People get offended when told of their shortcomings. It’s way easier to place blame on others and the roles others played in the outcome of our lives. Racism, sexism, classism, all the other -isms. Income inequality, discrimination, evil corporations, generational poverty, etc. These are all EXTERNAL factors. I don’t doubt that they exist and they had a hand in our outcomes, but there is not much we can do as individuals to solve these issues in our lifetimes. Instead of pointing fingers at “the system” or monolithic but abstract groups, WE NEED TO BE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE.
Stop the blame game. If I had to play the blame game or woe-is-me pity party, I’d never get out of bed. Despite all the adversity I faced, I get up every morning, excited to execute my plan, motivated to do all my little daily habits, and perpetually planning the next step. It’s eye-opening how when we stop blaming others, we see how big our role is in the determination of our lives. We now have more space for growth because we have removed the negative energy of hate and blame. We see how we have been keeping ourselves back. We see how we have been conditioned to feel helpless. That time is over. We are taking our power back.
We can only change ourselves. We can’t demand change from others. Yes, we can influence them, but demand? Their beliefs are none of our business. Your destiny is your business. Your actions are your business. Your mindset is your business.
Occupy and thrive in “their” spaces. As a young WOC occupying white affluent spaces, I’ve had my fair share of interactions that were definitely racially motivated. Some out of pure racism and some out of ignorance. But the one thing I am sure of is that if majority of these spaces were POC, these racially motivated interactions would be few and far between. I would no longer be “exotic” or “odd” or “out of place,” I would just exist. So, yes, I will keep occupying these spaces and thriving in them. Like the saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
Start with yourself. I’ll give you an example: as a young female scientist in academia, I’ve experienced condescension too many times for my liking. But once again, when people are not familiar with interacting with certain groups and such groups are not “the norm” in these spaces, the majority group does not see the minority group as “insiders,” and hence, the condescension. I don’t excuse the behavior because god knows it infuriates me, but it is an unfortunate fact of life. So what can I do about it as an individual? Fewer women pursue STEM past undergraduate level and even fewer join the workforce after completing graduate studies. In essence, women are just not getting into and staying in STEM AT the same rates men are, and that is their choice. We’re only going to see more women in STEM if more women wanted to go into STEM. What I’m saying here is: if you want to see more people who look like you occupying spaces you also want to occupy, then start with yourself. Make a seat for yourself at the table and don’t forget to pull out another chair for your mentee. And yes, take on a mentee.
Self-responsibility is an understated quality nowadays. It is even discouraged in many circles. I’m not sure when it become en vogue to disavow individuality and self-reliance, but I’m not here for it. It encourages complacency and perpetuates hardship and discontent. Don’t fall for it.