Who am I when folks want to pop off but I have to keep it moving?
I love policy work. It has been a lifelong passion to influence the laws in which people interact and advocate for a better life for others. During my two years at the Maryland School of Public Policy, I saw myself being a force to reckon with as a public official -- standing against injustice, overhauling outdated, racist institutions, making systems-level changes and shading crooked politicians. I was determined to make a difference.
After graduation, I started a new job as a policy and legislative associate and the realities that went along with my desire became clearer. There aren't many advocates that look like me. While there are women doing policy work, senior-level leadership positions are typically filled with white men. In many of our coalitions, I am often the only women of color and typically the youngest. At times, it is difficult to be in environments where race, gender, and age microaggressions are plentiful.
Being told that there are too many women represented at an event, being called emotional when I voice my opinion, being asked if I'm an intern and being referred to as "Angela Davis" and "Sister Souljah" among other things weighs heavily on my spirit. These tiny slights build up and lately, it's been hard to be positive. Although the emotions I feel are valid, it is so easy to fall into the trap of bitterness and rage at the negative realities of advocacy (and quite frankly, the world).
So what's been getting me through? Positive affirmations and scripture.
This week I’ve been meditating on Philippians 4:8:
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Philippians 4:8 is a constant reminder that my thoughts have the power to influence my overall perspective. No matter how far I go in my career, I will be faced with microaggressions and I have to learn to keep it moving. I am in the process of finding ways to tactfully call folks to the carpet on their isms (racism, ableism, etc.) without being labeled as "just another angry black woman." And, yes, it is disheartening but I will still achieve my dreams. Even Oprah (and all her glooorious $3.2 billion dollars) faces racial microaggressions. And just like Oprah, I will keep my head high and sashay away into the distance because I have things to do.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou