To the only Brown girl in the room,
Let me tell you why you need to sit there and be present. I ask you to never find complacency in silence. Let me beg and plead that you sit, stand, and shake hands when they use their eyes to cover you with shame. Know that your presence is resistance. Know that you threaten their normalcy; you shake the status quo to a truth they have worked so long to hide behind. You will often cry. You will feel rage. You will likely have to hold your hands while they tremble, but do not allow them to remove you from that room.
Today there were 18 around the table; at first glance about a quarter were women, clad in flawless power suits with their hair tied tightly back, huddled in a group. The men flooded the other half of the table, each in a dark suit, attempting to find identity in the sea of sheep by wearing an obnoxious boldly colored tie. They all had more jewelry than I own, and made the efforts to wiggle their sleeves up a bit as they shook hands to ensure the gold of their watches shone. I was in jeans and the college sweatshirt one of my former students sent my way upon the completion of her graduate school degree, that in itself is worth far more than their Rolex.
This time they handed out their cards. They “networked” as they call it. They walked seat to seat to share their titles and assess the situational power of the person who stood in front of them. This time they walked passed me. They literally looked at me, and walked onto the next man in the room. It wasn’t until a man, the only other person of color in the room introduced me, that was my name heard, and it was then I was called doctor.
I am the co-chair of this committee. I have advanced education and for years have put in work to establish respect and recognition from those around me, allowing my work and integrity to speak as extension of the moral framework through which I live my life. I consider myself an asset to the world around me, and it took a long time for me to begin to recognize my worth. Within minutes, they took it all away.
I am also brown. I am covered in melanin and was born in the generation they completed their Ivy League educations. In their eyes I was invisible, but in my eyes I am power, however in that moment I felt like nothing. In that moment I wanted to walk out.
I have been taught to be patient. I have been taught to see beauty in difference. I have been taught to respect those even in opposition of my own belief system. I have been taught to never disrespect elders. I have been taught to smile and shake hands with firmness so that my intent in genuine fellowship is understood in the gesture. In that moment it all slipped away. I wanted to shove each of them across the room, I wanted to call out their ignorance, I did not want to be patient any longer.
How long must we wait? How long will be until being brown is palatable to those in power? When will the systems that determine the outcomes of my life be led by folks who look like me? I am tired of being patient. I am tired of being asked to forgive their white ignorance, tired of allowing their apologies to suffice. I am so tired.
It came on the day the Supreme Court decided to uphold hate, decided in a split vote the very foundations on which we built this nation upon would be disregarded. What a shame in world struggling to find humanity our leaders were so very much like the men in that room. We remain invisible, continue to be dehumanized and cast aside. Our religion and faith has now become a target of hate. They take our children and lock them in cages to scare us away. They deny the basic provision of the protection of our lives as women in the face of domestic violence simply because we do not look, act, or behave in alignment with Western white ideology… and you know who pushed back today? Who gave my voice a place in resisting that very hate?… the only Brown girl in the room. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg made sure I was heard today, they cannot silence us.
“Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments… because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect, with profound regret, I dissent.” — Sonia Sotomayor
As women, as women who have been blessed by the sun and pigmentation of our ancestors, as young girls who sit in the room you locked us out of in generations past, we dissent to your to your platform of Trump’s America. We picked your locks, and some of us make them now, we are inside, we are outside, and we will longer be invisible, we dissent.