Friday, April 21, 2017

Growing Up Mixed

Personal Reflection
by Sarah Harris '17

People always made it clear that I was different; being the only white girl in a black family can make you feel that way. For a long time, I always felt like I didn’t fit in because I was always too white or not enough black. My siblings never made me feel different, but my mother told me that I would go further because of my complexion. That statement made me angry because I wanted to be like my family. I wanted to fit in and be the same. Passing was something I always understood. People would often mistake my mother for a nanny, but she would correct them, screaming loud and proud that she was my mother.

As I grew up, I came into my own and was proud to be black. I reminded people a lot, and it made me feel like I was part of some community. But maybe it was because I was reassuring it for myself. People say mixed children go through identity issues, which I guess was true in my case, but I also found that I was able to adapt easier to any environment. I felt connected to everything and everyone, and I empathized with people a lot more.

When I got to college, I felt the need to advocate, supporting the black community and empowering others. Black Lives Matter was a great campaign that meant a lot to me. During the presidential election especially, I wanted my voice and the voice of others to be heard. I felt a need to protect and serve my community. Now, I don’t really look at black or white, but instead focus on trying to empower and help others' voices to be heard.

Monday, April 10, 2017

You Only Live Once

The Importance of Networking
by Raven Cordice '18

The saying “You only live once” is played out, but holds so much truth. You only live once, so why not live life to the fullest and pursue your wildest dreams? You don’t get a second chance at life, so it’s imperative to take the chance you have now because if you don’t someone else will. One of the major problems that people have today, is that we are always comparing our lives to others. So when you see someone succeeding at the very thing you wanted to do in life, you tend to compare where your life is now to theirs. This can fill your head with tons of regrets as you fantasize about what could have been your life, but you let society, the people around you, and your insecurities tell you otherwise.

Oftentimes, we don’t pursue our true passions because it doesn’t seem feasible. We like security, so doing what is accessible is often the way to go because it’s safe. Playing it safe can lead to a lucrative life where you don’t have to worry. You know that you’ll have a steady income and can live comfortably, but life isn't always about being comfortable. The greatest opportunities in life often come from being put into uncomfortable situations. These situations open doors to the life that you always imagined for yourself, but you’ll never experience them if you don’t put yourself out there.

Success can come in many forms, but the number one way to reach success is to network. Networking can be very intimidating and uncomfortable, but in the end you’ll end up pursuing your wildest dreams. Networking is all about putting your best foot forward and making connections with the very people that are living the life that you want to live one day. No matter what you do in life, it’s important to connect with people because that is one of the best ways to advance in life. Without connections, the process of pursuing your wildest dreams will take longer and can discourage you. Yes, we want to succeed all on our own, but we need the help of others because you never know who someone may know in the field that you want to go into. Networking won’t necessarily change your life overnight, but it can speed up the process as long as you play your cards right. When networking, it’s important to follow up and follow through. After you meet someone, contact them right away because even if you made a great first impression, if you wait too long they could forget who you were. It is imperative that you contact your new connection and always follow up so that they never forget who you are. Like your dream, you never want to be forgotten.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Is There Room for “Ghetto” In Professional Spaces?

Defying European Cultural Norms in the Professional World
by Ashley Franks ‘17

On many occasions, when taking an important phone call or going out for a big interview, I’ve noticed a subconscious effort, on my part, to hyper-articulate or to stiffen my posture. I’ve found myself making sure not to speak too loudly and to omit any cultural jargon that might give away the fact that I come from the “ghetto.”

For a long time, I didn’t know exactly where this came from or what it meant on a macro level. All I knew was that, on a micro level, it seemed to yield more opportunity and in some ways made me feel safer. I knew that if I was ever in an emergency and needed to call 911 that they would come faster if I sounded more “professional.” I never really questioned why I didn’t perceive my own voice as professional. I had just kind of accepted that it wasn’t.

Maybe it was the fact that, as a kid, I noticed all of my aunts did it too. They put on the “voice” whenever they took important calls or whenever we were shopping and they needed to speak with a store manager. The “voice” was soft, docile, less expressive. It worked. My cousins and I would joke about them and say, “They are so fake. They know damn well that ain’t how they talk.” We both knew that as soon as we got home, our aunts would unveil their authentic selves and resume their screaming and yelling, as per usual.

However, childhood oblivion never told my cousin and me that someday we, too, would have an “alternate voice.” That what our aunts were doing had deeper implications and that someday we, too, would feel so unprotected in our own bodies that we would try to assume the body of another. That one day we would be wearing a figurative mask, only taking it off to breathe when we got home or when we got around other people who look like us. We were not prepared to navigate a world where everything we are and know is considered unprofessional and inadequate.

It wasn’t until I got to college and began my studies in sociology that I was able to critically analyze this all-too-common shift that myself and other black folks around me were familiarizing ourselves with. Something I once identified as a universal tactic used to gain rewards, was always cultural erasure. I realized that professional spaces often demand qualifications that are not typical of people from urban poverty neighborhoods. I learned that what makes a candidate “hirable” on an application or “polished” to an employer is almost always measured by European standards. Furthermore, I was hit by the harsh reality that I, myself, along with many other black people don’t fit these standards.

Hence, minority folks are expected to suppress and negate our own culture to assimilate to a Eurocentric society, often at the sake of being denied resources which are integral to survival. For some of us, this means straightening our hair for an interview even if we will incur heat damage, or wearing smaller earrings to work even if we don’t like them, or speaking more softly to our colleagues even if our loud voices aren’t aggressive, or wearing less culturally symbolic clothing, even if it’s something that make us happy. Another example: although in urban communities a “dap” is perceived as a greeting or form of respect, by Eurocentric standards a dap is seen as ghetto or improper. Accordingly, we settle on the expectation that a “hirable candidate” will not greet their employer with a dap.

Essentially, institutions are teaching black people to unlearn our authentic culture - that which ultimately dictates how we see ourselves and the world around us - just so that we may have access to opportunity. Sadly, when we give into these pressures and erase our culture, we are committing the act of erasing ourselves.

So the question becomes, “Should I walk into an interview with my Afro out, hoop earrings on, and Dashiki swangin’?” All at the expense of losing out on opportunity? For me, the answer is “Absolutely.” We must not compromise our liberty to free expression. We should be spending far less time shrinking ourselves and instead, institutions should spend more time fostering culturally inclusive work environments. I say bring your “loudness” to the Ivy League, bring your snapping fingers to Student Affairs, and bring your big hair along with your even bigger spirit with you to your next interview. It is crucial that we continue to infiltrate professional spaces as our authentic selves, bringing with us all of our ghetto, articulation, grace, and glory so that we can, once and for all, debunk the sentiment that ghetto and professionalism cannot share the same space.