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Activism: the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.
There are so many things going on in the world today. Honestly, none of it is new under the sun. However, there is a lot being brought to the forefront by way of social media, camera phones, blogs, etc.
While people may see social media as this horrible media giant that has doomed us all and may be viewed as a curse, I view it also as a blessing!
This has steered activism by the listed. In this post I won’t touch on political change, and in the service of being honest, I will pose this question.
If we can truly be frank and honest, what political change has really helped to advance African/Black Americans? (See, the thought you just had? That’s why I won’t touch on it. FOR NOW!) Socially, African-Americans have always fought to be treated fairly and afforded the same opportunities as our lighter skin/white counterparts. It’s not surprising that in the world we live in, we have to yell at the top of our lungs that we are important and that we matter, so we don’t have to hold our head down in shame. We have to constantly confirm and reaffirm our natural beauty is enough; it’s perfectly normal to exude and walk in the excellence that we possess. You want to talk about activism? Fine. Let me present to you this: workplace activism.
To be clear and to an extent, I have always been a rebel. I have always been one who when she sees something morally and ethically wrong, I’ve never been afraid to address it. I have had some of the most prejudiced, racist situations happen to me and unfortunately, my (read: black) people didn’t stand behind me for support! I have come to accept this fact. It is disheartening, but I am okay with it. Not everyone is built to handle a tough road or ask hard questions. Here is an example.
I worked for a company who prided themselves on being honest, helpful and happy. As long as you possessed those qualities, the sky was not the limit–the limit was endless! Our opinions were valued and this place of employment cared about who we are and what we could bring to the company. When I was promoted to a higher position, and if things in this department didn’t align with the core values of this company, I spoke out about it.
Initially these confrontations would begin with an email to my direct manager, then in a meeting with my direct manager. Once I realized that the associates under me were still not happy about the blatant racism and being treated in a manner of disrespect, I sent an email to all of our leads, managers, supervisors and direct managers. Of course, after me trying to say something to the leads/managers/direct managers face-to-face, or could send another email, I would be called to another meeting!
I would be told in these meetings that my sitting upright in a chair, hands folded on the desk and giving direct eye contact to my district managers was deemed as “hostile and negative (his words, not mine).” I was also told by people in the black community who worked for this company I should “keep my head down,” and I “just need to just follow along with what the white manager had to say”. I shouldn’t smile too much or laugh because white people are threatened by that.
I have had people stop me and say that my dashiki shirt is offensive to the white race that I shouldn’t wear it. I shouldn’t have too much ‘joy’ because me being a darker skinned, African-American/Black women; it is deemed to be mean, aggressive and takes the power away from my white counterparts. I should act stupid so that I can ‘get by’ so that my white counterparts don’t see me as a threat or challenge.
I want to make this clear. I, in no way shape or form, hate any ethnicity. But, I refuse to be a watered down version of myself so that I can make everyone else comfortable!
You may think that this has nothing to do with activism in a traditional sense, but it does! In that manner, this continuous have to fight to be my unapologetic self, so that others who see me, or come behind me may know a few things:
You are more than enough!
You don’t have to fit in with the standards that this society has tried to make you out to be!
That you can be you unapologetically!
In your campaigning to be yourself, to walk in the grace and confidence all you are allows you to bask in the refreshing feeling of being yourself! That knowledge that even if your situation doesn’t change, that the road may be easier to the next person to comes behind you! While the ones ahead of you may tell you to keep your head down, will no longer be afraid to show who they are!
My encouragement for you today, is continue to be courageous. Continue to go against the grain! It’s a shame the only thing that separate you from me, is my skin tone and the fact that some can’t seem to see or grasp that? It’s amazing.
This skin I am in is wrapping paper! How I treat people, everything that is constituted in my character, is who you should be focused on. I will continue to fight and spread the word that while you try to ignore that my blackness didn’t change the world, but socially? You can’t deny it. Ask Kim Kardashian: How you like those “Bo Derrick braids?” Knowing that they were brought to you by a black slave who served your ancestors house hold? How’s that for social activism?
[Images from Google, Medium.com & Pinterest]
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