Dear Queer White People,
I am not a representative for my race, or my gender. As I’ve come to understand, many children of color are taught that if they are the person of color in the room, or only few, they need to prove that they are held at a higher standard, lest they fall under stereotypical gaze. As I spoke to other people of color, they relayed the same information that I was told growing up: if you are a woman of color, you already have two strikes against you while your white counterparts have none. That being said, you had to make sure that you excelled at all tasks you were given, whether it be academic, athletic, or life related.
After speaking to other Black women, it was clear to us that the way that we were taught was simple: If you failed, Black people sucked, whereas if your white counterpart failed, only they did. Our white counterparts, especially men, are allowed to be aggressively mediocre and average, where their mistakes only affect themselves, while if we fail as people of color, who sometimes have little to no connection to one another, it automatically represents everyone who is of our race or our gender. It causes many of us to burn out as children, never grow into our own personalities because we’re all too busy trying to keep from being an unwarranted caricature of ourselves, keep from being judged before we’ve entered the room. Growing up as an outlier automatically makes you an ambassador to everyone around you, which isn’t fair. As a Black girl growing up in the middle of a predominantly white community, the fact that I didn’t give them the satisfaction of acting like a typical stereotype seemed to be jarring, giving them the gall to decide that while I was Black, I wasn’t quite Black enough. I was considered an Oreo: Black on the outside, but white on the inside. By dismissing my blackness, it doesn’t change the fact that I am, in fact, and forever will be, Black.
So often, diversity is used as a cop out and not an actual movement in the workplace. As my interviewee put it, “diversity is the valuing and empowerment of all ethnicities, sexualities, opinions, and culture that strive to strengthen humanity”. Companies often expect us to act like our negative stereotypes, while also neglecting to provide resources to help us feel included or like we can succeed in the workplace. They insist on diversity, but only follow it with saying that they promote diversity in thought, which is the biggest and easiest way to dodge the actual problem at hand. How are we to be expected to be ambassadors to cultures that aren’t allowed to be represented in the first place?