Anger for me is a funny sort of thing. I haven’t always been able to express it, identify it or even understand it. I have undoubtedly felt its effects; the sneaky way it erupts in my too-pointed sentences, or festers in my stoic silences. Yes I am familiar with it but I haven’t always embraced it, which I think most of us could do more of.
Recently I have felt angry about things at work, about the different treatment that my colleagues were receiving, and about how I myself was being treated. Words like “microaggression” and phrases like “twice as good” flitted in and out of my mind, seemingly unrelated to the things that were happening at the time.
If you’re a person of colour, you probably already know what I’m talking about. But for those of you that don’t, here’s the skinny.
I finally found that once I got to a certain position in the 9 to 5 portion of my life, progression was going to become that much harder, especially as a minority of the non-white persuasion. When I was at a lower level than I am now, there was no shortage of helping hands to contribute to my development, to capitalise on my abilities and quick study attitude. And I imagined things would always be that way, but I was mistaken. What I later realised is that in many industries as a person of colour, others are most comfortable with helping you reach only a certain level; the lower one that doesn’t threaten their own. Anything beyond that, and the undertone is that you are working above your station.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is; what is the thing that makes my experience at work different to those around me? Am I not just as hardworking? As determined and passionate about the cause?
Perhaps, it is simply because I do not look the same, and so like most inherent prejudices, it doesn’t have to make sense for it to be true.
Opportunities will no longer be handed to me; I must fight for them, scrimp and scrounge, endure insubordination by those I have been put in charge of, or find a different space to occupy.
The long and short: being black is harder than I thought it would be, who knew? I am at a turning point in my life, where I am not ashamed of my race or ethnicity, or my life experiences or the good people I have met, but I feel myself being dragged down to a place of regret over things I never had any control over.
Oppression is a silent tool that fuels a silent anger, and I am, in fact, angry. Angry that things are still this way, that my development has been ignored and halted because of it. Most of all I am angry that I find myself in this precarious and irritating of situations, unable to share it with anyone in that same space because unknowingly they are a part of the problem.
Still, there are my fellow pupils of this racially divided school who know where I’m coming from, who are as passionate about reducing these experiences for our younger counterparts as I am.
As a good friend of mine recently told me, a saying of her father’s was;
Try to get your foot into the door of that room that you don’t really want to be in, whilst also figuring out how to build your own room somewhere else.
So, here’s to building our own room.
Image credit: construction worker by RROOK from the Noun Project