Think of an experiment. The subject is a specific species placed in an erratic environment and forced to adapt to survive.
That experiment is here. That subject is us and the environment is always changing.
With as little as a clearing of the throat some of us put on our mask. For others it’s turning music down when we pull into the parking lot that symbolizes putting it on. A mask of being one of the “good ones”. Where we momentarily forget all of our hardships as to not frighten our white coworkers so that we can continue to work there, any signs of aggression from us is detrimental. We aren’t allowed to have bad days, after we clear our throat Trayvon Martin never happened or it did and we have no opinion on the matter. A mask that says we believe we are indeed equal and part of a family, and everything will be ok.
We wear these masks not because we want to but because we have to. We have to blend in as best we can. Dilute our natural sense of pride and aggression as to not scare anybody. Put away a lot of the things which makes us unique because it may have been deemed unprofessional, meanwhile our counterparts are free to indulge in many unprofessional acts without thinking twice. This is the world we were given.
We represent the outcome. The outcome of affirmative action and the war on drugs. Because of the disturbingly uneven sentences from the war on drugs and high cost of eduction, we are usually the minority even in our immediate circle. We know people who are currently in prison rather it be by blood relation or life’s travels. A lot of us weren’t raised watching our father get dressed in a tie for work due to plenty of unfortunate choices by our families. Studies show we are twice as nervous about losing or job than our Co workers are because we know the alternative. Yet we get up and go to work each day.
We work very hard to get as far away from our people as possible. Even go as far as to equate success with seeing less of our people in the neighborhoods we call home. Because of this outlook, a success related guilt is formed. We feel bad for being successful. This guilt cripples some people’s ambition very severely. This guilt is so powerful that some rather let their family live in poverty than rock the boat and succeed.
But we still are here. Spread across every city in every state in as many countries as there are you are sure to find us. A little more nervous when the boss wants to see us in his office and under an estimated twice as much pressure compared to our Co workers. But what do we do from here is the important question. We can’t simply think we have arrived because there are more of us now than ever before. For a revolution doesn’t go do down in history for the first shot, but for what follows it.
So we must continue this uncomfortable feeling until it is no longer uncomfortable. We must keep showing up to work early and leave late just to stay even with our contemporaries. This is the only way we can sustain our presence in society as leaders. Because the more we make these sacrifices the more generations after us benefit. The more our children see their father get dressed up for work and return day after day the more this behavior becomes not only ordinary but expected.
We have proven we can withstand oppression and strife, it is time to prove we can succeed in today’s world. And in order to do that, we have to keep showing up early, turning our radio down when we drive to the building, “talk white” and be uncomfortable until the uncomfortable is comfortable. See you at the top.