Let’s get one thing clear right away: I am not your stereotype! I don’t have a record or criminal background. I am educated and hold both a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s. I have a career history and know where I want to go in life. Yet when I walked across the stage to receive my diploma in the Spring of 2013 there were not any job prospects for me. In spite of the interviews, the resumes, the internships, the long hours of study with little room for play, I walked away with nothing.
Is it because I’m black?
Let’s get another thing clear: I’m not trying to play the ‘race card’ as some misinformed white folks might suggest. Believe me, I would much rather not have to ask myself if racism is playing a role in every single micro-aggression that I experience (though it often does). But when I consider the statistics and the disparities within communities of color, what else am I supposed to believe? As of September of this year, the unemployment rate in Minnesota, where I live, was 4.1 percent, lower than the national average of 5.9 percent. In the past, news reports have touted the fact that the state’s economy has regained all of the jobs that it lost during the recession. Yet, when you analyze these statistics for the overall population and compare it to what is going on for people who look a lot like me, it’s just not adding up.
But my skin color isn’t the only barrier for me here. My name also poses a big issue for me – Babatope Adedayo. My, I love how that sounds! In the words of Robert C. Lee, “The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is the sounds of his/her name.” Yet the fact that it is so special to me, doesn’t mean that it is special to anyone else. Many people don’t even try to pronounce it. During my years in undergrad, when a teacher of mine called roll to make sure everyone was present in class, she wouldn’t even make an effort to say it. All she would do, for the course of the entire semester, is look for my big, black face, make eye contact with me, and move right along to names such as Allan, Baker, Carter, which apparently rolled off her tongue much easier.
I am also an immigrant, which you might have already guessed because of my name. Before you start calling the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to come and deport me, put the phone down, I’m also a U.S. Citizen. I came to the U.S. over ten years ago through a government sponsored program and was granted citizenship five years ago – I wish I didn’t have to clarify that. Though I would love to expound on why I think this whole immigration system is a mess, marginalizing millions of undocumented residents whose own countries have been torn apart by our foreign policy (my country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty), that is another issue for another time.
I submitted this post to the ReDEFINING series which aims to dismantle destructive narratives of marginalized groups by crafting new and better stories of ourselves. Read the remainder of this post over at redefining.com >