Ore is one of our many talented Associates at Xander who hails from another part of the world. Her homeland, Nigeria, is a country where the idea of racism is merely a notion, discrimination of another person’s skin is rare, and the thought of being considered a “black woman” perplexing. For Black History Month 2021, she highlights the importance of education.
I have only been black for three years. Why? I was born and raised in Nigeria for the first 20 years of my life. Nigeria is said to be the most populous black countries in the world. Whilst living there, there was not a lot of differentiation because we all looked alike. Growing up, I knew racism existed just from stories on the news and even speaking directly with family who live outside of the country.
I did not have an experience with racism until I decided to leave Nigeria for America to further my education and explore the world. Nothing ever prepares you for racism or what your experience will be even though I expected to encounter racism.
My first experience of racism left a bitter taste in my mouth. This was after I had landed in America, the immigration officer said I did not look like myself in my passport and they asked if I had another means of identification. Luckily, I did. The texture of black hair tends to be discriminated against and because of this we tend to manipulate our hair to fit into what is acceptable to society.
As of now, only 11 states in the US have passed the CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act which seeks to prohibit discrimination based on hair texture. We are currently in 2021 and black men and women are still being fired from jobs because they choose to wear the hair that grows naturally from their scalp. Just think of the last time you had to think of wearing your hair a particular way because it could impact how you were seen at work.
For the first time in my life, I was angry at the injustice meted out at black people. I could finally empathise with African-Americans and black people who live in countries where they are the minority. Angry at every time my intellect was questioned just because I was a black woman who dared to speak. I was fearful for my future every time I had to leave my house because I was not sure if I was going to encounter a ‘trigger-happy’ individual.
This began my adventure into a world of racism and microaggressions. Microaggressions are quite similar to unconscious biases, it can be intentional but often it is accidental. However, microaggressions still hurt all the same.
As we celebrate Black History month, it is important to educate ourselves about the struggles and history of black people by acknowledging the voices of black people around us. I still educate myself on Black History because my experiences are different from black people who have lived all their lives being black.
I have only been “black” for 3 years and counting and while it was a rough start, I am living life as a black woman in a work environment that celebrates and encourages diversity.