I sat this morning watching Blackish, as I’m black and want to support a show that’s with a black family not being trifling and sleeping with everyone but their partner (sorry but Scandal got to me by the 3rd/4th season). On season 3 episode 17 “Toysrn’tus”, the parents want to use their voice to show their kids that black people are in the media, apart of great historical change and want more black faces out there. Watch the episode and you’ll see the mom, Rainbow, be as black as she’s ever been. Let me know your thoughts on the programme or episode.
I recently thought about me as an inspiration as I mentioned a few months before moving to Spain, and it clicks a little bit more when black women tell me to not stop writing or want to know where I’m going to next. I matter. My skin colour matters. My skin colour creates a door or highlights to another little girl that looks like me that I matter.
I write this to those who are one of the few like them that travel freely or work abroad. I hope you recognise how awesome what you do is.
I’m a black woman. I work abroad and hardly see people like me: people who look like me. People who work in the same environment as I do. I was in China and to the majority of my students, I was the first person they saw like me; dark skin that didn’t wash off, versatile and ever changing hair; and English speaking. I moved to Spain and I think there’s one other black woman in my small town of 23,000 people. I stay in my neighbourhood as such but trust me the kids were mesmerised with my differences when I got here and I loved it. I worked in Italy and I was 1 black trainer that got demoted for other reasons (but we cool so no bad vibes there) and there were about 4 black tutors out of 100 odd that came for training.
Representation matters. What you do, where you are, actually matters. You may be the first one in your company of colour or sexual orientation and they have to learn from you. You’re the real life face-to-face interaction of what they may have seen on a 2D screen. You are not the stereotype of the media or books that says you’re uncivilised, easy to be controlled as slave, lesser than in a pretty skirt or infectious.
I am more than my skin colour or my hair texture, size and length. I have to be the best role model for my kids (students), I have to show them that I’m not loud and violent like how we’re portrayed on TV. I am not ugly; I am as beautiful as any other woman with straight hair or curly hair and light eye colour. I am unapologetically showing my colleagues, parents and children that I am great and the only difference is colour. My kids are too young to think of cultural backgrounds and I don’t have to fight for an African diaspora, I can tell them not to touch my hair and they stop right there, I can smile and have fun and show them I’m a safe person to be around too. My teens know I probably have more fun because apparently black young adults smoke, do drugs and make great music. That natural fun level that’s expected is already there for me, and I show them how fun I am but healthily and I don’t make music- I dance and dab with ’em though!
I don’t think we should bend because we’re different, unless it’s law but even then I’m not bending over. In America, through the recruitment process you can be discriminated against for having locs. In China I was discriminated against for not being White English, as Black English was too shocking and companies weren’t always ready for it. In Spain I’m mindful of how big my hair is, to not distract from my lessons. Luckily my directors are wonderful and have never made me feel that I have to be tamed, because I have been respectful and inquisitive in this industry. Hence they respect me as they do with the other teachers.
Being black doesn’t stop me working, being black makes me work harder. It means I have to fight more to prove that I am as able as…
If you teach abroad, culturally you may experience rude ass shit. I can’t apologize for your new country but I can encourage you to teach them the norms and why it’s a norm. If you don’t know, find out. I’ve had the hair conversation several times, and here in Spain I still have it. I appreciate those who don’t touch or ask before they touch over the other invaders but I understand inquisition with my
Please remember to be the best you. Break stereotypes. Be the new face to challenge what they know of your ‘type’. We’re greater than a label, our soul is what matters and keep that clean. Everyday model, everyday play your role well even if you want to throw a chair and express your anger, everyday you are a role model as some little child is seeing you on your way to work.
There’s a Psychology experiment by Bandura (1961) with a Bobo doll. The end result is when a child saw the same sex adult abuse the bobo doll they did so too; male adults used more physical violence and boy children moreso copied that, female adults used more verbal aggression and girls were likely to copy that. In detail you can read it here or in a simple form you can check social learning theory link here.
Point being, do you want to be the best version of yourself and who you represent? Yes. Do you want to act out, be a lazy employee and ruin chances of people accepting another one like you at work, as a colleague, as a teacher for their school? I hope not. Channel your aggression elsewhere, work with your company or HR department to make things more fair if there is an issue because of who and what you are.
It’s a shame that colour, what’s between our legs or the type of person we like makes a difference in the world of work.
Are there many like you in your industry abroad? How do you manage with the low expectations or stereotypes that others share with you at work?