Although it is challenging for others to engage in difficult conversations about race, imagine how I feel on a day-to-day basis. I cannot speak for all people of color, but I don’t have a choice about when I can turn on or off my racial sensors. As a young Black woman born and raised in this country, I struggled with understanding and developing my own personal sense of belonging. I felt that no matter where I turned, America didn’t love me. I recall standing each morning during school to recite a pledge to a country that showed me day in and day out that I am less than. I am now in a position to change the world and I intend on doing just that. So yes, things are hard but people can do hard things. Simply having support and knowing that change is welcomed helps share the load. But how do we get there?
I spent hours at a dry erase board trying to articulate the connection between exploring identity and the advancement of social justice. In my mind, it was obvious; Systems oppress individuals, and individuals make up and design systems. My intuition tells me that if an individual finds peace and understanding within themselves, then they may find value in uplifting and celebrating difference. The most challenging part of the process was identifying factors that influence individuals’ actions which negatively impact Black and Brown communities. To tackle this, I broadened the scope of the essential question used in a racial professional development series I facilitated for High Tech High Chula Vista’s staff. How do I explore my role in unintentionally supporting systemic oppression?
About halfway through my M.Ed program, I recall our class beginning with a simple ice breaker. My cohort (of predominantly white educators) were instructed to share the last song we played. My anxiety immediately increased because I was afraid that my colleagues would think I was inferior if they knew the music I enjoy. After a long conversation to convince myself that all parts of me deserve to be in the room, I overcame my fear and shared the song at the end of class. As previously stated, white supremacy is a problem ingrained in our systems. Eurocentric standards run deep in the original framework used to design almost all social constructs including professionalism and even fashion. There have been moments when I questioned if settings were appropriate for me to use the term “girlfriend” or if I should conform to heterosexual norms by using gender neutral terms instead. Society has trained me to associate certain parts of my identity with ignorance and unworthiness when in reality, it does neither. Imagine if everyone believed “it’s okay for me to be me and them to be different from me without one being less than another.” There’d be no value in white centric standards or expectations. Traditionally marginalized communities could exist freely in all spaces, even those designed with the comfort of our Christian, heterosexual, cis male, Caucasian counterparts as the center focus. How can that become a shared reality?