I just can't seem to get this out of my head. Please know that to me, race is one of those issues that can either cause problems or cause people to think. It's what makes us all unique and allows us all to bring something different to the table. If we were all the same, can you imagine how boring life would be?
The other day, an older black woman came to the counter where I work with a few questions, which I was able to answer. Once she got the answers that she came for, the woman lowered her voice and said to me, "I didn't know that they hired black people here."
You know that feeling when your heart starts beating triple time and the room gets really hot while the walls start closing in? Yeah, that's how I felt.
I managed to brush it off by saying, "Yes, they do, contrary to popular belief." She moved onto what felt like an interrogation or 20 questions while we were being watched by two other secretaries before she finally left. When I sat down, the realization that yes, I am black (duh...I'll get back to this) and me working where I do is still a shock to people, both black and white.
You have to realize that when my siblings and I were growing up, my parents raised us with the idea that despite the fact that we were black, we shouldn't feed into the stereotypes that society had for us and that the color of our skin means nothing and shouldn't stop us from getting what we want, without forgetting who we were or where we came from. We were taught to judge a person by their character and not their skin color, because that is what matters most. We were sent to schools where we were often the only black kids in our classes. I was in a government class where the professor did single me out for being the only black student while discussing slavery. Each of us were all in situations where we were called out for "talking" or "acting white" by other blacks because we were taught that slang is unnecessary if we want to succeed in this world.
Before that woman came to the counter, I had gotten to the point in my job that I was comfortable in my own skin and didn't have to worry about the fact that I looked different. Yes, there are times when I do have to step back and remember that some of the older contractors are not ready to see a colored face there, but its not often. Maybe its the fact that race has never seemed to be a factor since I started working here and that I was just welcomed with open arms by my coworkers. How two of my closest "people" there are nothing like me, but we all seem to enjoy each others company.
She reminded me that I wasn't the same as everyone else and that I could be portrayed as the token black person. Or it could be that maybe, just maybe this place is coming to their senses and finally hiring people that represent the citizens that they are serving day in and day out. Nonetheless, because of this older woman, I realized that maybe I am that touch of color or change that my workplace so desperately needed.