The “R” Word

You’re a racist.  That is racism.  Awww see?  That wasn’t so hard?  It took me 3 seconds to type and even less to think.  For some people it’s like those words are not in their vocabulary.  They are reserved to describe Klancowards pictured lynching AND burning a person of color in the 1970’s, not now of course, that type of racism died with them right?  The thing is though, you don’t have to wear a hood, fly a confederate or nazi flag, or use racial epithets to be a racist.  If you lock your doors when you see a person of color approaching, clutch your purse, make racist jokes, say “why didn’t he just listen to the cops?,” “doesn’t freedom of speech protect them too?,” call WOC “mamacita, chiquita banana, etc.,” or tell me that I’m not on a partner track because I haven’t transitioned from being Jenny From the Block to being J. Lo–guess what? You’re racist.  I AM SO SORRY I HAD TO BE THE ONE THE TELL YOU THIS (just joking it’s actually my favorite thing to do) but you’re racist and you have racist ideologies.  But here’s the good news: YOU CAN CHANGE.  At any time in your life you can choose to change.  This choice you have is an illustration of your privilege and your power over POC but it is in fact a choice.  

 

My boyfriend tells me that I use the label “racist” fast and loose.  I call it having zero tolerance for bullshit.  Tomato, tomatillo, am I right?  I can call out a racist after about 10 minutes into a conversation, it’s a gift and a curse really because I’m not afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings in doing so.  In the last year it has made my circle of family and friends significantly smaller but I’ll be damned if the quality of my relationships hasn’t increased exponentially.  I used to think that it was important to try to get along with everyone despite differences, even if they were racist.  I am proudly not that person anymore.  I’m not here for the “it’s just a joke,” the “oh c’mon I can’t say ANYTHING these days without someone being offended.”  I’ve spent a large portion of my life changing the intonation of my voice when speaking to white people to completely erase any trace of an accent, not flipping a table when someone made a racist joke after we’ve just met and not losing my absolute shit when someone tries to explain to me that I’m being racist because of my blog and feelings about white people who choose to remain complacent in this fight.  So yeah, I don’t give a single fuck when you get upset because you have to think before you speak to me for a change.

POC have had to completely contort themselves around white people in the history of FOREVER, we have had to make ourselves less threatening, less loud, less flavorful, etc., or risk living up to the stereotypes they have created for us.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had to consciously keep from snapping my neck when I get heated because I didn’t want to be that kind of Mexican Girl.  This neck snap something that is in my GENES, it’s the same gene that helps me dance to salsa, cumbia and merengue, it helps me be #alwaysonbeat, it is in my soul controlled by my central nervous system unconsciously functioning at all times.  And to make sure white people aren’t uncomfortable around me, I and other POC have had to mute ourselves so that we are more acceptable to them.  I have had to bite my tongue when my old Boss said he didn’t want to put people “that don’t speak English” on a witness stand and then turn around watch him advertise on Spanish TV networks and black radio stations for their business.  I have ooohhhsaaaaa’d when my boyfriend’s friend asked me if I was outside valeting cars after we had stepped out of a party for a bit.  I have nicely explained to friends and their parents for years that my mom’s accent isn’t that heavy and if you just listen you can actually understand everything she says.  I one time had to patiently answer the question “does your dog understand your mom? you know because her accent is so heavy.”  No, the dog doesn’t understand my mom, the jerk doesn’t even understand me, you know because he’s a dog…   I’ve had to explain calmly in my own house to a guest as to why  stereotypes are not a survival technique that’s evolved from our ancestors.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, I am sure there are 1 million other examples of other POC muting themselves in the name of white people’s comfort.  But, guess what white people?  TAG YOU’RE IT.

You’ve been IT, actually.  You just keep doing that thing you do when you’re a kid after you get tagged, “the bench is base NOW, sorry tag someone else.”  But listen, the thing is the nazi, racists–your brothers, cousins, uncles and dads–marched on Charlotesville the other day with tiki torches and new balances so, it’s your turn now.  You are IT.  When they were done marching because their arch supports gave out, they all went home to your sisters, cousins, moms and aunts so, it’s your turn now. It’s your turn to THINK before you speak and act accordingly.

I know, I know it’s hard–listen I play this blog fast and loose, I wrote this in an hour and I’m probably going to get some hate texts later because of the examples I used but I still thought before I typed so I didn’t completely call out ALL my white friends.  But I have been doing this for almost 30 years (the thinking before I speak thing) and I can only imagine how it must feel to go from never having to think twice about your opinion possibly being wrong and unaccepted to having to actually think of the power your words yield.  This is going to be tough for you but it’s time.  It’s time you stop letting shit slide.  Stop not wanting to be that guy that kills the mood or challenges friends when they bring up politics, race or religion because you just want to have a good night.  Challenge your friend Jeff, your parents, your uncle, etc., when they make Black Friday jokes and black people are the punch line.  Challenge your best friend who can only relate to your brown girlfriend by making jokes about her ethnicity.  Call out your friends and family when they display even the slightest hint of racist ideologies, that’s the only way this is going to work.  Because see, we’ve been doing the work.  We’ve been marching, we’ve been getting killed in the streets by trigger happy police officers, we’ve been voting (albeit getting shut down), we’ve been writing  but we remain un-phased and we keep working.  But, it’s your turn now.  You all want an invite to the carne asada or the cook out, right?  You can get one but you need to act now.

The thing is, it starts with you.  That’s the hardest part and once you get past this little dip it’s much easier I swear, but starting with yourself is the hardest part.  Take a look at yourself and understand that you probably hold some racist ideologies.  Sure you probably aren’t wearing a hood–at least not if you’re reading this–but you’re probably making or laughing at the jokes,  you’re probably locking your doors, you’re probably complaining that the black community doesn’t help itself enough instead of calling out our government and systematic racism and you have to make a decision to stop that thought process and change.  If it makes you feel better, it’s not your fault.  Racism isn’t innate, it’s taught even the tiniest parts of it are taught.  But that just means it can be unlearned too.  But, you have to make a choice to stop being blinded by the privilege you were born into and start being proactive–step outside of your comfort zone for a change.  Unless you can call it out in yourself first you’ll always let it slide when someone else does it in front of you–and then they end up buying tiki torches in Charlotesville because you and 45 decided it was OK for Johnny to keep saying racist shit at the dinner table and you didn’t say anything to stop him.  So yeah it sucks you’re going to have to admit that you’re a little bit of a racist and then you’re probably going to have call out your best friend as being racist too but here’s the thing: you can change, if you want to.  I and millions of other POC can’t change who we are but you can change your mindset and you can challenge other white people from inside their safety net.  That’s something we can’t do so your participation is necessary.  If you want the invite anyway.

 

If you don’t want to do the work, we’re not surprised, this country was built on our backs anyway but at least do us a favor and sit down and get out of our way, because we’re pushing for progress here and we’re never going to stop.  Also don’t get mad when we call you and your friends racist if you’re not wiling to do the work we get to act accordingly.  To everyone to participated in the protest against the alt-right nazis, way to go.  We need to stay strong and united, we will not be pushed back.

 

 

 

 

I am NOT for YOU

Since I started writing this blog, I’ve gotten a lot of mixed reviews.  I have had POC tell me they love what I’m doing, that I’m telling OUR stories and there are others who have had some not so nice things to say.  To them I just want to say that with exception to this post, THIS BLOG ISN’T FOR YOU-these stories, these experiences and this life I write about because I fucken live it, IS NOT FOR YOU.  It’s for POC of all genders and gender identities.  It’s for my friends and family who read these entries and say “shit I went through that too, I thought I was the only one.”  It’s for my nieces who will read these one day and be reminded they are not the only ones feeling out of place in an environment that wasn’t made for them and that there is a way to overcome those feelings of inadequacy if we stick together.  It’s for my parents who read this and are proud that their daughter isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  It’s for my mom who shares this on her Facebook and reminds everyone that her daughter is beautiful and brown with all those Mexican letters!  So I’m sorry non-POC this shit right heeeeerrrrreeeee?  It’s not for you.  (side note: if you don’t get this reference this is definitely NOT for you.)

It’s not for the guys who soon after I started this blog told me that I was “making up my struggle.”  It’s not for the guys that made fun of me at that bar and said the words “Brown Girl Talks” using air quotes and a whiny voice.  I’m not surprised you can’t relate to what I write about, even though it’s true, because you know what?  This is not for you.  It’s not for you to make the name of my blog into a joke and ask if I’m running on “Brown Girl Time.”  It’s not for you when you look down on me from your privilege pedestal and have the nerve to tell me that I’m exaggerating.  It’s not for you who think bringing up my experiences in a drunken conversation is OK.  It’s not for you non-POC who try to compare our experiences to show me it’s not as bad as I’m making it seem.  It’s not for you who think it’s ok to ask me if that’s what was said or if that’s just how I felt.  It’s not for you to read, judge and think you know enough about my WOC experiences to form an opinion one way or the other.  The only thing you accomplish when you guys do that is remind me that I have so much more story telling to do.

I remember coming home that night after the bar incident and feeling like these people I knew were laughing at me and making fun of this blog that I am so proud of.  I remember feeling those familiar fears of inadequacy when I left the bar in a huff because I was fighting back tears of embarrassment because at 29 I felt 12 years old all over again.  And, I remember thinking I’m embarrassing myself I’m taking it down tomorrow.   I didn’t take this down though and BGT lives on, because soon after I realized I don’t care what you have to say because this blog isn’t for you.

This place is not for the guy that told me I should go back to writing about how much I hate white people after commenting on a link he posted on social media.  It’s not for the people that call me a bigot because I call out people who don’t believe that under-represented populations deserve human rights.  It’s not for you who tells me you can point out how I’m  a reverse racist by looking at things that I’ve posted on my blog.  It’s not for people who tell me I should take the high road when someone shits on my gender or race because that’s what you did and look at you now.  This isn’t a I hate white people blog.  This is a crush the systematic oppression, discrimination and patriarchy blog and if you happen not to be an ally for those causes then maybe that’s why you’re feeling offended.  But guess what man?  Then this blog isn’t for you.

This isn’t a place for you to tell me how I should have dealt with my past experiences and why that would have been better in your eyes.  Maybe when you become a person of color you can have an  opinion about how to deal with being the victim of racial oppression but until then, this place is not for you.  Now at this point if you’re a non-POC (and you’re still reading) you might feel like “damn BGT what is for me?  You’re not being very inclusive in this post.”  To that I say, EVERYTHING is for you so please if you feel excluded right now, turn on your TV to any channel and see yourself and your ideas represented in any news or entertainment outlet because those are already all for you.  So unless you plan on being part of the solution on how to crush the above-mentioned systems, this blog is still NOT FOR YOU.

I am not here for your judgment and opinions on how I’ve dealt with situations and why your way might have been better.  I’m not here for what direction you think I need to take with this blog.  I am not here for a non-POC telling me how I should and shouldn’t be living my life as a WOC so if that’s what you’re here for, please hit the “x” at the top of your screen because then, this blog is not for you.  I’ll also direct you to read about your white privilege and how you all of those things are completely out of line but for now just remember, this is not for you.

This post and this blog however is for YOU.  You, the person that is still reading.  You, the person that read this and didn’t roll their eyes.  You, the one who read these posts and said to themselves “who the hell says that?” in response to these stories.  You, the non-POC who identifies and checks your privilege regularly and is part of this message of unity and diversity without belittlement, this IS for you. You’re an ally and for that I thank you because when I write, it’s for people like you too.  But the rest of you who are still reading to see how this ends and think I’m dramatic and should stop snapping my neck when I talk, this blog and this post is STILL NOT FOR YOU.

(shout out to the amazing writer and the founder of Latina Rebels, Prisa Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez  (Click here to check out her FB) who after one of these incidents I saw speak and she reminded me how important it was to tell my story, without her and my BGBF who was with me that night I would have stopped writing so to you both, this IS for you.)

Oh Privilege, My Privilege?

Let’s kick off March with a discussion about privilege-my privilege to be exact.

I am brown, I am a woman, I come from a working-class background, I have been discriminated based on my race and gender, but make no mistake, I am privileged.

As a child, I was never hungry except by choice, I always had clothes that fit me and were weather appropriate, my parents stayed on me to turn off lights but I was never afraid our utilities would be cut off because, I was privileged.  I had heat in the house, that wasn’t powered by our stove and my dad would let me turn it up if I didn’t feel like it was warm enough in my room.  I was privileged.  My parents were once undocumented but they were never removed or detained and were eventually able to find a path to citizenship.  I never had to worry that I would come home and they wouldn’t be there because they were in a detention facility.  I was privileged.

I lived in a home my entire life.  The first home I remember was on the southwest side of Chicago, my parents were married and they both worked.  I was privileged.  My parents spoke to us in Spanish and demanded we only respond in Spanish and because of that I can speak two languages.  I am privileged.  My dad fought to keep me out of ESL classes at CPS because I spoke English just as well as Spanish despite the color of my skin and didn’t give up until he won.  I was privileged.  My parents decided CPS wouldn’t work for their kids when the budget crisis of the 90’s made schools go to half days and eventually moved us to Northwest Indiana.  I was privileged.  My dad would leave work before I woke up for school and after we left for school my mom would meet him in Chicago where they run their business.  She would leave midway through the day to pick my brother and me up from school.  For a period of time after we moved, she would drive us back to the business in Chicago  because she wanted us to all be together and show us the importance of hard work.  I was privileged.  When they eventually started leaving us home alone my dad would come home after a 10 hour work day and 2 hour commute and help me with Math homework, I was privileged.

I ended up going to school where classes had no more than 25 kids in them and I could raise my hand with questions and stay after class for clarification or help.  I was privileged.  I had help with SATs, college applications and no one ever told me college wasn’t for me because of my background or the color of my skin.  I was privileged.  I got caught smoking weed after prom my junior year and on Monday my mom made me tell on myself to my principal.  He threatened to expel me for the remainder of the year but after my mom assured him I would be grounded all summer he decided I could stay.  I was privileged.  I was let off the hook with 6 months supervision and what felt like an endless summer of being grounded but I was never formally charged as a minor and my record was sealed.  I am privileged.

My parent’s business is on the Southside of Chicago in one of the neighborhoods with the highest crime rate but most of their threatening run-ins have been with cops, but everyone got to walk away from those run-ins, we were privileged.  My brother was only unjustifiably beat up by the cops once  and all he suffered was a black eye, swollen face, and the attempted stealing of money he was trying to deposit–miraculously it made its way back to my dad when the cops realized my dad wasn’t someone to be taken advantage of.  He was a citizen, a business owner, well-known in that community and someone with the means to hire an attorney.  We were privileged.  I never had to see my mom cry because she lost her kid or husband to gun violence to a trigger happy cop.  My dad was only arrested twice for no reason and I still get to hug him and talk to him about it.  We are privileged.

I had help during my undergraduate career.  I never had to work, I did because I chose to and was reminded that if it ever got to be too much I could quit because school came first, I was privileged.  I had parents who would drive to see me and take me out to dinner when I felt like I needed to see them or just wanted to hear the comforting way they spoke to me in Spanish and I had the ability to live off-campus because of their financial help.  I was privileged.

I am an attorney, I live in a nice house in a safe neighborhood, I have a partner that respects me and makes me feel safe, I make enough money so that I can live, pay my bills and even care for my dog.  I know how to access facts and research because I am privileged

Make no mistake, I am privileged but I am not better.  I am not better than my brother who didn’t finish college, than my cousins who decided not to go to college or my parents who barely finished high school.  I am not better than my cousins who weren’t born here but have been here their entire lives and work and go to school and still have no path to citizenship.  Who pay taxes and hope that everyday something new will come to light that will help make their lives here easier.  I am no better than my family and friends with a more colorful criminal past than mine simply because my teenage years involved me running through cornfields instead of city blocks.  I am no better than my parents who constantly misspell words simply because I don’t need to use spellcheck or a dictionary to know what a word means.  Without perfect grammar and spelling my parents started and successfully run a business till this day.  They didn’t need a professor to teach them about systematic racism or learn about the government.  They taught themselves how to research real facts and they know that there’s a bigger world out there than the one presented by Fox News.  So sure, I had the privilege that a lot of these things were available to me, but I am not better.   I am no better than anyone who is exactly like me but just didn’t have the luck of getting my privilege.

I don’t falsely believe that if you aren’t in a better position that it’s because you weren’t trying hard enough because for people of color “trying” alone just isn’t good enough.

My privilege–which unlike most non-POC’s–was based on pure luck.  Thanks to the way biology works I was born at the right place, to the right people, in the right family, on the right side of the US border.  I am privileged and I am lucky but I am not better.  I do not allow my privilege to blind me or fool me into thinking I earned this position in life all on my own.  Did I work for 7 years in college, law school and later to pass the bar on the first shot?  Sure.  But I wouldn’t have gotten there without my luck and my privilege.  I wouldn’t have made it through without the support system I was privileged to have.  Where I am now does not fool me into thinking that I alone put myself here.  I don’t falsely believe that if you aren’t in a better position that it’s because you weren’t trying hard enough because for people of color “trying” alone just isn’t good enough.  You need support you need help, you need a little bit of luck and yeah it helps if you have some privilege.

This privilege, this luck is why I write.  It’s why I post on social media and argue with strangers and family members alike.  It’s why I advocate, it’s why I donate, it’s why I challenge people’s discriminatory views and ideas and more importantly it’s why I fight.  It’s how I wish every POC and every non-POC would think.   Privilege is a dangerous thing if it’s not checked let alone acknowledged.  It can fool you into thinking that you’re a lot more deserving than you actually are.  I for one acknowledge my privilege and the leg up it’s given me in life. The limited amount of privilege I have been given I try use as a springboard to help others who maybe weren’t as lucky to have access to what I had.  If more people used their privilege–however large or small–to challenge oppressive institutions and thinking maybe they could challenge someone to think and hell maybe even believe differently than before.

“Privilege,” the word alone is enough to send a non-POC into a tail spin.  It’s a nasty word used by nasty women like me, with negative connotations.  What’s worse than the word though, is ignoring its existence and its possible application to YOU, yes even you POC-we can be privileged too!  And we can fall victim to the same tail spin as non-POCs do when we forget that it’s privilege that helped us get to where we are.  So this is what I’ve chosen to do with mine, acknowledge it, embrace it and use it as a springboard to help those that aren’t as lucky to have any or as much privilege as I do…  My question for you is, what do you do with yours?

Do Not Come For Me

Sometimes when I think back at some of the crazy discriminatory experiences I’ve had I make up how I should have responded.  I’m sure you’ve done this too.  After an argument with someone, a debate, etc., you’re just like oh I should have said that! or Why didn’t I think of that!?  Then, for weeks and weeks you’re replaying how you would re-address that person if you had the opportunity.  This happens to me a lot.  I could (and probably will) write about how someone did/said something to me and I stood silent, unable to think of a come back witty or intelligent enough in that split second.  But, there’s only so much a girl can take!..Am I right?!  So, here’s one about how I finally stood up for myself.  I’ll warn you it wasn’t the confrontation that I had day dreamed about, but it was damn good if you ask me.

So, once upon a time I worked at a firm.  I really liked everyone I worked with and this in no way reflects who they are.  But, one person that always did me dirty (for no reason) was my boss.  For anonymity and because I’m truly not trying to shit on anyone I worked with here I won’t name my employer.  My boss was basically your typical I say what I want and if it offends you then I’m sorry but that wasn’t my intention type of guy.  For context, once he dropped me off at home and said that I probably understand what my clients are going through because I lived in such a shitty neighborhood, just like them!  I mean not only was he shitting on the fact that I owned piece of real estate at a very young age, my proudest accomplishment, but he was cutting my paychecks at the time and he was dropping me off in a Lexus.  So I think that said more about him than it did about me because newsflash: that’s all I could afford at the time!  That’s a light example of the shit he used to say about me, to my face.

I could tell you all the details about what prompted the letter below but I promise you IT DOES NOT MATTER.  As you’ll read, he told me that I wasn’t on a partner track at my firm because I hadn’t transitioned from being Jenny from the Block to being JLo.  This was over text message (I got the receipts if you think I’m lying) and I was so shocked when I read this that I didn’t know how to respond so I said something about how I hadn’t done what he thought I did that warranted his text (spoiler alert: nothing could warrant that text) and he shit on me a little more.  I worked there a whole year while looking for other jobs after this happened and finally I found somewhere I wanted to go and left.

I could legitimately write a book about the things I went through dealing with that man but this is about how Brown Girl got her Bruja Back not him!  So, below is an abridged letter I left on his desk my last day of work.


As I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to have a conversation with you regarding my leaving this office, I debated whether it was even necessary to shed some light on my seemingly unexpected departure.  The reasons I am leaving are still very much present in this office and affecting other female attorneys and employees alike, and I feel it necessary to make it absolutely clear the reason for my decision to leave.  At most, I hope you read this and reflect on what I’ve said and take actual steps to change, and at the least, I hope it has put you and this firm on notice of the pattern of discriminatory treatment of women in your office, namely women of color.

In the three years I have practiced here, it has been a constant battle to contort myself to meet the unrealistic and illogical expectations you have set forth.  Those expectations, however, are common to every attorney in this office. It is the expectations and negative light in which you cast me that I have never been able to meet or change.  When I started at this firm, I worked diligently and committed myself to this office. If I was asked to do something, I did it.  I made it very clear from the beginning that I wanted a job here after law school and upon graduation I was offered one. This position was something I earned.

“This position was something I earned.”

As I started practicing I noticed that there were things you were saying to me that you weren’t saying to the other female attorneys in this office and things you would criticize me about for which the other women didn’t get criticized.  On a number of occasions you told me I was aggressive, that I needed to polish myself, that I was intimidating and that I had a tough personality that at times made it difficult to get along with me. At one point, you even told me that if I was lucky, I could polish myself to the point that people would actually listen to me when I spoke, like Suzy (not her real name), who at that point you had only interviewed but had somehow already decided she was a more polished version of me.  I began to feel that I was being pigeonholed as this rough, urban, neck snapping minority attorney who people did not take seriously.  I initially thought, this is bullshit, I have had office jobs before this and no one has ever told me this, he’s just picking at me.  But somehow these negative characteristics and ideas started to create a trend between you and me and at the end of any talk we had you’d leave me with a little tid bit about how you thought I would be a better attorney if I was nicer, if I added some sugar to my emails, if I wasn’t rough and/or aggressive.  I decided that I would focus on “polishing” my personality and, more importantly, on working my ass off at this firm to show that even if I did have some personality traits you didn’t like, that my work would carry me.  Soon I saw that alone wasn’t enough.

In the fall of 2015, I decided that I was finally in a financial position to take my mom and me on a vacation.  What followed here marked the beginning of the end for me in this office.  I worked hard all year to build up time and wrack up settlements so that when I decided to have this conversation with you, you could see how I had been preparing my caseload for an extended absence.

This letter, for the record, was written with no attitude, aggression or malice, and despite the tone you have read it in to this point, I haven’t snapped my neck once. 

At one point I admit that maybe my delivery in asking for this time off wasn’t the best; however, looking back it’s clear that the only reason you read my email (or any email I’ve ever sent you) in that negative, demanding and aggressive tone you read it in was because of how you think of me: an aggressive, demanding person of color who couldn’t possibly be writing a professional email to you. This letter, for the record, was written with no attitude, aggression or malice, and despite the tone you have read it in to this point, I haven’t snapped my neck once.  The back and forth that followed my request for time off was riddled with personal insults and even saying that my parents should be grateful to you for employing me after law school.  I realized then that no matter what I did you would always see me this way—an inner city girl who you turned into an attorney and who was your work in progress, constantly trying to polish her up to make her fit in.

The events that transpired in the last few weeks of December solidified my need to move on from this office.  One Wednesday evening, I asked for permission to leave early to get drinks with an office contact. I was constantly trying to polish myself so, I asked you. You didn’t respond, I told him we would need to take a rain check and I worked a normal late Wednesday night.  The following morning I received some of the most insulting text messages I have ever received in my life, professionally and personally.  You questioned my maturity in even thinking it was appropriate for asking for permission, and that I wasn’t on a partner track because I had not yet transitioned from Jenny from the Block to J. Lo and that Jenny from the Block was no longer cute.  I read those text messages while I was at court, covering cases that weren’t mine, and when I got done I walked outside and cried.  I cried because it hurt my feelings, yes, but I also cried because I knew that I was fighting an uphill battle at this office for a successful career.  I cried because no matter what I did, at the end of the day all I was to you was a girl from Englewood, who has a pitbull and snaps her neck when she talks.  It didn’t matter that I had performed for you and outperformed myself year after year.  I realized that the reasons you saw me negatively were for traits I had no control over—my gender, my race, my upbringing—it wasn’t for the things I could change or polish.

“Jenny from the Block was no longer cute.”

All of a sudden it all started to make sense—me being too aggressive, not being polished, buttoned up, etc., those were all just negative stereotypes you had assigned to me because of who I was and where I was from rather than because of what I did or my performance as an attorney.  All of these things I am proud of and have allowed me to relate to clients in a way no other attorney in this office can. Being an advocate for injured plaintiffs who hail from the inner city and are minority is something that has always felt natural to me and something you should have seen as an asset to your firm, but you never did. And that’s why I’m leaving, I don’t think the things you say and the way you think of me is a bad analogy. I think it’s a flawed fundamental problem with how you see women of color and that view clouds your judgment and makes you discriminatory and purposefully insulting.

“…those are some of my favorite parts about myself.”

I could have left and stayed silent on this matter, but I chose not to. It’s not because I want revenge or that I’m malicious, it’s because I want to make sure that you never treat someone else how you treated me and I have seen signs that you have already started down this path with other female attorneys.  The least I can do is advocate for whoever comes next and hope that they don’t face the same discrimination I did.  I welcome a conversation with you regarding these issues, but at the very least I ask that you place yourself in my father’s shoes and imagine how you would feel if you read the emails or texts that you sent to me.  If you can’t as a professional see the problem then maybe as a human you can.  All of the things you thought were negative about me: my race, my upbringing, my gender are all things I can’t control.  But, those things never affected me practicing law and to be honest, those are some of my favorite parts about myself.


 

When I first wrote this letter I didn’t have any intentions of actually giving it to him.  I did it more as a therapeutic exercise (shout out to my best friend who recommended it!).  But after feeling all that pain and basically reliving all of the terrible things he had said to me I decided I didn’t want to be someone who just suffered in silence anymore I wanted to stand up and say my piece, not just for me but for every woman (of color and not) that would ever cross his path again.  Annnnddd I wanted to stop being the bitch titty that I normally am when people say and do completely rude and ignorant things to me and damn right I was starting with him.  Brown Girl came for him because he came for me.

I’ll tell you in that year that I was preparing to exit, I learned a lot about myself and others.  I secretly hoped and thought that after my co-workers read the texts and learned the details that there would be some kind of historical uprising and we would effectuate change together…that never happened.  I don’t blame them though, you’ll see why below.  However, the most supportive responses I got was from my family–my brother in particular said it took every ounce of self-control in his body to not react like he wanted to–leave it to a Brown Brother, right!?  But, I’m glad he didn’t react because it gave me a chance to come into my own and realize what “I got your back” truly means.  I had a brother who was feeling all of the emotions I was feeling.  I had a boyfriend who said if I never wanted to go back to work I didn’t have to that he would cover me until I could find somewhere else to work.  I had parents who told me I could come back home if I didn’t want to step foot back in that office and couldn’t afford to pay rent.  I had friends and co-workers who told me how good of an attorney I was and how I didn’t deserve any of the things he said to me.

But besides all that, for a year I was kicking myself in the face everyday and every time I settled a case or made my firm money because I hadn’t stood up for myself. After I left I realized that no matter how much you or anyone else believes in a cause there is always something that can hold you back from outwardly supporting it–you’re too embarrassed, you don’t want to shock your friends at how passionate you are about a topic, you don’t want to be the person who is taking over peoples’ news feeds, you don’t want to be the one to get involved and rustle the water.  Hell I have fallen victim to this too, we all just want to seem like we’re chill after all don’t we?  I for one can say I’m much braver behind my keyboard writing this blog than I ever was to my ex boss’s face, but I decided to start doing my part and stop making excuses.  I started with that letter.  I decided enough was enough and to keep the impetus of writing that letter going (and the forever hangover that was the election) I started this blog and have been really trying to keep it a safe and encouraging conversational zone ever since.

I guess my take away from all of this was that there comes a time when you can’t be too embarrassed, too shy, too reserved or too worried about what other people will think.  You should stand up for yourself or someone else who’s the victim of discrimination, prejudice or unfair treatment of any kind, no one should be expected to tolerate that.  Given our country’s climate, I’d say that time is now to be proactive.  When my parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and friends read this blog and this particular story I hope they’re proud of what I did and how I decided to be someone who isn’t afraid anymore.  This is how I have decided to start, how will you?

Finding My Roots

Hey everyone!  So something crazy happened after my first blog post, someone I had never met emailed me and asked me if she could contribute to my blog!  In all fairness, N.S. (not her real name), is a friend of a friend but we have never met and the only things we share are being brown and feeling out of place, especially now.

So here’s something I can relate to and hope you can to.  A little something from fellow brown girl, N.S.


Growing up in a privileged white suburb of Chicago the only thing I wanted was to fit in.  I wanted to feel like I had a place.  But no matter how well I dressed or how much I distanced myself from those the same color as me I was never welcomed into the society I so badly wanted to be a part of.

In middle school I was a victim of bullying.  I’m not talking about healthy teasing that builds character.  I’m talking about the kind of bullying where you wonder if anyone would miss you if you decided not to wake up the next day.  I got it from everyone-boys and girls.  It was about the color of my skin, about my looks or anything else they could come up with.  The power of those comments depleted my self confidence and self esteem.  But towards the end of middle school I realized the only way to put a stop to the bullying was to blend in with the others.  To become a person no one could say anything about.

In high school I put my new approach into use by camouflaging myself.  As many of you probably remember, Abercrombie was once all the rage.  So, it was only natural that a girl with my aspirations also wear the stone washed ultra low rise jeans, button down and puffer vest.  In my mind a non-white girl in A&F would get a lot more white cred than the one wearing Aeropostale.  Abercrombie’s genius marketing strategies played into my insecurities, promising me a different life where I’d frolic around with the pretty popular kids.  I bought into it.  And it never bothered me that their models never looked like me.  I didn’t even think twice when I went as an Abercrombie model for Halloween (long story) and was lectured by my neighbor about their unethical business practices and nearly pornographic poses.  These were my dreams, being a white girl that is.

I took pride in my white washed persona.  I  managed to maintain a secret life, one where I’d attend family functions dressed in cultural garb, speak a different language and eat the traditional food.  On the occasion that we’d have to make a stop at the grocery store on the way to the party or on the way back I was reluctant to get out of the car.  I was afraid of running into someone I knew from school and them catching a glimpse of this “other” person.  I had worked so hard to be like them, I couldn’t afford to ruin the reputation I had so carefully crafted.

I don’t remember when the shift happened, probably after I went off to college and returned home my first summer.  I began being described as “exotic”.  Because “pretty” for some reason wasn’t quite the right fit. Some of the formerly popular white guys even started to talk to me like I was human and with the same level of attention I’d seen them give the perfect blondes in high school.  For four years this is what I had wanted, to be seen as one of them. But when the moment finally came I couldn’t enjoy that victory.  I did not understand what had changed in just one year that made me good enough or safe to talk to. More than anything it made me sad and it is one of the many reasons why I left Chicago and don’t plan to come back.

Though today I live in a diverse city, I am still constantly aware that I am different from most.  Sometimes it’s because of the way someone looks at me or when I notice all of a sudden that I’m the only person of color in a meeting, room or bar.  Even when I date, every time I’m talking to a white guy and he ghosts on me I think to myself  “would it have gone differently if I were a white girl?”  As ridiculous as that thought may seem to others who haven’t experienced it, that is my reality and the reality for many, many others.  Despite this, I have realized that these differences give me my strength.   And though I may still be on a my own journey of self discovery, I am no longer ashamed of my roots, my identity or the color of my skin.  This is who I am and I choose to be me even if it’s not the easier path to be on.


One of the best parts of being a brown girl is comparing your brown girl experiences with friends and in my case (and now N.S.’s) strangers.  I recently developed this feeling that I had a duty to express my feelings and opinions–as if anyone cares what I have to say.  But, some of you do care and quite honestly it has been very therapeutic and apparently it’s helping some of you guys too, which is very cool.  In my opinion, sharing experiences is the best way for people from different walks of life to understand something they personally never had to experience.

Thank you, N.S. for your contribution, to the first of many I hope.  #browngirlsforever

-Brown Girls

 

Want to know more about N.S.?  Follow her on Instagram @ninsingh10

S/O to Rafael Corona for the Artwork up top! Check out more of his great artwork on Instagram @RCGallery

Follow me on Instagram @Brown_Girl_Talks