“Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard” is the motto Senior Gariana Youngblood lives by. As a first-generation college senior and athlete, Youngblood brings her A-game both on the basketball court and in her classes. Throughout her experience at Whittier College, Youngblood has learned how she could apply her knowledge of public policy in practical ways to promote equality and challenge various cultural prejudices.
Ever since Youngblood was a kid, she always aspired to be a lawyer in order to fight for human rights. “Growing up African-American in Alameda [California] with my two sisters and my mom, who is a single mother, I knew the value of education,” Youngblood said. “I absolutely think attending college in our economy is necessary to be able to support yourself financially, and is fundamental to nurturing engaged minds. I am so blessed for this opportunity and to be the first in my family to go to college.”
Youngblood thought law was the right path for her while she was attending Connecticut College for a year. When she transferred to Whittier College, she began taking several political science classes. She then discovered other opportunities in the field of political science. “I found that an important part to policy creation is quantitative and statistical analysis, which is what an emphasis in Public Policy or Public Administration can provide,” Youngblood said. “Not many political science students know about these other sectors of political science which could make such a greater difference than law, because with law, you would just be reiterating laws instead of helping correct, create, and institute change.”
One of the complex issues that Youngblood would like to tackle is America’s educational system. “Ibelieve that there needs to be a change in curriculum because our current educational system does not help support African-American and minority groups,” Youngblood said. “Most schools are guilty for only providing a traditional, male-centered, Eurocentric curriculum. By solely focusing on one perspective of history, you ignore the contributions and perspectives of non-dominant groups. I have seen first-hand how this exclusion can leave minorities feeling alienated, giving a false sense of superiority to the dominant group, and denying everybody the opportunity to benefit from learning other cultures.”
Another political issue that Youngblood wishes to address is the lack of job opportunities and representation among African-American communities. “People have this picture in their head about America; home of the brave and the free, with its Democratic government that is supposed to embody human rights and this perfect world, but in actuality it is not like that,” Youngblood said. “The only people who are well-represented and well-taken care of are the one percent, and a good portion of that 99 percent is African-American. A huge proportion of them are in jail or dying, and nobody sees this as a problem. They are unemployed, unrepresented, and not supported.”
For Youngblood’s Senior Seminar, she produced a critical analysis on how systemic racism in America and police brutality have ignited the Black Lives Matter movement by providing historical case studies, such as the lynching of Emmett Till, and more recent cases of police brutality like the Fruitvale Station Trial against Oscar Grant and the beating of Rodney King, which sparked the L.A Riots. “It’s clear throughout various court cases that the American judicial system is constructed to favor Caucasian individuals at the expense of African-Americans,” Youngblood said. “Why else do African Americans have a higher incarcerationrate while only making up a slim percentage of the U.S. population but almost half of the inmate population? So, the judicial system needs to be representative of all interest. Therefore, it needs to be restructured, and it starts with the perception society constructed of Black people and how that plays into an effect of how the legal system views African-Americans.”
Another reason Youngblood chose to go to Whittier was so that she could pursue both her education andplay basketball. When Youngblood was in the third grade, she played in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Travel Ball League up until high school, where she mastered her favorite moves, including the UP and Under and sharp Reverse layups. “It has been rough” Youngblood said, because she came from teams that dominated to a team that “does not win as much.”
“It was definitely a shot to my confidence, pride, and emotional state,” she said. “But I have become such a stronger player since I came into college.”
When Youngblood is not studying for her research papers or playing basketball, shede-stresses by binge-watching shows on Netflix, eating junk food, and rapping. “I watch all these rap battle TV shows on MTV, and there are these YouTube videos called Queen of the Ring among all these women, I just love watching and trying to imitate them and freestyle. It’s really fun, but I’m not really good at it,” Youngblood said smiling.
After graduation, Youngblood will take a year off to pursue a public policy-related internship. She hopes to apply her knowledge in preparation for her pursuit of a Mastersand eventually aPhD, in either in Political Science or Public Administration.
For Youngblood, the hardest part about graduating and leaving Whittier will be leaving the close bonds she has formed throughout her experience at Whittier. “My three years here have been so amazing,” Youngblood said. “I ended up meeting one of my best friends and my boyfriend, which just changed my life and really helped support me throughout my time here.The friendships that you build are priceless and the memories are irreplaceable. ”