By: Atiya Chiphe
I had the pleasure of interviewing an inspirational young woman named Alexandra Swain. Allie is a Whitney M. Young High School graduate and incoming freshman at Stanford University, but there is so much more to her than just her choice of schools. If I had to describe Allie using only one word, it would have to be ‘passionate’. She is a person who cares, and she knows how to show it. However, there had to have been something that made Allie that way.
Allie is bi-racial, with a white mother and a black father. She comes from humble beginnings and takes immense pride in her background. In her household growing up, she never really considered herself to be “different” because of her biraciality. She just thought of herself as Allie. She was an incredibly happy child growing up, but all her life there were people who would treat her as if she were wrong for that.
Allie took the time to recount some experiences for me of when she would be out somewhere with her white mother as a child, and people wouldn’t believe they were related just because they had different skin colors. There was even an instance where she was at a restaurant and the greeter thought they were to be seated separately. Even though she was just 8 years old. And it didn’t get any easier for Allie as she became a teenager and went into high school. Although she describes her high school as being ‘incredibly diverse’, at times she still felt like she was “too white” for the black kids. She felt as if in certain situations she had to choose between different parts of her identity, and she says she never stuck to one group for very long, having to judge people on what she personally knew about them. But making the effort to be genuine brought Allie a long way. All of her connections ended in friendship, even if they were just acquaintances at first.
She felt that her high school was like its own ‘little world’. She appreciated its incredible diversity, describing it as being “the best mix of people from all the communities in Chicago that you can get.” There were struggles that came with that though. She had a hard time navigating her own personal identity, and finding where she fit in. It was frustrating, as sometimes she would have to call people out for things like racist jokes, and she had trouble finding her true friends in high school.
When asked how she plans on navigating college, Allie replied that she has had “that blatant realization that Whitney Young was probably as diverse as it’s gonna get”. She plans on trying to stick close to the “good people”, and points out that although it may not be obvious at first glance, everyone has some form of privilege. Allie wants to break the stigma of just assigning privilege to race, because she knows it goes beyond that. She believes in spreading her truths in college, and says that “empathy is the key to life”. In meeting her future classmates, she has already been astounded by all of the wonderful and talented people that each have deep passions, and has an optimistic outlook for her future at Stanford.
To end the interview, I asked Allie what motivates her the most. In her lifetime, she had always wished that the world would wake up and realize that we all share one thing; a human identity.
“What motivates me is kids, educating our children.” Allie believes in the power of children to change the world. She believes that if we are loving towards children, and teach them what is right and what is wrong, we can change the world. In order for this goal to be achieved, she knows applicable education across all cultures and identities is necessary, and no matter what others say, she believes it can be done.