Torrie Shepard is the Marketing and Communications intern at The National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Standing Room Only is a weekly blog series that follows Torrie’s journey from bystander to upstander.
I was an engineering major at the University of Virginia before I decided that breaking my spirit, over and over, for a non-existent passion was not for me. I set out to change majors the summer before my third year, only finding a more complicated journey ahead of me. In order to switch into the major I wanted (Media Studies) I had to have a “fill-in” major because I was a Third Year student. My only choice became my salvation—African American and African Studies (AAS).
Don’t get me wrong, I was planning to drop the major once I was able to get into the Media Studies department and start pursuing my dreams of becoming a film producer. Yet, the difficulty of getting into the Media Studies major caused me to stick with AAS and thus began my appreciation for my Blackness and my need to understand how history has etched the ongoing record of the Black experience in America.
My close mind soon became opened. Yet, I still think I projected the same idea that my history was stuck in the past and it was time for reconciliation and rejuvenation. My history taught me otherwise; I learned so much about redlining and other institutional methods to keep people of color outside of the American dream. It hurt my head and my heart. It explained why somehow my roommates (all White Women) had wealth and I did not, even though our parents made the same amount of income. How modern slavery ties to incarceration and why I should care. It would be hard to tell you that I have never wished to live beyond the Veil, but after getting my degree, I am glad to live within so many intersections of social identity.