Brooke Kimbrough And The Teachable Moment

I had a reality check thanks to a disappointed seventeen year old in Michigan.

And I'm a better woman for it.

Brooke Kimbrough is a Detroit high school senior who when rejected by the University of Michigan, staged a protest criticizing the University's admissions policies as racist.

Despite her high grades and decent ACT score, she still didn't make the cut.

And I get it.  I get the disappointment of not getting something that you've worked so hard for.  Sacrificed for.  Dreamed of.  I truly understand.  Underscore the fact that you're 17 years old and nothing seems like it will take the sting of the rejection away.

Clearly there are larger lessons here.   In time and with the proper counsel, I trust Ms. Kimbrough will absorb this minor bump in the what appears to be a bright future.

Sometimes bad or disappointing things happen to black people not because we're black, but because bad things happen.

Unfortunately the specter of racism can blind a person to that fact the same way others refuse to see the privilege they're born with.

The reality check came for me as I was composing this post in my head, getting ready to lecture the 17 year old.

Substitute job hunt for college admissions and Ms. Kimbrough and I are in the same boat in the disappointment department.

I myself have been on countless phone interviews, numerous job interviews and even been the final round of candidates for several positions.

Not getting those jobs honestly crushed me each and every time.

And when I say crushed me, I mean lie in bed crying with the covers over my head crushed.  Those rejections were taken very personally.

Then it hit me---We're the same person separated by age and circumstance.

If Ms. Kimbrough ever comes across this post and reads it, I hope she takes away words of encouragement.  I'm sure she's been lectured enough about the advice she's received from BAMN along with her decision to protest.

If she were here in front of me right now I'd tell her my story---and a few others I haven't put in this blog.  I'd tell her that when I realized that job offers weren't coming my way that perhaps I needed to ask the hard questions about what I could do better.

They were unsettling and uncomfortable questions.  Ones I didn't necessarily like seeking out the answers for.

Nonetheless, my point is about knowing your strengths, how to sell yourself and measuring up your skills or qualities against the competition.  All good items to have in your toolbox no matter if you're looking for a job or trying to get into your dream college.

Just because you're the best in your pond or your circle doesn't mean there isn't someone who's better.

It's a tough world out there with a great many talented people all trying to get to the same place---on top.

I would encourage Ms. Kimbrough to enroll at one of the schools that accepted her and in a few years, shoot for the University of Michigan again.

Naturally, there are no guarantees but all she can do is try.

I'd also suggest that she get a little life experience under her belt.  While I doubt that this is a case of racism, I am certain that it won't be her only brush with the dreaded specter.  Unlike recent events of our country's past, few people burn a cross on your lawn anymore or call you the N-word to your face.

Racism's bar has been set very high these days and it's getting increasingly difficult to prove it in a court of law and public opinion.

Ms. Kimbrough reinforced that all of us---whether were seventeen or in our mid forties---need to push through our disappointments.  Eventually someone who values who you are, what you do and what you represent will come calling.


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