Did you catch our post from Friday? You’ll need to read that one to understand today’s.
The “woman in the hallway” story from Friday is an example of a microaggression because of the assumptions made about the woman. An interesting question for you to ask yourself: Did you assume that it was a White woman in the client’s office?
If you’re like 99% of other White people, you assumed that the woman in the hallway was White. Because White culture does that. We see movies with only White people (thankfully this is slowly changing) or we see advertisements with only White people (ditto) or we see government run only by White people (unfortunately we’ve regressed in this area since 2016), and our brains get conditioned to only expect White people in all contexts. Then, the White brain feels the need to explicitly mention if someone is Black.
The way that White people use race to describe a person only when that person is not White is also a problem.
“My sister is going on a social distancing date tonight. Some Black guy she met…”
“We interviewed four candidates for the spot. I really thought the dude Ryan and that African American woman were the strongest.”
“I think Eddie Murphy is the best Black comedian ever.”
Start to notice where you do this.
Also start to notice that you never do it when identifying White people.
“Do you remember that new girl who joined the Zoom on Tuesday? The one they just hired onto the Finance team?”
(There’s also a problem referring to an adult as a “girl”…)
In our vignette from Friday, it’s a microaggression for the protagonist of the story to have assumed that the woman in the hallway is the administrative assistant, and it’s White culture that makes most readers assume that the woman is White. Our culture influences what images are created in our heads when we “see” the story in the mind as we read. The race of the characters was unstated, and that means that most of us automatically assume that everyone in the story is White. It’s an even more serious microaggression to assume, when you go out to try and get your file printed off your thumb drive in the client’s office, that the Black woman is the administrative assistant.
This happens in restaurants all the time — or it used to, when we were allowed to go into restaurants. You’re sitting at a table that’s full of dishes; you and your friends are pretty much done with the meal. You’re planning on sticking around for another round of drinks, but the table is crowded.
A restaurant staff person walks past and you signal for his attention. “Hey ‘scuse me, when you get a minute, can you clear these for us please?”
The guy smiles and says “Sure thing, we’ll take care of it,” and he keeps walking, disappearing into the kitchen.
A moment later, a busboy appears and silently clears things.
The first guy is over at another table taking an order.
Does it matter that you grabbed the attention of another waiter? No, not really, most restaurants want to foster a service mentality and if a table needs clearing, they prefer the guests tell someone so they can get on it. The waiter handled it fine.
Does it matter that you assumed that the Black person was a busboy? Yeah kinda.
No, let’s correct that. Not “yeah kinda” but instead the true answer is YES THIS MATTERS. A LOT.
That’s another form of microaggression.
These are the things that all of us need to ponder. Why do we assume one person is in a lower position than another based on the color of their skin, or their gender?
It’s what our culture has conditioned us to do.
This is internalized racism. It’s what we have inherited from all the messages in the world around us.
It doesn’t mean it’s your “fault” that you do this — but it does mean that it’s your responsibility, and mines, and all of ours, to change it.
When we’re looking at these issues of institutionalized racism, and the society at large being a power structure that’s stacked in favor of White people, it can feel like an insurmountable problem to solve. Even if you consider yourself very open-minded, you still may not know where to start or what you personally can do. “But I’m not racist!” you may even think, or perhaps you’ve said that to your friends when you’re talking about the protests.
Please don’t say that anymore. Just drop that as a defense, because that’s all it is. You don’t have to be out there with a white hood on your head, or carrying a tiki-torch in 2017 in Charlottesville, to be racist.
Instead, start to get educated on what it means to be anti-racist. A stance that says “Enough” is required.
We all need to dismantle these systems that have created these horrible realities for vast numbers of people.
There’s been gobs of recommended reading lists going around social media already, so we’re not going to give you more homework assignments, since all of this is very easily accessible in this moment. We do encourage you to learn more about this, to understand the barriers that exist inside you if you’re White, the realities of White privilege and how harmful it is to all of us, and to start to recognize that we’re the ones who get to create a new world. We’re doing it now. By talking about it. By looking at it honestly, and owning our own part.
If you’re White, please don’t ask your Black friend what you can do. Educate yourself independently, and start to do it.
It is going to be uncomfortable.
It is going to be uncomfortable.
It is going to be uncomfortable.
And that is okay.
Because it’s been way more than just “uncomfortable” for so many people for so long.
Those living today didn’t create the problems we’re living in now, but all White people have benefited from the power structure as it has existed till now, and it’s up to White people to invest in the systemic, and individual, changes today — not from a savior mindset, where White people get to rescue POC or swoop in with their benevolence and goodness.
But it takes more than statements and an expression of interest.
It takes more than policies or mission statements.
It takes action, from all of us.
If you’re wondering how this relates to applying to business school… oh yes, it relates. We’ll get back to the practical matter of researching business schools and identifying targets and preparing your MBA admissions strategies on the blahg very soon (like tomorrow, probably). But this social issue needs all of our attention, and we are likely to continue talking to you about it further. If social change is not a priority for you or you think these posts are a waste of your time, then EssaySnark is not the right fit to you as an advisor in your pursuit of getting admitted to a high-end business school that will set you up with greater access to power and privilege and wealth, and please don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.
Tell us what you think.