On Wednesday, Jacob Copeland signed as UF’s wide receiver, and the video of the process went viral. Like most talented high-school athletes, Copeland had a handful of desirable options to choose from. His mother stood right by his side through the stressful decision until he made his choice. Upset her son didn't pick the University of Tennessee, she stormed away from the table and out of the view of the camera. The video immediately went viral through UF and the rest of the nation. The public cast shade at his mom, calling her selfish and criticizing her motherhood. Viewers believed Copeland didn't deserve to be deserted during such an important time in his life.
Although parents typically stand by their children’s sides through the process of choosing a college, their personal goals for their child’s education often sway their judgment. Parents make up their minds about college before their children do. Although the student may have their eyes set on one institution, the parents may lock eyes on another and dissuade their children with their biased opinions or, in some cases, by force; this is often the case for black teens, especially those who are the first generation of their families to go to college.
Copeland’s situation parallels the struggle black teens face as they prepare for college. The college experience can be lonely as a minority and, in addition to their own self criticism and doubt, black students will never face a harder critic than their parents. Black college students represent a small portion of campus populations, making up less than 10 percent at most universities, excluding historically black colleges and universities. Although our peers encourage us to follow our dreams, black students may have to put their personal aspiration on the back burner while they attend to the wishes of their parents. As simple as it may be to ignore them, parents tighten their grip on their children whenever their plans are ignored. By switching majors, dropping a class or choosing a different Greek chapter, black students may bring disappointment to their parents. This is not because it was a bad decision but because it was not the decision their parents had wanted.
After months of anticipation, UF acceptances rolled out Feb. 9th. The results came as good news to many but bad news to a greater number. Today’s applicants are not making their college decision alone, their parents have just as much of a say, if not more. One student may have dreamed of attending a top-tier school in the Northeast but have to stay local due to their parents’ desire for their children to remain close to home in combination with strenuous financial circumstances.
At the end of the day, our parents just want the best for us. The overused movie line “It's not my dream, dad, it's yours” compares to the reality black college students face. Parents believe their plan is the most successful plan and believe it’s disrespectful when their children don’t follow suit but do not understand the other challenges at hand. Copeland was in tears as he identified his mother to the press for being the one that left. His mother failed to understand the decision is for her son to make, regardless of how much her time and effort went into his football career. Black parents often take ownership of decisions they’ve invested ample time into; they forget all of the time and effort is just part of the job. The independence of the college experience is perforated by our parents’ actions and decisions, taking away the long-awaited freedom so many of us dream about.
Madisyn Jones is a UF accounting sophomore. Her column focuses on millennial black culture.