Growing Up as a Woman of Color

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Courtesy of Black Girl Dangerous

I have been incredibly lucky in my life. I come from a loving family, and have grown up in a diverse town, where I haven’t experienced t-he same discrimination I might have if I’d lived anywhere else.  That said, as a woman of color, my experience has been tinted with moments where my race and gender have caused discomfort for me.  When I was in preschool and Kindergarten, though I attended a very progressive school, there were always separations between the boys and the girls which is mostly normal.  The girls would play house, or restaurant, and the boys would play astronauts.  But I distinctly remember a time when I went over to play astronauts, and the boys told me that I wasn’t allowed to, and when I asked why, they told me it was because I was a girl. That is the first time I remember ever being made to feel that my gender was a disadvantage.  Since then, that feeling has only grown.  I am constantly reminded that in the professional world, I will make less than my male counterparts, I will be a minority.  I will be criticized if I work once I have children, but also be criticized for being a stay at home parent. My actions will be scrutinized. My looks will be valued equally or more than my intelligence. I want to overcome these stereotypes. I plan to show that world that I can be all the things I want to be regardless of the color of my skin, or what body parts I have. Identifying as biracial can also be a challenge. In addition to the gender issue,  my mother’s family comes from India, and my father’s comes from Haiti. I have grown up separated from my father, so naturally I’ve grown up identifying more strongly with the Indian side of my family, and I’ve always felt accepted and loved among their community. I have not been exposed to my father’s family or community, but I hope that I’d feel just as welcome there. I know people who identify as biracial who have experienced discrimination from both groups. Although I’ve not faced this particular dilemma, I have been asked about my race and people are often confused. I’ve grown up in a predominantly white community and I’ve always fit in with diverse groups of friends. It upsets me very much  to see so much racism and discrimination   in the world though, and I’ve been spending lots of time studying it, and thinking about it. It is my hope that there will be a major shift in the way we think about these issues. In my mind, what it all boils down to is labels. If we could look at one another as individuals or people, and not allow race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. cloud our judgement, we would be better off. I also believe that if we discussed these issues more in schools, and made sure the youth were more educated on these sensitive issues, then we could instill a sense of equality and acceptance in the youngest members of our society making for a brighter future.

-Desta Cantave