Happy Friday everyone. It has been almost a month since the last post! The time has just completely gotten away from me. I am back in Zimbabwe now (for the holidays) and I am extremely happy to be home. Today I am here with a topic that particularly vexes me to my core.
I have a ‘friend’ (in The Netherlands) who always praises my accomplishments with grace. In the humblest way possible, I have achieved a lot as a student and young woman; I have a good paying job (I have had about three jobs since I started university), I have never had trouble finding or keeping a job, I am a straight A student (B if it in involves numbers), I have interned in very good positions, traveled the world (for reasons of accomplishment) and received recognition for my achievements. So, this friend sees all of this and acknowledges and praises my accomplishments every time there is a new one. However, each time, she adds something to the praise that makes me want to scream.
“Oh, they saw an African student so they saw an opportunity to fill a quota” “They needed to throw in some diversity” “They saw brown and immediately gave you the job/position” “How could they not give the job/position to an African female” “Oh they just needed to show that there are brown students” “You’re lucky that diversity is the in thing now”
Although she’s the only one that says statements like this, I know that she isn’t the only one thinking them. And even though I consider her a friend, I have never actually corrected her. The first time she said it; I have achieved a position she had not and she yelled “oh yes! diversity!” and truthfully, I was confused so I didn’t say anything. Then after that, I felt like it was an awkward thing to bring up later on and rectify, seeing as I had let it go the first time.
Diversity hire was a social innovation designed to right historical wrongs and give minority groups equal opportunities for the same achievements that had been denied to them for decades. Somehow, majority groups turned this into a negative thing; a degrading thing. As if it so inconceivable that someone from a minority group could achieve the same (or even better things than them). All achievements awarded to non-whites are seen as a diversity handout. I focus here on race because even though I am a woman and woman are under-represented in the work place, with my person experience, no one questions a position I have gotten because of my gender but rather, my skin colour or nationality. I can imagine that for a white female, they face the diversity stereotype, but for someone like me, my race will always overshadow my gender.
The reason that diversity hiring became a thing is not because minority groups needed a lower threshold of personal and professional achievement, it is because their achievements were denied for years. So can you imagine how degrading it feels when these achievements are finally recognised and there are people thinking that you only achieved them because of the same attributes that you are actually trying to overcome. I have seen this treatment happen to many people; where their hard work is belittled by people who jump straight to the diversity reasoning. What is so confusing to me is how someone could find it impossible that someone of colour could not achieve something without a helping hand. This friend of mine who aways jumps to diversity reasoning does not consider herself racist in the slightest but I think her line of reasoning is racism in one of its purest forms.
I brought this up to my mom when I was applying for my undergraduate degree because I was getting a lot of offers. However, in some of the offers, there was an amendment of bringing diversity to the campus, so I was confused, I knew my grades were exceptionally good but I still couldn’t tell if I was being offered positions on the basis of that or because universities were truly trying to bring ‘diversity to the campus.’ It really bothered me. My mom’s response was “who cares,” for whatever reason you’re being given these opportunities, you are being given amazing opportunities. She explained that I should just make the most of all of the opportunities regardless of how they were achieved (although she thought I was stupid for thinking they were about diversity in the first place). When I internalised what she said (only years later actually), I realised that it bothered me so much because constructs of racial oppression still existed in my mind. I felt that I needed to prove to these people who doubted me and my achievements as a brown women, were because I was a capable and hardworking women. Due to this hierarchy of importance that still exists, it felt that if they thought I deserved my achievements then I did.
How ridiculous, right? Wrong, it was not ridiculous of me to think this way because so many children are brought up to think this way and question their own abilities simply because they look a certain way. So my post today not only aims at correcting the misperceptions of people who think anyone achieves anything because of how they look but also to address people who may question the achievements they have gotten. To the first; stop and consider that someone may actually just be a brilliant person capable and worthy of the opportunity and recognition they have been given. And to the latter; you deserve each and every single opportunity and recognition you have been and will be given and even in moments where you doubt yourself, remember that you have the ability to succeed in that role you have been given. Even if you question your deservingness, do not let that stop you from proving that you deserve even more.