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How to Accept Help (if You’re Black)

Berkeley Student Kashawn Campbell. photo by Bethany Mollenkof. courtesy Los Angeles Times
Berkeley Student Kashawn Campbell. photo by Bethany Mollenkof. courtesy Los Angeles Times

“How do you get students to accept help?” a teacher asked me.

She was one of a diverse group of dedicated, intelligent young educators who help high school students from smaller income neighborhoods attend college. During our recent conversation, it was mentioned that some of their most hard-working and focused students arrive at a university, confront challenges with course work and then—heartbreakingly—refuse to seek or take advantage of help that is available.

They are so determined to do it on their own, her colleague explained, “because they want to help their families.” These educators’ compassionate concerns and the heavy burden their students are carrying stayed with me. When a teacher asked me, “How did you manage to get the help you needed?” I realized that during my entire career as an African American, working-class, queer woman student (Pre-K through PhD) I never did.

3 thoughts on “How to Accept Help (if You’re Black)

  1. An interesting topic. This is definitely significant because it speaks on a struggle that is not black and white, and at the same time is extremely applicable in the student’s everyday lives. Rather than speaking about a rule that must be changed or a concrete issue, it speaks about a problem that cannot be solved so simply.

  2. Unfortunately, a lot of things in this post rings true. Many of my African American peers do not seek help for their issues (at school or work) because 1. They don’t think that will get it because they are black 2. They don’t think there is help for them that exists 3. African Americans are taught that they have to be as independent as possible because relying on others who are not like us is weak/a mistake. A lot of the time these things are true. But, as it was stated in the blog, everybody needs help now and then. African Americans can still be independent and ask for a helping hand. Hopefully, more individuals in the African American community can learn this lesson and utilize whatever resources they can find or have available to them.

  3. I can only speak for the population I work with.. Which is disconnected youth between 18-24 living in Bushwick/Bed-Stuy (majority of them black). I have noticed that my youth simply don’t know that help exists because their whole life has been an obstacle that they don’t even know their are options out there for them. However, when my youth are aware that their are other options they are resistant because they don’t trust it. “Why should I try? It was never there before. It won’t work.. Nothing ever turns out the way it should.” It’s really heart breaking… Especially for a mentor such as myself that works with about 120 youth a year, and only a quarter of them learn that they don’t have to be 100% independent and asking for help is OKAY.

    A lot of this has to do with trust… The lack of it that these youth have….

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