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Self-Defense Helped Me Feel More Confident

Growing up Black in America, I faced many challenges that my peers at school never did. Constantly being asked what’s your ethnicity (in the dehumanizing WHAT ARE YOU? No where are you really from), “oh you’re good at (insert sport) because you’re black”, etc… When I went to a private high school, those challenges compounded because there were even fewer students who looked like me and the stereotypes got worse. When I was accepted into my first college, one of my white, male peers (who didn’t get into the school) said, “You only got in because you’re black.” It wasn’t because I was a three-sport varsity athlete or had over 100 hours of community service or a 3.95 GPA with mostly Honors and AP classes. No. In his mind, it was because I was Black.

From my parents, they were constantly worried about my safety. You can’t do this; you can’t say that. You will be punished more harshly than your peers. When I got into my top choice school, my parents told me not to go there because it was in rural Virginia and they would never feel comfortable with me leaving campus. Now, I recognize that most Black parents had the same or similar rules for their kids, and the rules come from fears, experiences, and generational trauma.

The turning point for me was taking self-defense in high school. I wish I could say it was when I took the class as a kid. Yes, IMPACT gave me confidence but I still had so much to learn about the world. At 15, I (unfortunately) had learned more about how the world would see me. Taking self-defense opened up more opportunities to me. When I got a job at my dad’s office, I could take public transportation if I didn’t want to go in as early or leave as late as my dad, and my parents weren’t as worried. I had an extended curfew so long as I had a ride to and from wherever I was. My parents felt comfortable with me applying to colleges on the East Coast. Nicole Snell, CEO of Girls Fight Back and Lead Instructor with IPS, SoCal, says, “When we feel more in control of our safety, we have opened up our accessibility to many activities, jobs, relationships, etc. that we otherwise may have avoided.” I felt comfortable and confident in my abilities to take care of myself being away from my parents. I took jobs I wouldn’t have taken because I knew tools and strategies to help ensure my safety. When I came home, I started working as a tutor, which meant going to other people’s houses by myself. Sometimes people would give me the side eye, and I recognize that I have been lucky to not be profiled too harshly. I’m grateful for the tools I have and I’m proud to teach these skills to more people so they feel confident in the world too.

I’m going to leave you with a final quote from Nicole: “Showing up in the world as a Black woman brings a range of challenges that are unique to the Black community. We face different types of violence that are often connected to our intersectional identities as Black, or queer, or woman, or trans, etc. Self-defense offers tools for navigating our safety in ways that allow us to continue to show up authentically in any space we enter.” Be your authentic self. You deserve the right for the world to know who YOU are.

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