Letters to My Tutor…

My dearest Simone,

It’s becoming clear that I need to take some time away to get used to my new schedule of classes and to get a bit ahead on the homework. So far, my math and chemistry classes have been enjoyable along the lines that I thought they would be. However, I continue to reflect on anthropology and the path that lead me to consider graduate work in anthropology.

I’ve been hesitant to speak of my more recent anthropology classes. In the beginning, I feared that the fact that my mind was fuzzy and that I might not immediately remember something big and obvious would cause my anthropology professors to cringe. I still think that now, but I worry slightly less. I had excellent classes, and some of my classmates were quite exceptional. But for the quality of the instruction that I received, I would never have found myself in the position of considering graduate study in anthropology. My sense of cultural disconnect did not melt away, but still my more recent classes left me with a hopefulness that some of my concerns about study and work in anthropology would be less of a worry in the future.

A particularly unpleasant work-type experience in anthropology outside the academic setting reminded me that I could not depend on the positive local classroom experiences being reproduced in the industry at large or in further academic study. It wasn’t an experience that I would expect to be repeated, but still it felt like a wakeup call to the fact that I needed to give serious consideration to what it would be like to work in anthropology, to work in a field that was overwhelming dominated by middle class white culture. I think some of the difficulties I’ve had moving from the South to California may be very instructive. California is the least black place that I’ve ever lived. I think often people outside the South hear that I grew up in Mississippi and automatically think that it’s a state that is worse in every possible way for a black person. This is not the case. I grew up in a majority black county in Mississippi and there are cultural advantages to that. I hope to write more about this soon.

Until next time,