The first time I realized that I was expected to feel inferior because of who I was--because of the color of my skin, the kink of my hair, the ampleness of my body and the fullness of my lips--was probably when I was about 8 years old. My mother had sent my younger sister and me away to sleep away camp. It was the first time I had been in a situation where the majority of the people I was around were not Black and Latino. With very few exceptions, most of my fellow campers were White. All of the camp staff was White. No one looked like my sister and me.
We were different. Other. Outliers. And we felt every inch of our otherness.
From questions about the cornrows in my hair to thinly veiled looks of disdain when I arrived at the pool in my bathing suit, I felt that my presence was an imposition.
I never went back to that camp.
As I grew older and progressed academically and later, professionally, I continued to have experiences with otherness and differentness with increasing regularity. The more success I attained, my experience as different became the rule rather than the exception. The otherness, the differentness, the uniqueness of who I was in those spaces did not bother me. In fact, I embraced being different. I knew that I did not need to look like or be like everyone else to thrive. The experiences that were the hardest to navigate weren’t about belonging, but about being invisible.
When a young White man ran by me, slammed into my shoulder almost causing me to topple over, to open a door for two White women who were walking ahead of me, only to let the door slam in my face right as I reached the threshold, I felt invisible.
When White colleagues with whom I’d worked for years questioned why I was headed to their floor- “You must be lost,” they said - I realized they didn’t recognize me. I felt invisible.
When I introduced myself to a new White co-worker who I had been assigned to mentor, saying, “Hi, I’m Kimberley! I’ve brought you some writing samples,” and she asked, “Are you the secretary?” I felt invisible.
My fellow humans did not see me. And it hurt.
The quote of the month is by Eleanor Roosevelt. I first read it almost two decades ago. Contemplating it enabled me to transition from sadness and anger to liberation. It freed me from being trapped by others' limited opinion of me. In fact, it helped me to understand that what other people think of me is none of my business! I can decide to opt out of the superiority/inferiority game.
Even though every human being has intrinsic value, we live in a society that denies this truth. “Supremacy” - the idea that some human beings are more valuable than others, is at the core of many of our institutions. Black Prep exists to defy these false narratives.
We value ourselves.
We value one another.
We refuse to internalize low expectations or participate in false hierarchical systems.
We engage with ourselves and others from a place of respect, love, and worth.
We see ourselves, even when others don’t.
When we choose to opt out of lies about who we are, whether explicit or implicit, we opt in to the liberty to be who we were created to be and we will soar.
YOU are the asset.