Many of us women, people of color, and members of the LGBT+ community dread these first few days of the new year. The prospect of returning to campuses, nonprofits or companies where we are isolated, harassed, and blocked from success can be disheartening. In my own life, discrimination fanned the flames of doubt and shame I internalized through living in a society where I rarely saw anyone who looked like me-or loved like me-enjoy professional success.
If you’re steeling yourself against microaggressions, mansplaining, or other inappropriate discriminatory behavior, remember two things.
1. It’s Not You.
Discrimination is not something you can prevent with professional excellence, code switching expertise, or fitting into racial or gendered norms of behavior. It is driven solely by perpetrators’ allegiance to White supremacist, sexist and/or homophobic beliefs. (Whether that allegiance is subconscious is not your concern). Discrimination is illegal precisely because it has nothing to do with your actions.
2. You Are Not Alone.
Chances are you are not the only person at your campus or organization that desires a more inclusive atmosphere. To the extent that your feedback is solicited or you have decision-making authority about diversity-related programs, suggesting more trainings and cultural events might jumpstart the constructive conversations about equality and inclusion your organization needs.
I am hopeful for progress. The more we speak up, the swifter change will come. Happy New Year.