Embracing his identity

So a lot of people assume, right? If you're Black here at this University; A) you're on financial aid, and you're not here because of the scholarship or anything like that, right. So they assume you're poor is one thing. Or B) You play a sport. Now, I'm 5’6, okay, I was probably about 185 back then maybe, no, it wasn't even that, oh, maybe 160? You know what I mean? So, I'm not some 6’2, you know, 250-pound person. And they were asking me if I played football, and I'm just like, “No, I don't,” you know. And so, I think those are a couple of the assumptions that people make, you know, when you're Black, and you're here as a student. And so you're here to kind of fill some number, right, that that they have to meet. And I think that's something that I tried to not focus on as much. I just tried to bring me and just know that I'm not some kind of token case, okay.

I'm a leader. You know, I could have gone to school anywhere I wanted. I was captain of my football team. I was, you know, top 10 in my class, like, no, I belong here, just like you, man. So just because your dad and your granddad and everybody else went here, that doesn't mean anything. You know, so I mean, it's something but it's like, doesn't mean it's your spot versus mine, you know, so I felt like I was very qualified to be here. I was grateful for the opportunity. This is where I was supposed to be. I mean, I literally had a full scholarship somewhere else. And I had multiple offers to go other places. But I chose to come here. And so I think that's the part like, when you're not—again I can only speak for me, right? Being Black, I just feel like, I don't think a lot of white students have to deal with that. I don’t think it’s an assumption that they're on financial aid, I don’t think there's an assumption that they're here to play a sport. I think there's an assumption that, oh, they're here because they're qualified. And they're super smart or something. Right. Versus with me, it was like… yeah, anyhow, there's a different perception perhaps. And again, that's how I felt, that was the reality. I mean, that's how I felt, that’s all I’ll say.

But the other thing I've grown to learn over time, is that I've just more fully embraced who I am as a person. And so my race and ethnicity is part of that. It's not the whole person. But I'm like, “Look, I am a Black male. All right, and I'm rockin with that.” And I think I own it more than I probably did, back when I was a student. I just own it, and it's who I am. It's part of my identity. It's not my whole identity. But it's something that's me. And it's unique to me, right? So there's only one Mike Brown, at least on this planet, and this one happens to be, you know, Black. This one happens to be African American. This one happens to be from Milwaukee, right? So it's like it's part of, it's part of who I am. But I've embraced it a lot more lately, over time.

I started to step club. And the step club was primarily comprised of a lot of Black people who could dance and who were familiar with it, right. So when I became Leprechaun, I had to step away from that club a little bit, I couldn't do as much with it. But what I did is I ended up inviting steppers to a pep rally. And so I performed with the steppers at the pep rally. So that's just one example in which I didn't have to compromise who I was, I was able to bring something unique and a value to the table as a leader in that role. And while I wasn't necessarily up, you know, as a Leprechaun trying to protest and march, it was still in my way of kind of leading and it was just being me. And just being true to who I am, and incorporating things that were maybe true, not true, but more applicable in my own culture to the role. And I really did just try to focus on that. I knew the position I was in and what it represented, but I didn't necessarily let that —I didn't let it kind of deter me from who I am as a person. Like I'm not the one that's out protesting and marching and all that right, so that's not what I do. But I kind of tried to do my thing by just doing my thing right. And just being, you know, being me in the role right.

So cause we were talking about did you get racial slurs thrown at you? Did you –did people call you names and all this? And I'm like, they actually didn’t. Like at least I didn't hear it. Now, some friends have told me that people are saying some crazy things in the stands. But I never got it. And I just think I just went out there and have fun. And just, I was me. And I think people kind of gravitated toward it. Because, but it was me. Not necessarily because I was white or Black or anything it was because it was me.

Mike Brown

Mike Brown is the former first Black Leprechaun at The University of Notre Dame Class of '01. He currently works as the Regional Director within the Athletics Advancement team.