Berkeley universities

The Afro-Latin prism on education

Graduate school seemed like the only option for me once I graduated from high school – I’m sure I expected to do more than just work a 9 to 5 job for minimum wage. With all due respect to Mickey D’s, I didn’t want to end up working minimum wage for the rest of my life. Working part-time as a waiter while going to school was getting old, and continuing my education made my family proud. With the odds seemingly stacked against me, I considered higher education my ticket to success. Also, I knew it would be difficult for me to make a living without a college education and a few degrees.

I also didn’t want to attend the local state university where all the other students in my high school went. The local university was a great school, but it didn’t suit me. I have always dreamed of proving society wrong by attending a prestigious university. I was never encouraged to apply to a UC school, and that motivated me. Why couldn’t I be the Afro-Latin student who defied the odds and applied to UC schools and other universities? Higher education offered the challenge of learning about myself through failures and triumphs.

If I was going to college, I had to do it big. “Doing it big” meant avoiding the mortifying high school reunion where I would be surrounded by the same people I grew up with without allowing myself the opportunity to meet new people and discover new parts of my identity elsewhere. Higher education is where I knew I could be, but it was something I never saw as a possibility unless it was outside of an athletic scholarship. After playing football most of my life and realizing it wouldn’t last forever, I looked to academics as a way out.

I was raised by a Mexican single mom and my black dad was never in my life. In the beginning, the idea of ​​going to university was not necessarily for me but for my mother: university was a dream that she never could achieve. Like most black men, we are conditioned to play sports or live on the streets. I had two options out of high school: go to college or go to a university that I didn’t really like going to.

It was easier to accept my identity in Berkeley than at home in the San Gabriel Valley. The Bay Area is known for its diversity and Berkeley is the best example of its inclusiveness. The San Gabriel Valley is made up of a predominantly Asian population, so I always struggled with my identity growing up there because of my skin tone. I was always the only black guy everywhere I went. And everywhere I went, dirty looks and stares followed me — not to mention Pasadena police racial profiling for simply being a black man driving in a nice neighborhood. I always felt like Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour,” but it was a love-hate relationship because I valued my time and my connections in the San Gabriel Valley.

Education gave me the opportunity to explore my identity and learn more about the different subjects of higher education. The whole aspect of education has created opportunities for me to grow and achieve the goal of making something out of my life. Education gave me the opportunity to help found the Black Student Union at East Los Angeles College and learn about the different experiences shared by other Black students in higher education. The club was indicative of the underlying issues that black students face in college – there weren’t many of us.

The education system itself is another topic of discussion, but it was hard to deal with being one of the few black students in college. Not seeing black professors or students was difficult – how could any of my peers identify with me? The lack of representation was frustrating in that I had no mentors with a similar background to mine. The only time I saw another brother – another black person – outside of the classroom was on the football field. Playing football helped me explore my blackness as the field was a mecca for black athletes to bond and share a sense of camaraderie.

Overall, education opens doors for many people of color, including myself. As mentioned earlier, while I’m 6-foot-1 and not too bad at football, I wasn’t good enough for Division I or pro sports. Education has blessed me with the opportunity to transfer to UC Berkeley.

Just taking classes at such a prestigious institution helped me grow as an individual, as I met other like-minded scholars and peers. Education allows people to network and form lasting friendships. Where else can you meet people from Japan, London and New York in one semester? These different friendships allowed me to value my own Métis identity in the sense that we are all unique. Understanding that we each share a different identity has helped me fully embrace both of my complexities. Berkeley has been home to both my Mexican and black backgrounds, but that’s what makes this city so great – it’s a mecca for sexualities, genders and nationalities. Go bears.

Matthew Corey Flores is a junior student on campus majoring in media studies and minoring in journalism. Contact the Opinion Bureau at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.