Being a strong, successful African American female requires significant preparation, planning and understanding the reality in which we operate. Being successful can sometimes mean being alienated, lonely, and misunderstood. There are people who will empathize with you, and there are those who will say stop complaining, because you've accomplished so much and are better off than most. My friends, colleagues, and family understand the road less traveled, but, it is still shocking that in 2017 we are still judging a book by its cover. No sympathy needed here, but people need to understand before judging. Quite candidly, this includes some of my sisters who look at me with disdain when I walk by with a bit of..... Swag! Now that's a story for another article.
If you are familiar with my writing style, then you know I use my own life experiences to shape a broader message. We are in a time of division, finger pointing, and blame. We forget that we are not perfect and have just as many faults as the next person. I feel now is the time to amplify understanding. Yes, understanding, because it is the root of most hate, prejudice and premature judgement.
Growing up in Urbandale, Iowa, shaped the woman that I have become. Many of my classmates and contemporaries may read this and think what a divine time we had growing up. We were carefree, unobstructed, and quite organic! Yes, all of those hold true, but it was also quite different for me. Those days taught me what it meant to be on the road less traveled. Each day I awoke preparing myself for the challenges ahead. Who will want to pick on me because I'm black? Who will want to touch my hair, because it looks like cotton candy? Who will call me a name or question last night's broadcast of Roots? Most importantly, what will my response be? Those were the questions that peppered my mind each day as I prepared for school. I made certain that no one saw my pain and confusion as I was reminded every day that I was different.
In 2017, we have come so far. However, we still have SO far to go.
As I flew in to a mid-market metropolitan area, I was quickly reminded that I wasn't in Atlanta anymore. I think the first sign struck me when I was asked several times on the airport train if I was Oprah, Taraji from Empire or Viola from How to Get Away with Murder. Wow just being me didn't seem adequate enough. I suddenly appreciated my Iowa roots.
The second reminder of my blackness occurred as I was walking to the hotel gym. A white woman asked me if she could touch my hair. She said it looked like cotton candy. What an obscure and offensive statement to make to someone. I politely suggested that she watch Solange Knowles' Don't Touch My Hair video.
The third reminder occurred as I walked into a corporate office for a meeting with C-Suite executives. A security guard stopped me, because he thought I was in the wrong area - the executives only suite. Hmmm.....wait for it and think for a minute. Why would he automatically assume I was in the wrong area without ever having a conversation with me? I informed him that based on the company I had worked for, and what I had accomplished as the highest ranking African American female Vice President of Sales, I qualify as an executive.
As I prepared to travel home the next day, I was confident that the events I had experienced were just isolated incidents, and the rest of my trip would be uneventful. It was not to be.... As my limo driver was dropping me off at the airport he said, "girl what airline are you on?" He spoke to me as if we were in the 1960s and I was the help. I was tired of fighting, so I decided to let it go. But he was not done. After placing my bags on the curb, he suggestively rubbed my arms and said, "darling you will make those Sky Caps' day." That was it! Enough was enough. I reminded him that I should be addressed as ma'am. I haven't been a girl in over 40 years, and my expectation was to be spoken to accordingly. As for the Sky Caps, who were black, I would absolutely make their day, because they would be getting his tip in addition to the tip I had already planned to give them. I proudly walked away wrapped in all my blackness.
The point of my story is that we have come far, yet we still have so much farther to go! Lean in. Be aware. Make an impact with your life. My experiences FUELED me to BOLDLY go forward and make history! I challenge you to do the same.