Representation Matters

So I’m watching the Oscars red carpet show – y’know, the show on ABC that precedes the actual Oscars awards show.

I’m not a particularly movie-savvy person. My boyfriend and I JUST saw Hidden Figures. It was fantastic, empowering, and depressing all at the same time. Fantastic because YAAASSSS black girl magic. Empowering because it served as a reminder that black girls are smart, valuable, and can do anything. Depressing because these women had to jump through ridiculous hoops to be recognized. They were all brilliant and diligent. Despite their hard work at NASA they faced all sorts of unnecessary challenges because of their sex and skin color – two things that literally have nothing to do with their intellect or ability.

These challenges still persist today. Many images we see and hear of black people in the media are caricatures and stereotypes. Black men are often depicted as violent and dangerous. Black women are often depicted as loud, bossy, and purely [exoticized] sexual objects (which is not specific to just black women, but nearly all women [of color]). Black men and women are typically depicted as genearlly inferior: less smart, less prosperous, less capable of attaining more respectable roles and privileges in today’s society.

In the age of Oprah and Obama they are still not the “rule,” they are the exception. It sucks. Racism is as alive and well today as it was 40 years ago. Institutional racism exists. Intersectionality matters. Issues of access and equity that have existed since the inception of the United States continue to affect the same marginalized groups, and, therefore, still matter.

Now I could pull out some scholarly articles to serve as “proof” for my rant in this blog post. I can dig through my notes from Black Women in America, Health and Human Rights, Sex and Gender in Society, Justice in Public Policy, etc. If you’re seeking hard evidence for the reality of my existence, and the existence of anyone who is part of a marginalized group then you’re missing the point of this blog post.

The Oscars have officially started, and I’d like to pay attention to this awards show, so I’ll wrap this up shortly.

Today I am still a minority in any place of privilege. I have been very lucky and blessed to have had relatively easy access to healthy food, shelter, and a decent public education in both grade school and college. I work a full-time job that pays a salary with benefits. I am now my own means (via my company) of health, vision, and dental insurance; a 401k to save for my retirement, sick days, and actual paid time off. These things are not entitlements, they are blessings. These blessings grant me a great deal of mobility inaccessible to a lot of others who work harder than I do to earn less money because perhaps the work they do is inaccurately regarded as lesser.

I am one of 3 black women in my office. I’m tired of being the token black girl. In the future I want the Janelle Monaes, the Taraji P. Hensons, the Viola Davises, the Mahershala Alis, the Barack Obamas, the Michelle Obamas, and all of the incredibly noteworthy people of color I’ve neglected to name to be the norm, and not the exception. I want honorable and prestigious roles and awards to feel possible to both my peers and my [future] babies.

And it would just be really freaking great for there to be a bunch more black women and women of color in an office space that hang out with an equally diverse group of men and it NOT be such a strange, rare occurrence.

I’m super happy and grateful for all the people who have helped paved the way for my peers, my family, and myself. In the future I’d like for all my peers to be equally considered and praised, not patronized or overlooked because of characteristics that do not define our intellect, ability, or creativity.

The Oscars is about halfway over, and I’ve been profoundly distracted throughout the course of this blog post. I believe I’m going to call this one quits for the night.

Until next time folks.

-J

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