When or IF urban high school youth are encouraged to go to college, they are seldom ever talked to about the politics of what it means to be the first in their family to go to college. They are seldom counseled on what it’s like to be one of a handful of young people of color to attend a competitive four-year university. Yet, students of color, particularly those from economically disenfranchised communities, are expected to maneuver and thrive in environments that are replete with gender, sexual orientation, and racial politics. This is one reason why they have some of the lowest college graduation rates in the nation.
On October 23, Deputy City Attorney Heather Aubry answered questions about race and representation from an audience of Latina and African-American students at Washington Preparatory High School. The talk was part of the Women’s Leadership Project’s Women of Color Speaker Series.
Twelfth grader and aspiring attorney Victory Yates commented on how she “liked how openly Ms. Aubry talked about the lack of African-Americans in Law School… you think it might be like this but no one talks about it.”
These are issues that mainstream America views as obsolete given that we exist in a so-called “post-racial era” in which an African-American president has been re-elected. Many contend that young people don’t see race. In fact, youth of color like the young women who attended the lecture by Ms. Aubry understand and experience race, class, and gender politics on a visceral level. When the students asked Ms. Aubry what it was like to be a young African-American woman of color attending UC Berkeley and UCLA they were asking for guidance on how to achieve and succeed in environments they have been led to believe they will never belong in.
Ms. Aubry related that one key to her success was finding mentors of color who helped guide her throughout her career.
After the talk, Ms. Aubry handed out business cards and was invited to upcoming events at Washington Prep. She listened to the college aspirations of a cluster of young women who immediately encircled her and thanked her for coming. Victory was especially inspired: “After listening to Ms. Aubry I think I can make it through law school too…I felt much more motivated to pursue a legal career. ”