LIT LIT: MARCH
I get really emotional when I see women in groups walking, dancing, talking, crying, and laughing together.
But what really pulls at my heartstrings is when I see different women from all walks of life making, creating, and building together – lifting one another up and having each other’s backs. I’ve been thinking lately a lot about the word diversity. Honestly, the older I get, and the more spaces I touch, and various industries I’m exposed to – I have started to really…resent…that word. I feel like the terms “diversity” and “diverse” as nouns and descriptors have become these superficial tools that predominantly white environments and their CEO thought-powers use to position themselves and their groups/organizations as more progressive, or “cooler”, or more relevant than one another. As if diversity is a marker of criteria that sets that company/organization apart from others. As if diversity is a tool to advance the white powers to become more powerful.
But it feels really false. Seeing that “diversity” checkmark feels contrived, like that organization has finally caught up to society, rather than do *clap emoji* ing *clap emoji* the *clap emoji* work to improve the system. It’s one thing to be a majority white institution that says “oh yeah, we have diverse employees!” – and it’s another thing entirely to actually have leaders of color who are the decision makers and coaches/mentors.
From now on, I want to think of diversity as representation. Am I, are we, represented in the workplace? In meetings? In magazines? In movies? In TV shows? Diversity amongst a group of people should not be about a count of bodies showcasing a gradient scale of melanin from lightness to darkness. Rather, I want to start approaching and unpacking diversity as how culture and identity are represented in these public and private spaces.
At work a while ago, I created a really organized timeline and pitch grid for a client and our teams to serve as a guideline for our PR plan. On a conference call, a colleague (let’s call her Becky*) says to everyone on the call, “Flerine did a really great job on this pitch grid. The format is clear and easy to follow for us all to understand what each other is working on.”
I responded with, “thank you, I just want to make sure everyone’s on the same page, especially when I’m out of office, so I thought this format would be the most efficient way to ensure things keep moving forward.”
And Becky jokingly responded with, “It’s because she’s Asian.”
Becky laughed and found herself to be funny and lighthearted. It’s just business after all. But it’s in poor taste, IMO. It’s tired and archaic and whack material. And I was the only person of color on the call. And no one had my back, even when I tried to stick up for myself.
By the way – Becky also finds herself making Asian jokes during client dinners and client lunches as well, whenever someone makes a comment about how stylized and interesting my Instagram photos are…she says things like “It’s the Asian in you.” Or “you’re so Asian, that’s why.” And you know what, I get it. When everything’s all business – it’s relieving to get some laughter in the conversation to keep things light and enjoyable. But racial jokes are LAZY.
Whenever I unpack this situation with my fellow friends of color, we’re usually on the same page. Yes, it’s a micro aggression – but it speaks volumes about race + workplace dynamics. We all agree: we understand it was a joke, meant to be harmless and there was no mal-intent, but like, would this colleague say that same joke if I seemed to be of a different culture as a POC? Would this colleague say jokes like “it’s because she’s Black” or “it’s because she’s Mexican” to a Black or Mexican employee? Why are remarks like that only considered racist to white people’s eyes when it’s about black, muslim, or latinx folks? Why is it OK and “acceptable” to make racial Asian jokes in the workplace? It’s still racist.
Don’t be a Becky.
Be a kasama. Be an amiga. Be a sister. Let’s stick up for one another. Let’s be there for each other.
We're wrapping up women’s herstory month, and we have to understand that we’re in this together - not just for a month, but forever... lets leave the commitment issues at the door. We can’t be tearing each other down when we’ve got so much yet to build.
This month’s Lit Lit reads explores the dynamics of how we, as various women of color and backgrounds, relate to one another. And how these relations can be used as tools to build. I hope that through these materials, we can continue learning and working to understand one another more and be there for one another as best we can.
(*Becky is representative of two differently gendered colleagues both participating in this conversation, but I want to respect their anonymity.)
LIT LIT (BUT ACTUALLY FOR ANY MONTH)
(image credit: unity in color)
Coalition Politics – Turning the Century
“People should not confuse home and coalition” – “home” is where your family, people, and culture nurture and shape you, and “coaltion” is where different families, peoples, and cultures come together to struggle through conflict to achieve common goals.
Letters for Black Lives
FREE multilingual translations of the letter: https://lettersforblacklives.com/
“Christina Xu, an ethnographer and writer, and other Asian-American activists created a crowdsourced letter to their families — particularly addressing their elders who immigrated to the United States — to explain why black lives matter.”
Since then, Letters for Black Lives was born. It is a set of crowdsourced, multilingual, and culturally-aware resources aimed at creating a space for open and honest conversations about racial justice, police violence, and anti-Blackness in our families and communities. Letters for Black Lives began as a group of Asian Americans and Canadians writing an intergenerational letter to voice our concerns and support for the Black community. It has since grown to include other immigrant groups and communities of color. Our goal is to listen, support, and amplify the message of Black Lives Matter within our communities. We encourage people from all communities to adapt and build off of these resources.
Read the original English version of the letter, and its backstory, here: https://mic.com/articles/148224/asian-americans-wrote-this-powerful-letter-to-say-why-black-lives-matter-to-their-families
What Are You?: Voices of Mixed-Race Young People
by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins
In the past three decades, the number of interracial marriages in the United States has increased by more than 800 percent. Now over four million children and teenagers do not identify themselves as being just one race or another. Here is a book that allows these young people to speak in their own voices about their own lives. What Are You? is based on the interviews the author has made over the past two years with mixed-race young people around the country. These fresh voices explore issues and topics such as dating, families, and the double prejudice and double insight that come from being mixed, but not mixed-up.
Representing Afro-Latinidad in the Time of #BlackLivesMatter: An Interview With the Founders of the Afro-Latino Festival
By Camille Padilla Dalmau
“The festival’s mission feels especially vital in a year when conversations about race – and blackness in particular – are gaining increasing traction in the media and national consciousness. Through the focused work of activists and organizers, the Black Lives Matter movement, a response to a legacy of racial inequity in U.S. policing tactics, has now grown into something that transcends borders and cultures. And within the Latino community, events like Rodner Figueroa’s comments on Univision about Michelle Obama in March, and the recent immigration crisis in the Dominican Republic, have been fostering more dialogue about the unique challenges and work that lies ahead in fighting anti-blackness in our communities.”
Filipino Americans: Blending Cultures, Redefining Race
“There are over 3 million people of Filipino heritage living in the U.S., and many say they relate better to Latino Americans than other Asian American groups. In part, that can be traced to the history of the Philippines, which was ruled by Spain for more than 300 years. That colonial relationship created a cultural bond that persists to this day.”
Check out our TGM’s previous Lit Lit reads on the theme of sisterhood here:
by Flerine Atienza
post image credit: renee carey