As a Black Woman, current events have put me in a bizarre position, both professionally and personally. I have seen a lot of people acknowledge their privilege publicly for the first time. When you live in that bubble of ignorance, you uphold white supremacy and, unknowingly, perpetuate racism. Acknowledging your privilege is the first step to becoming a better ally. My people have been crying out for help for CENTURIES. No justice has been our reality for hundreds of years. No peace is just now becoming America’s reality because the video footage of police brutality is making it harder to ignore us.
No justice has been our reality for hundreds of years.
No peace is just now becoming America’s reality…
In my professional life, people are stopping meetings to address the elephant in the room. It highlights something that I’ve known for a long time: the color of my skin makes me highly visible, especially in all of the spaces that I work in as a professional in Austin, Texas. If I wasn’t in the room, would this conversation still happen? Probably not, but I take every opportunity to share how it feels to be Black in America.
My response to the “How are you? I know things must be hard, right now” inquiry is this: I am not okay. I haven’t been okay for about 5 years. Thank you for taking the time to ask. Yes, you can empathize, but, no, you will never truly understand the lived experience of being Black. Your best shot is an intellectual relationship with racism.
Study ACCURATE history, look at the government’s practices, and how they kept our neighborhoods separate from schools that had more resources. Look at business practices and how they kept us from climbing the ladder for so long. For extra credit, you can study the great activists and how they tragically die right as they are starting to create change.
Now that you know about the institutions that cause us harm, you are empowered to change your voting habits. You are empowered to see things that your peers may not. You are empowered to speak up for us when we are not in the room. That makes you more than an ally, it makes you a co-conspirator.
That is what you can do for me. That is how you can help heal my pain.
Sandra Bland was a vibrant Black woman just like me. She died and no one has answers. Five years ago, I listened to her scream, cry, and plead on that video. That was the moment that okay went away. That was when I realized that even though I have worked hard to achieve my goals and be a decent citizen, I could die in police custody and my family would never have any justice.
People try their hardest to “not to see color,” but I have had lots of racially charged feedback in my career.
“Your attitude is not going to get you very far in your career.”
I stand here today as a first-generation college graduate (with honors), an award-winning Graphic Designer and the owner of a growing Marketing Consultancy. I have set goals and achieved them. I have taken tough words and transformed them into growth.
I owe everything to being a passionate person. I invest a part of myself into every problem I solve, I bring my vibrant, enthusiastic personality to every space I am in, and I shoot straight even when the target is moving.
What has my passion earned me? I have been called emotional and unprofessional. My dedication to finding the right solution and doing my best work has been perceived as combative and disrespectful and has often resulted in closed-door conversations on how to “engage” better.
They tried to make my big presence smaller so that they would feel more comfortable. I don’t do small. I have faced adversity and turned it to success my way: loud and proud.
Personally, I have had White classmates ask me for my perspective on race relations when we were growing up. I was an Advanced Placement student, which put me in spaces where there may have been only one or two other Black students. I finally made Captain of the dance team as a Senior, after being cheated out of trying out in prior years. When I finally won the position, I was met with opposition at every turn from my teammates. I don’t think they understood why they had a problem with my leadership at the time, but I knew very well that unconscious bias creates prejudice which results in unintentional racism. We make excuses like this to get us through the day, the week, and our lives. We learn this behavior early to keep from being angry all the time. That is the Black experience.
I get the question: “Why did I have diverse friends as a child, but less when I got to high school?” My answer is complicated. We were kids, and you probably didn’t have racial discussions at home. So, when systematic racism started to affect me and your other black/brown peers, you were not prepared to show up for us because you were not taught to see your privilege. You did not have to actively think about race. As a result, you may have unintentionally alienated your friends of color or exhibited insensitivity that sent us to find people who would understand.
I remember being told by my grandmother “them White people up at that school ain’t gon let you do that” on multiple occasions.
And to some extent, she was right, but also, I do what I want. I was often slowed down, but I never gave up. A lot of Black people give up when they experience that resistance.
The school system is typically harsher on behavioral issues for students of color. They get a reputation early and it sticks. No one thinks to address mental health or learning disabilities. No one thinks to test their aptitude to see if they are bored because they have already mastered the concepts. They are just a bad kid. In addition, some of the assumptions that schools make when setting classroom-to-home expectations put children of color at a disadvantage because they don’t account for the complexity that can exist in our households.
As we get older, we are seen as a threat, even when we are standing right next to you following your lead, your privilege didn’t always protect us. As people of color, we have to make conscious choices on how to cope when the world tells us that our lives are worth less than the lives of our non-black peers.
We sit in class and learn about the ⅗ compromise and the date that it was overturned, but not much has changed. There is an inherent ignorance that we have to tolerate in our daily lives and our relationships are a symbol of that tolerance. Some people are better at maintaining other-race relationships than others.
This is the first time ever in my life that people are genuinely asking questions about the Black experience and not from a superficial “it must be cool because you guys are cool” stance.
Liking Black people and their culture and adopting those behaviors can be fashionable, but privilege shields others from having to deal with the political and socio-economic fallout of actually being Black. If you want to be truly connected to a person of color, you have to educate yourself and really be open to their perspective. Privilege dictates that the things that happen to us are not your problem, which makes you part of the problem.