- Posted July 24, 2008 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Black in America
Dr. Ramona Brockett (headshot April 2008)
Soledad, Essence and CNN;
Thank you for this series.
I am a lawyer and a Ph.D. in the area of Criminal Justice. I grew up in Madison, New Jersey and my families summer home is on Martha's Vineyard. I am going to be 46 years old in September, and I am writing a book on this topic because of my experiences growing up, and being an adult and black in America.
In short, I am one of those single African American women
of caribbean heritagewho is also a professional. There are only four (4) African American women in the country who hold a Juris Doctor with a Ph.D., specifically in the area of criminal justice. Of those four, I am the ONLY one who grew up the way I grew up. It has been a very isolating experience.
My parents built the house on the Vineyard so that when we were young we could experience having black friends who were raised similarly to us. But, having actualized and become an adult has not been fun. I look great on paper, and physically I keep myself up
however, socially my experience is too white for black folk and my orientation is too black for white folk. I find I am marginalized often because my experience is not one that anyone I meetexcept those few on MVY --can actually relate to and it brings about hostility.
I have chosen not to practice
but instead because I grew up with so much and was given so much, I am teaching at the University of Maryland Eastern Shorewhich is an HBCU. I did not attend an HBCU as a student in the 1980s instead I went to the College of St. Elizabethwhere my mother went and studied Economics and Financewhich is what my father's degree is in--he graduate from Brooklyn College in the 1950s. I then went to Boston College Law School where I received my Juris Doctor. Finally, my Ph.D. is from Rutgers University.
Because my family "had" I experienced racism, but not to the extent that most experienced racism. However, when I went to college and law school the racism experience zenithed. I did not have scholarships or financial aid--my father paid cash for my undergraduate and law school education. Rutgers University paid me to get my Ph.D. because they wanted to have the reputation for having graduated 3 of the 4 AA women in the country with these qualifications.
My experience not being on financial aid was painful. The most intense experience came when I was a 2L at Boston College and we had to pay our spring school fees. I walked into a room that was about 15' by 20' where three women had been set up on PC's. This was 1987. About 15 students were in the room. The woman at the PC at the far end asked me to come to her stall. The room was very open so everyone could hear what was going on. She did not ask me my name, instead she glanced at my hands and asked, in a very harsh south Boston accent, "what kind of financial aid do you have?" I told her, "none." Then she slammed the enter button on the machine so hard it made everyone in the room stop and look up. I felt like it was an E.F. Hutton moment--a commercial not many know about these days. Next she yelled, "WHAT kind of SCHOLARSHIP do you have?" I answered, "none." So she looked up at me and said, "then how do you expect to pay for this?" At which time I answered her, "I have a check for $12,000.00 in my hand." She looked at me and asked, "what is your name?" I said, "Ramona Brockett." To which she answered, "You're Ramona Brockett?"
This experience, for me, is something that cut deeply and disturbed me emotionally. I felt as though being from a successful, black family was a problem because it was not acceptable. The way I sounded when I talked was a problem because it was not what was expected. The car I drove was a problem, because black folk
back thenwere not supposed to drive Volvo's. My orientations, my likes, my dislikes, my music--were all wrong. In fact, it took years for me to accept that I am unique and that that was a good thing.
Again, as I said, I am writing a book about these experiences and the many that friends of mine whose parents worked hard to give us the best life, also experienced. Feelings of isolation as we represented a form of strain theoretically because we did not "fit" into societies norms as black folk in America. And, still to this day, many of us do not fit. What I find is people are more accepting of a black person in my age group who have the same degrees and/or qualifications as I, but who grew up in the projects and, "pulled themselves" up by the "boot straps." My background is still highly unacceptable because it deconstructs notions, norms and psychological constructs that make all, black or white, feel comfortable with a person who is "what" is me.
Thank you for allowing me to share. And, thank you for richly enhancing the dialogue surrounding race, and being Black, in America.
Ramona Brockett, J.D., Ph.D. cell 443 944 4349