I’m normally here giving advice but this time, I need advice.
My Story: I spent 18 years in the US. In a city where at that time, the majority ethnicity was black. I wasn’t treated nicely by some of the folks there because I was a minority. It never reached the level of being racially profiled by the police but it was by my peers, a handful of times by teachers and even a manager. I was socially nurtured to hold the belief that if your discrimination did not go to the level of systemically being profiled (by the police) then your experience did not matter.
So I move to the UK - tired of living in such a divided country. I also wanted to shield my husband from that sort of abuse so I moved abroad.
Cue the pandemic.
A few weeks after being in lockdown, one of my managers in my office messages me. Asking me how I’m coping with the Quarantine- especially me being a BAME (Black And Minority Ethnicity). My first response to that was: Wut? I’m a BAME? Huh. I started thinking about that. Yes. Perhaps I am. I’m half Japanese and half White and I’m an US citizen. I guess I am a minority here in the UK.
This idea, never occurred to me. Why? Because I grew up being told that my experiences did not matter.
Cue in the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement. Here we go again, right? I look at their website- it just talks about yet again the systemic racism against Black people and NO ONE else. Do I think this struggle exists? Absolutely. Do I think it could be done differently? You’re darn right.
Cue in today:
Some of my work colleagues created a Microsoft Teams group called BAME Staff Discussion. Two are Afrikaans. One is from Barbados, one is from the UK but is half black, half white and the other is Indian and then me. But they’re discussing BLM & the inequality that they’ve experienced. And what happens with me? I feel shame. I feel like a fraud. I feel shame because I cannot voice MY experience of being discriminated against by black people because I was taught by American society that my experiences don’t matter. I feel shame because I was discriminated against by an employer who was from India. He paid me less for not being from the country he and the other staff were from. So, this shame; the one I’ve carried for 30 years rises up in my heart, my throat. And it makes me feel like a fraud. A fake BAME.
Do I come clean with them and hope that they don’t invalidate my experiences? Or do I continue to stay quiet?
Thank you for reading.
Okay so i CANNOT imagine the situation you are in right now and im sorry you have to go through this. but this is what i feel:
i think you should tell them what you have been through. although, coming up with this all of a sudden may result in some harsh feedbacks or may even affect your relations with them. so i say you should put it in front of them slowly.maybe talk about your time in the US, about your previous jabs and slowly start bringing up all what happened with you there. you dont need live with all that burden all through your life. Hope this helps:)
Hi. Its been quite a few months since I posted this but I will say that I did open up and it was well received.
I just had to trust that they would be okay with the things I was saying. It opened up my eyes more to the stigmas that my co workers go through - like a person saying, “I couldn’t understand them because of their thick accent. I want to speak to an English person” to me, that is just hurtful no matter how you slice it. I have an accent, it IS a thick American accent yet, they can understand me so although its subtle, I can tell what they are really saying and it does frustrate me that people still think that “white is right”.
Thank you for your kind words :)