It is rare to interact with many people that truly are aware of everything they say. I understand and am fully aware of the power that words can have, and still I myself often slip when having conversations. This is why I take what most people say with a grain of salt because it has been my experience in the past that most of what people say is some version of the truth with variances to fit the occasion. We are only human and can not help but embellish where we see fit. I do not take offense when people state things that may be politically incorrect in some way shape or form to particular audiences. I honestly understand and I get it… but yet and still there are particular instances in which the way words are used still manage to give me pause. These particular instances are usually unintentional which makes it the most frustrating.
I take particular issue with people whether it be friends or complete strangers who categorize who I am by some standard that they find shocking. And because this is such a underpopulated category proceed to praise the situation in a backward compliment manner. In this past year I have had many successes that are rare… and I know that they are. I take pride in achieving what many do not think is possible for a person like me. All too easily that pride in my achievements is quickly cheapened by comments like, “you are a successful black woman”, “you are such a talented young teacher”. I know to many it may sound crazy to be offended by such “positive” comments, but these comments fall into the same explanation as to why I choose not to celebrate or even acknowledge Black History Month. I don’t need my talents, skills, or successes segregated into categories that have nothing to do with my achievement, just like I don’t need one month out of the year set aside for me to learn about positive influences in the African American community. When you shine a spotlight on a particular facet you’re making it okay to eventually turn off that spotlight.
Being a “successful black woman” or “talented young teacher” was never something I set a focus on because I do not represent all women, all black people, or all young people. I represent myself and while I do belong to each of these three categories they do not define how I go about achieving or not achieving my accomplishments. I am not a mascot to be put on display, and when I hear these comments I must smile with a sense of gratitude while still feeling like I am the token female, or token black person, or token young person. I never set out to be the voice of any of these categories or any category for that matter. Every once in a while I would really just enjoy being a successful person, or a great teacher with no expectations of fulfilling some requirement that society has set in place.