Being underestimated because of your skin is a struggle people of color have to face.
I can straighten my hair, bleach my skin, and “act white” all I want, but nothing will change. I will always be that black girl who people won’t expect much from.
But that doesn’t stop me from achieving impossible things.
A personal example is me being a writer. Most of the writers and journalists I was taught about in school are white. The time books that weren’t about white people were usually brought up during holidays like Kwanzaa or months like National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Despite that, I grew a love for writing and enjoyed sharing my work with others. Seeing people react positively and negatively to my stories made me happy. I have a way to express how I feel about anything. If you were like me when I was little, this helps a lot if you were a little shy at times―and if you were mainly shown successful white writers.
I never imagined myself publishing articles on a website for girls like me when I was young. Yet, here I am today writing for The Tempest without censoring a single view or feeling.
Sadly, I’ve been discouraged before. I, along with other students of color, have always been let down. While I wish the disappointment stayed within school walls, it’s leaked out to public arenas, work spaces, and the media.
I’m not the only one, either.
People of color – whether black, Hispanic, Asian, etc – are perceived as holding stereotypes around their intellectual capabilities.
When McKinney Boyd High School graduate Larissa Martinez, a young Mexican woman, revealed during her valedictorian speech that she was undocumented, all the racists crawled out to attack her. Fox Sports reporter Emily Austen’s words stand out the most: “I didn’t know Mexicans were that smart” she said during a live broadcast.
She might as well have said: “I don’t think Mexicans can be smart, powerful, influential, or be at the same level as a white person.” While she later apologized, the damage had already been done. Austen’s words reflect how many feel about POC and our intellectual capacities.
We are constantly put down because our shades aren’t “fair” or “pure.”
We are the ones looked down upon for not “just getting up and actually trying to do better.” Which is interesting since it was them who shut us out, who made it more difficult for us to succeed, and who knock us back to the ground after all of our hard work pays off.
Martinez is an example we can look up to when we do believe that we can’t make it for a second. Her story gives you faith that no matter who you are or where you’re from that you can accomplish your goals.
Oh, and remember Ahmed Mohamed? The MacArthur High School freshman who was arrested for bringing a “bomb” to school? Although the way his genius was brought to light was humiliating and racist, it totally backfired when he started getting shoutouts from the likes of Microsoft, MIT, Barack Obama, and even NASA.
But we will persist.
I saw a viral Tweet about a week ago that made my heart soar: Cliffannie Forrester, a senior from the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan, had her artwork placed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her painting, Uganda, is inspired by a mission trip she took last year.
WHO JUST COMPLETED THEIR LIFE GOAL AT AGE 18? ME. AS OF 6/14/16 MY PIECE IS IN THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. pic.twitter.com/18ejqWmhvV
— cliff (@cIiffannie) June 14, 2016
This is the kind of excellence I know us to be capable of. This is the kind of excellence I know I am capable of.
Young people of color are intelligent―and not only in academic areas. Math, science, art, sports, music…the list is truly endless.
Yes, we get pushed down, but we can never be stopped. Each generation is realizing more that we can do it – no matter what a teacher, reporter, congressman, or you say.
Our hard work will end in us standing victorious.