Sprinkled delicately with a shimmering piano backdrop, short documentary, “33”, shows how Ethnic Minority law students at UCLA feel burdened with the responsibility of having to carry the assumptions, stereotypes, and statistics of their race in a school where the majority of students are White.
The documentary includes testimonies from a handful of students that share the experiences and feelings which come from being in a school with limited representation. The students spoke with exhaustion in their eyes. They were like long-time sufferers that were only a week away from having endured just a little too much emotional strain. Here is a quote from one of these students in the film:
“It feels like a lot of pressure being the one person from my neighborhood, a predominantly Black neighborhood, that went to college and let alone law school. It’s like I kind of have to prove myself for the whole Black community as well as represent the whole Black community for the rest of the majority of the school that isn’t Black. So it’s just a constant burden, a pressure. I’m constantly policing myself also–just being aware of what I say and how it can be interpreted because I basically am the representation of the Black community.”
Like the 33, I came from a neighborhood where the majority of children either didn’t make it to college or didn’t graduate high school. My neighbors were mostly Hispanic or Black. And it’s strange how the idea, that I’m the only kid from that area to have made it to college, gradually manifests itself from a pending thought to an almost physical presence I can feel weighing me down. This weight is especially apparent during classroom discussions. As a sociology major, I’m always in the heat of a discussion where my views represent only a fraction of the class’. It’s difficult to argue a point from a perspective that I alone understand, that I alone can make because of my experiences as a Hispanic American. Meanwhile, other students get to enjoy the privilege of peer affirmation and corresponding head nods. But I only get self-conscious in that environment. In time, my words begin to feel radical, imposing, loud, and stupid. I begin to doubt myself. All I seek at the end of the day is refuge, a familiar face, somebody who understands where I’m coming from, someone who came from the same place I did. But none of these people are ever around. After a while I begin to wonder: Do I belong here? Swimming through a sea of white faces as I commute from class to class only emphasizes just how far I’ve strayed away from home.
There are very real physical consequences that stem from social struggles. They can make our life experiences that much more demanding. At the very least, “33” gave me some much needed peace of mind. It made me feel just a little bit less lonely.