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Alesha Davis, a sophomore journalism and english double major from Fort Worth, TX, smiles for a portrait at Ohio University, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Athens, Ohio.

Opinion: Multicultural students feel great pressure to perform

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to be a leader. You have to be.”

My mother said this to me after one of the many times I called her to vent my frustrations about the pressure I felt to perform as some sort of all-powerful “Black queen.” Sitting at my desk in business casual, fresh from some sort of event where I got onto a stage and performed my usual song and dance, I just felt tired. Tired of years of this. Preemptively tired of a life of this.

As a Black student, there are ample leadership opportunity on OU’s campus. The campus is hungry for outgoing multicultural students to use in promotional videos, panels, interviews, you name it. The opportunity for club leadership is also there, as there is plenty of room for creating new spaces since this campus is still missing so much. 

I’ve felt the pressure to take the opportunities, saying yes to every single thing to pad a resume so well rounded that I couldn't possibly be refused. More than that, there is a sense of duty. In a white space, you have to step up and speak up because more often than not, you are the only Black kid in the room, and no one can do it for you. Or the well-intentioned will try to do it for you, and the affair is so embarrassing that you end up having to take the reins anyway. The last option is to deal with it in silence, which drains you emotionally and spiritually. So you dress up in business casual to be respectable, or a political t-shirt so you can be powerful, and you step up and speak up and dance and sing. 

But what's left of you between performances? 

Modeling not only what others need you to be but what they want you to represent is exhausting. No matter how authentic you want to be, it is still an act, because no one wants to be an uplifting voice or a role model or a beacon of change. It's an exhausting task, and not one someone can shed. Because in a world where you have to work twice as hard to get half as far, the work always finds you. No matter if you ignore it. And it turns your peers into coworkers, and sometimes being with them serves as a reminder of the stage, giving interactions a layer of unspoken weirdness.

To be honest, I find it can be rather lonely. 

That's not the uplifting picture that most would want to paint of multicultural leadership. It’s not the picture I would like to paint either. After all, we have to work together to uplift the whole. It’s not all doom and gloom. I know plenty of my peers live in close circles and likely have flourishing friendships. There are moments when I can laugh with other multicultural students thanks to an automatic, unspoken understanding of each other. And there is beauty in knowing so many people who are fighting with you. But I find that the reality of constant jive for growth leaves little room for personal pleasure. Instead of constantly facing that reality in the bodies of my colleagues, sometimes it's easier to rest alone. 

Alesha Davis is a senior studying journalism and English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of  The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Alesha by tweeting her at @AleshaTDavis


Alesha Davis

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