My story is not an unfamiliar one.
My story consists of the trials and tribulations that many who look like me experienced from their first exposures to broader society. Women whispering to each other about me and my mom (who is white) walking in the store together (I was 9 at the time). Having multiple high schoolers use racial expletives at my siblings and my father (I was 12 at the time). Being told I couldn’t date someone because “my father wouldn’t like you,” (I was 13 at the time). Having competing schools during swim meets says that they could beat me in a race because “black people aren’t good swimmers (I was 15 at the time, also regularly beat them).
My story in the professional space rings the same, just in a different tone. Self-described liberal and open-minded coworkers in the past who have touched my afroed hair without my consent during work outings. Having to explain my blackness to others because someone let a joke slip out they wouldn’t dare utter unless cognitive dissonance didn’t allow them to think of me as colored. Being heavily suggested to explain your blackness because you are one of the only POCs during a project. Imposter syndrome because you look around and realize that no one in your department looks like you.
My story now looks a lot like my story from the start, just with more questions. What are other people whispering to each other while they are staring at me when I shop? Will I be safe if I go to this (neighborhood, bar, a section of town)? If I go to this party or this restaurant or this networking event, will anyone there look like me? What will my future kid’s stories look like down the line?
My story is not an unfamiliar one. Like many, it ebbs and flows. Highlights and low-lights. Not defined but any one particular trait or moment or decision. It rings the same, just in a different tone.
My story exists within those who you work next to who look like me. In those who are marching on the streets who look like me, whose stories can only be heard through a megaphone because no one wants to listen otherwise.
For those who are wondering what they can do during a time of extreme civil unrest to better educate themselves and become more aware — listen to these stories.