Humans of Parkland: Clifton Maurice Butler III
“My name is Clifton Maurice Butler III. I am a junior in college, double majoring in psychology and computer science. Simply put, I am currently a student at Parkland because I cannot handle the mental and psychological strain of previous university life. My race has made me feel ostracized; and social anxiety and depression have worn me thin. My journey to Parkland is one that was made possible due to racism and mental illness.
I am a black male. I have always been a black male. I will, in all likelihood, forever be a black male. However, it was not until sixth grade that I realized just how much of a black male that I am. Prior to the age of eleven, I had spent majority of my life in predominantly white, suburban neighborhoods and schools. And while I had certainly faced racism by this point, I still maintained a fair amount of comfort in myself as a person. In sixth grade I moved to Joliet and faced a new town, a new school, and greater issues of race. For the next seven years, until I headed to college, I endured an environment that refused to acknowledge me as a human.
I was never just a student, friend, or person. I was always a black student, black friend, or black person. I am prideful in my race, so this in and of itself is not an issue. Instead, the people around me that incessantly beat antiblackness into my head were the problem. Not a day went passed where I did not feel alienated because of my race. Sure, there were a handful of black kids in my schools. But being in all honors and AP classes meant that I was often the only black kid in my class. My white peers, who made sure everyday that I was aware of my skin color, forced me to become conscious of my race and to take note of my differences.
The ostracization [sic] I faced in middle school and high school has led to anxiety issues that still plague my collegiate career. Upon entering university, I realized how frightening it was to be around scores of white people. In high school, white people represented an entity that, knowingly or unknowingly, sought to critique my every move and attribute it to my race. Phrases such as “you’re the smartest black person in school, which isn’t saying much,” often followed by laughter, characterized my troubled high school experiences with race. Thus, it was difficult to separate these experiences from the university climate. It is possible that, had I given the university a greater chance, my life on campus would have been just fine. But the faces and the micro aggressions were the same. That was enough for me.
“I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for two years before succumbing to my anxiety and taking a semester off. I could not handle my fears of inferiority that had arisen from the antiblack rhetoric ubiquitous to my past. I felt less than my peers on the quad, in the classroom, and in the collegiate world. Indeed, I cowered away from school and into my apartment. So here I am, one semester removed from my academic hiatus, attending Parkland. I am here to rebuild myself and conquer my anxiety. I am here to learn. And I am here to be a person.”