Here’s the thing…I’m Black y’all. Always have been and always will be. This also means that my perspective lens is that of a Black person and it is also how the world sees me. I am not getting into the existential people are people and we are all the same sentiment. While I do truly believe in that fundamentally, this is not referring to that.
I think we often associate diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, with our professional lives or in the workplace. The truth is that it is just as important in our daily lives as it has an impact on what we see, hear, think, and do.
Marian Wright Edelman said, “You can’t be what you can’t see”. This idea can be widely applied. The first time this hit me in the face was in 2008. I was working in a doctor’s office and having lunch with a pharmaceutical representative. The pharmaceutical representative was a white cis man. He was saying that he was surprised how many people were voicing how they were voting for Hilary Clinton because she was a woman or for Barack Obama because he was Black. My initial thought was “duh”. People expressed these feelings because they were excited to see candidates that looked like them and had a higher probability of understanding their perspective and having similar views. This pharmaceutical rep was privileged to have had presidential candidates that looked like him throughout his lifetime. Representation matters.
Last month I needed the guidance of an accountant. I went to the firm that did our taxes the previous year. While discussing some options, he was saying things that did not resonate with me at all. I realized that he was making recommendations that would better fit someone like him whose father owned the company where the whole family works and owns multiple brick-and-mortar businesses, restaurants, and rental properties. He even referred to being “untouchable” and I responded by saying “people that look like me are never untouchable”. The next day I was discussing moving forward with my husband – a White cis man – and how I felt about that session. Being the supportive person he is, he researched other accountants. To make a long story short, I found an accountant that looked like me. Representation matters.
Last year, I wanted a specific black and gray tattoo. I searched and searched for a tattooist in my area, which is a metropolitan area, that had examples of their work displayed on brown skin. This is not to say that they did not have beautiful portfolios, it was just that I could not see what their work looked like when completed on skin that looked like mine. I even went to a tattoo convention where I was able to find one artist that displayed his black and gray tattoo work – he was a Black man…from Atlanta. Eventually, I was able to find a very talented Black woman artist in my city after asking around. Representation matters
Obviously, I could go on and on with examples. We are a world that operates in defaults. That no longer works for me and hasn’t for a long time. I am dare I say privileged enough to know that my view is not usually the default view, so I am able to (or forced) to look at things through different lenses and perspectives. It is now your turn.