malia Obama – supreme queen of cool kids everywhere – has chosen to go to Harvard University starting fall 2017.
In case you somehow don’t know, I graduated from Harvard University in 2012 with a Bachelors of Arts degree (it was actually listed on the degree as an A.B., because Harvard is bougie and likes to be different) in History and Science. I also minored in Global Health & Health Policy and got a language citation in Igbo. #bossmoves. So I’m really really REALLY excited that Malia is joining the league of extraordinary black women to attend and graduate from Harvard University.
As news of Malia’s choice swept the internets, the Twitter haters took a break from their Old Navy bashing to claim that Malia’s privilege got her into Harvard.
Well I’ll be damned.
When Barbara Pierce Bush (the oldest of the Bush daughters… whom I had to look up because I had no idea what their names were) went to Yale University, though it was before Twitter’s time, I will bet hundreds of dollars that nobody questioned her eligibility. Chelsea Clinton, who went to the same private school as the Obama girls, went to Stanford University with no concerns about eligibility. I can find countless other examples, but let’s just go ahead and call bs white tears on any claims that Malia only got into Harvard because of privilege.
When I was accepted into Harvard, I experienced my first tangible run-in with racism (I’ve come to terms with the fact that getting pulled over for tailgating in a white neighborhood may have been legit, but the jury’s still out). Having been one of only 3 students in my rich, largely white, and uppity private high school to have been accepted into Harvard, whispers among students and parents emerged that I had been accepted simply because I was black. After all, the other students who were accepted – the school valedictorian and a girl who had been recruited for soccer – had “justifiable” reasons for their acceptance, mine seemed unlikely and thus had to only be a result of my blackness.
To be frank, I never really wanted to go to Harvard in the first place. I didn’t want people to make judgments about who I was before they got to know me, and I so vehemently wanted to reject the “elite” and privileged world view/position that most of my high school peers had. I never wanted anyone to make the mistake of assuming I was snobbish or stuck up just because I went to Harvard. This was a sentiment I wrestled with even after graduation, and I’m not sure if Malia was thinking about how people’s perceptions of her might change based on her school choice, but I do think she’s smart enough to know the backlash was coming one way or another.
If we can be ALL the way real, I only ended up at Harvard because my parents made me go. I’d gotten in trouble with an old boyfriend and my first choice school – Columbia – was taken off the table since it was too close to him and his foolishness (thanks Mom & Dad btw! Jonathan is also extremely grateful). And since we all know Malia got herself in trouble after having way too much fun on her visit to Brown, I’m going to assume that’s where she wanted to go, but she was forced to go to Harvard as well.
So even though the public doesn’t think she qualified to go and her parents probably forced her to go, I want to let all the Malias out there know that going to Harvard as a black woman was one of the best decisions
that was made for me I made in my life. Aside from having a great education and meeting the love of my life, Harvard provided for me something I never had – a network of fly, intelligent, beautiful black women just like me. In the first few weeks of school, we received a guidebook from the Association of Black Harvard Women (ABHW) that had a list of hair salons, nail salons, braiding salons, clothing stores, advice on picking a major, advice on dating, advice on budgeting – literally everything I might have needed to know to make it through my first year in what could have been a very lonely and scary place. Without ABHW, which I was heavily involved with in my time at Harvard (I was President of the organization my junior year), I probably would not have been able to grow as confident as I am in my identity as a black woman, taking in all the burdens and pride that come along with it.
In summary, Malia’s decision to go to Harvard is the best thing that’s happened to me in 2016 because it proves that she and I are pretty much twins. Hey girl. See you at the ABHW 45th birthday party!