Why I skipped college

For one revolutionary, activism has been the antidote to the prospect of an oppressive, costly higher education system

Maile Hampton is a self-educated, working-class revolutionary Marxist who resides in Davis.

Attending college was never a dream of mine.

I grew up in an extremely racist suburb called Roseville. Until the age of 18, I was heavily internalized, meaning I didn’t think of myself as black simply because I didn’t fit certain stereotypes about how black people are “supposed” to act. I saw people of color as criminals and tried my hardest to adapt to European standards of beauty.

It wasn’t until I had a friend really explain how racism works systematically that I began to gain consciousness of the system as a whole and my part in it.

Take formal education.

From a very young age, children of color are thrown into an oppressive educational system where we are taught false histories that reinforce Eurocentric narratives of white superiority. We are constantly told directly and indirectly that we are stupid, thugs, will amount to nothing, etc. We are not taught. Instead, we are managed and often funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Why in the world would I choose to continue that brand of institutional learning, and at great financial cost, no less?

Instead, I entered the activism movement and began educating myself about the world by allying myself with those who are treated most poorly by it.

I marched against deportations in Sacramento County. That same summer, I also opposed the genocidal war in Gaza; stood in solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Mo., demanding justice for Mike Brown; and demanded a $15 minimum wage for all workers.

From very early in my coming into consciousness, I dedicated my life to the revolutionary struggle. From the second I knew about socialism, I knew that I didn’t want to attend college just to have a job and to be rich, but to learn on my own and from the communist party I’m in.

College, through my lens, is exploitative. From early in our lives, it’s pushed down our throats. We are told that, “If you don’t go to college, you’ll be flipping burgers.” But if going to college is supposed to be the answer to our problems, why are so many graduated students now unemployed and carrying huge amounts of student debt? Student debt is something that barely existed 40 years ago. Tuition at both the University of California and California State University systems was in the triple digits for many students in the 1970s and 80s, compared to the thousands students are forced to pay now.

Being around students on a daily basis—I used to live on the UC Davis campus in a leftist co-op and participated in many student-led movements—I am always hearing about higher fees and larger class sizes, lack of faculty diversity and bloated salaries for administrators.

It is the administration that has profited from tuition raises. Instead of working for the best interests of all, corrupt administrators constantly look for new ways to line their own pockets. The privatization of higher education has put college even further out of reach for people like myself.

As for me, I have a job that I enjoy, which is working at a deli. But I know that my main job, my main focus, is the revolution.

It is always hard taking the route that goes against the status quo. But you must struggle to reach liberation. I will struggle as long as capitalism is in place, and I will struggle to tear it down in the same breath. Learning about how to change this society through my books and my real experiences gives me a type of passion that I could never get in a classroom.