Sunday, 4 March 2018

How important it is to have representation in learning Institutions!


Representation -simple as it is, is one of the most challenging thing for organisations yet so easy and simple to put in place. Recently a friend of mine who finished her PhD, swore not to even think of working for the institution she did her course. When I asked her why, she told me – representation. Being the only black woman in that department, she never saw anything that represented her in a positive light. She said to start with, there was no one she could call a mentor, people around her didn’t seem to understand her and as if that was not enough, everywhere she looked had negative images of Africa. She felt lost, insulted and belittled. All over the notice boards were images of thin black children with mucus on their faces and eyes covered in green mucus like stuff. The image that everyone has of Africa! She said how can I respect myself let alone be respected in a place like that. What are those pictures doing anyway in a science department of a good well known university, as if students will donate their so cherished grants and loan to poor Africa! Something is grossly wrong with continuing to enforce the rhetoric of the dirty, helpless, needy black child and the sweet saving white woman or man who rescues him or her. And unfortunately most philanthropic efforts play on this one rather heavily whether deliberately or incidentally as they may like to argue. All this further feeds into the denigrated view of black people everywhere – that we’re too uneducated, poor, or otherwise helpless as a whole, to attain success without the assistance of the descendants of our colonial slave masters, or that we are all somehow innately bad.
She said she had intended to stay around and work and help develop some science that might save people but she thought not in that toxic representation. Sure enough I am now aware of what she meant than before. Every country has poor people. Every country has people sleeping rough, but the way things are portrayed on poster , on TV and some other platforms, you would think only Africa has the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying people should not be helped, but there has to be place and space. Putting such images in learning institutions only helps to denigrate people from that part of the world. Like my friend said, would stop and donate their grants and loans? How much money then has been collected for charity work from students in these universities?

Recently I was having a conversation with a bright Sixth former whom I will disguise from this article but all I can say is he is at a state school. They had a representation from one of the high and mighty universities in the country coming to talk to them about their prospects of applying to go to this university. The person started talking about the dress up and rig ma role that they have to do when going for dinner etc.  Obviously for kids used to a simple dinner at school, this all sounded intimidating. Now the sixth former and a group of friends are thinking of alternatives. One would think, if the idea was to have kids from state schools applying to this elite university, one would have been more careful in how they explain things.  So again, mission unaccomplished ! As far as the representative of this university is concerned job done but really?
As progressive, modern and inclusive as we’d like to think today’s world is, we still have a far way to go. Representation remains a valuable tool in the hands of influencers where they may either choose to provide validation and to be honest in telling people’s stories or they may choose to do the opposite, even if it isn’t said in as many words.


Disclaimer: These are my thoughts based on conversing with people and observation.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and ethnic minority candidates, who are under-represented: reflections on race and life in the workplace


 I have always enjoyed writing about anything but the more I talk to other BME women from different organisations ,the more I realise that race and racialisation in workplaces will  carry on forever.  Unlike my parents who were born and grew up in the racist white minority government in Southern Rhodesia, I was born and grew up where all were equal and I didn’t have to think of race the way I do today in Europe.

Let me start by defining racialisation according to Galabuzi (2006):

Racialisation translates into actions and decisions within social systems that lead to differential and unequal outcomes, and entrenchment of structures of oppression. The influence of negative race based judgements in decision- making at different levels of society produces racial inequality.

Why write about black women experiences? As a black feminist- yes that’s right, I speak and write in the hope of raising questions to new and enduring problems in the workplace- re gender and race. In most workplaces the mere mention of race or racism can incite particular responses which can be disturbing. I write in the hope of transformation. For many women of colour in the workplace, problems begin with numerical representation.  You look around you and there as hardly anyone you can relate to re race.  You tell someone and either they think you are ‘just sensitive or you have chip on shoulder’. This has always been the case wherever I work. I also discovered that there were different rules for ‘different people.  White folks will be treated like royalty if they are having problems and when it’s you, you are told to grow up or as one person said to me once, ‘you are not cut out for this place.’

Since moving to Europe in 2006, I have experienced prejudice one way or the other. I have tried to blend in but I am always reminded of my race and ethnicity. This has been mostly in the work place (private, public and not for profit organisations).  Sounds familiar anybody?

Derald Wing Sue (2011) notes that  the research on race shows that ‘whites experience themselves as good , moral and decent beings who would never intentionally hurt or discriminate against others’(418).

I am however baffled by some people I have worked with who seemed ‘affable’ and ‘intelligent’ and who preach ideals of equality but seem to have little if any consciousness of the ways in which their attitudes and behaviours are interpreted as  racist by their non-white nor how the system of white supremacy works. In some places  I found myself working in an environment in which certain white workmates did not seem to care what they said in my presence, or perhaps I should say, that they seemed unaware  of the messages of undesirability and inferiority  that they were communicating regarding  non-white people. Even in Human Resources where you expect some sort of level headedness, a workmate who was recruiting once looked at her list of potential applicants and said the people had all ‘weird names’ and wouldn’t be suitable as they would need visas (I am putting it mildly here). So how did she come to that conclusion one might wonder. I for example am British but with the so called ‘weird name!’ And what’s in a name anyway?  Toni Morrison one of my favourite authors cautioned ‘Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge ; it limits knowledge’.

In the social world of white normativity, as George Yancy (2012) writes, ‘it is white meaning making that creates the condition under which black people are always already marked different/deviant/ dangerous. Sanchez –Hucles (1997) reminds us, black women in the workforce have often been regarded as tokens, deviants, invisible, isolates and of low status…..’’

To start talking about weird / foreign names in my presence in a belittling way when I am the only one in the office with such a name is clearly not only isolating but trying to make me invisible.

 That reminds me of something that happened, there was an organisation I so wanted to work for in my area. I applied for  all the HR jobs that I qualified for but never even got an invitation to an interview and I wonder if they used the ‘ weird name criteria’ for shortlisting. I know what you are thinking – that I might not have had the skills. I can assure you that any person who has been to University with 3 degrees can do administrative work. And I wasn’t overqualified because the work was in my line of work – Human Resources!

Another thing I have seen is, if you are lucky to get the job then you become the dumping ground for anything to do with diversity as one friend of mine found out in her workplace. Celebrating diversity only meant she had to organise events and even attend them while her white counterparts were busy with work apparently! Preaching to the converted!  

As Henry (2000) points out:

‘Black women professionals know too well how their race, gender and class backgrounds have structured them historically in the workplace to ‘clean up everyone’s mess (hooks and West 1991, 154). Black women once hired are often expected to do the ‘hands on work’ and the less intellectual work and the diversity work (Bangar and McDemott 1989).

 Another interesting thing that happened to me in one of the organisations I worked is a good example of this ‘two-facedness ’ on diversity and race issues. On my arrival, I noticed there were a few black faces scattered in the open plan office which was encouraging. I was hopeful since I had also seen on the advert the following words: ‘applications are particularly welcome from women and black and ethnic minority candidates, who are under-represented.’ I thought they were the real deal.  This was the place to be. This was so much in contrast with every place I had worked.

Then wham change happened- team restructuring! All the four black faces including me were made redundant and there went the ‘we are for diversity and welcome people from ethnic minority’ theory.  Those who stayed on were white, not senior or had any special qualities; we only happened to be black and had to go.

The four of us were shocked but happy to leave because of the toxicity of the environment. It was as if plans had been made to get rid of us all long and after the restructuring, the organisation still advertised for Human Resources personnel.

What angers me is the rhetoric of some organisations and senior management where the subject of race is concerned.   As Ballard and Parveen (2008) wrote, rhetorical commitment to anti-racist practice, no matter how loudly articulated, cannot be taken as evidence of the absence of problems seething below the surface.  Sue argues, ‘An unwillingness to name the contours of racism means unwillingness to challenge notions of meritocracy and a level playing field’, clearly the case of most places I have worked.

In one of the organisations I worked for, when I mentioned racism to my workmates or even the lack of black people in the decision making positions, I was met with silences, denials of structures of racism and even encountered tears. One lady hugged me and cried ‘Oh don’t worry you are one of us. We want you here.’ Really? Why would I be one of you?

In another organisation they used to organise talks/events and when I asked why there was no diversity among the speakers, I was told ‘there aren’t any black people doing this work’. Really?

This denial of racism is convenient.

 
Food for thought!

 

 

 

 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Of Glass Cliffs and women


This story has made look around and have a good think about life. A friend of mine from when I was at University visited me this weekend. I have not been well and she is relocating to Ghana, so we had a lot of catching up to do. It was lovely to see her, as it had been a while. It was not what she said that shocked me but what she experienced.  What started as girl talk ended up giving me the chance to look at her experiences from my perspective support by research done by others and wonders what goes on in organisations. My friend who will be unnamed, like me did her Masters at Oxford Brookes University. I finished in 2007 and my friend in 2008. However her story is one faced by many BME women in the workplace. The unfortunate thing is, sometimes it’s difficult to prove and anywhere further other than leave the organisation. Most forms of discrimination now are so subtle that recipients don’t always know what to do and some people do take advantage of that.

It was 1984 when the ‘glass ceiling’ was first coined as a metaphor to describe gender inequality in upper management (Ryan, 2009). The phrase captures a phenomenon whereby women aspiring a top management position find themselves blocked from these positions by seemingly invisible(hence the glass), yet very real barriers(hence the ceiling) that serve to keep the upper echelons of leadership a predominantly white male domain.   One thing that people might forget is the role of race in all this. Let’s face it, BME and white women will never have the same privilege in the workplace, yes you heard me- no good pretending we all start at the same point. Some definitely start far ahead because of their ethnicity, class and even where they studied.  So on finishing our Master’s degree my friend and I were not only facing a glass ceiling but a concrete ceiling instead. You might be wondering where I am going with this but just wait.

"Concrete ceiling" not only restricts access to top-level positions but middle management positions. It is denser and not as easily shattered and research shows that while glass ceiling is about women in general, concrete ceilings seem to affect women of colour more as they have to deal with race discrimination on top of gender.

This story is about glass cliffs and BME women. My friend’s story got even more shocking because of her experience.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that individuals who are seen as atypical in a given context attract more attention and are more easily singled out for criticism. My friend definitely faced a higher scrutiny and criticism in her organisation than her white colleagues.

On finishing her degree my friend found a job with an accounting firm.  She was ecstatic. While some of us were still looking for work in our areas of expertise, she was done and we were all happy for her.  However, she happened to be the only black woman there and all seemed OK to start with until a pattern developed.  With the laws and everything, there didn’t seem to be a problem and why would she even think about that except people kept on saying,’ we never had a black person before’’.   Things got worse. Whenever there were any complicated projects or tough tasks/clients, they were given to her. To make it worse some of the stuff was not of a junior member like her but for a more experienced person. She would struggle with the projects on her own without support and many times with mixed results. New people joined the organisation and would be given what seemed to her the type of work in line with her qualifications, knowledge and skills. These people would go on to do well and move on to more senior positions.  Let’s face it, seniority means more money and power, we all can do with a bit of that from time to time. And who wouldn’t be troubled to see others being promoted while they are stuck. Like many BME women who may have experienced the 'glass cliff' and didn’t think anything of it, she didn’t realise that she was being set up for failure by management.  Yes, being given precarious projects and often found herself being called in for a chat on her performance by the very top members of the organisation. Whenever anything less challenging came about, it went on to other members of the team who then went on to being promoted.
So all they were doing was making my friend feel like a failure and also finding an excuse for not promoting her. This went on for the eight years she was with this organisation.

When my friend finally decided to ask her manager why she was always given tough projects and not getting help and support, she was told she needed to work harder and produce results.

One senior member of the management said to her, ‘for a black woman you are doing well. Some people like you are still out there looking for work and here you are complaining.’
That was it for my dear friend.  She resigned and is now going back to Ghana.
I was so angry I needed to write this short story but this happens to many people and to me as well before I knew that research has been done on ‘glass cliffs’.  Remember ‘glass cliffs’ also happens with women in general who can be put in a similar situation in a male dominated environment.


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Get Over it , that's life!


Imagine being on the ground, surrounded by people who are constantly kicking you. Every time you try to stand, POW! Another kick sends you back to the ground. Now, after constantly being kicked for a good while, imagine that a whole new group surrounds you, and starts slapping you. You see some people who look like you, but they are slapping you too, because they don’t want to be on the ground with you, so they join in hurting you as well.

You haven’t fully recovered from being kicked, so you moan in pain, and try to tell them to “Stop!” One “Slapper” says to you, “Oh my goodness, I barely touched you. I’m not kicking you like those before me. Stop complaining and being a victim”, then continues slapping you. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how I would describe the way black people, specifically black, are treated.

“Black people need to get over it, other races were slaves too you know!”….this sentence, along with “I am not my ancestors, don’t blame me!” reminds me that society dismisses anything black people say, or do, as either: 1) complaining, and/or 2) somehow offensive to them. This in turn allows them to downplay the importance of what’s being said or ignore it entirely. As if we are crying out for nothing. When it comes to “black issues”, it seems society confuses being a “victim” with speaking/standing up for yourself, culture, workplace people, etc.

The “victim” concept makes me shudder with disgust; it’s just another way to discourage anyone from saying anything because they don’t want to be considered a “victim” of anything. Not once have I ever used my ancestors past as a reason for how I couldn’t do anything in the present, however that doesn’t mean I “forgot” and decided not to educate myself on what they, my grandparents, my parents, and black people in my generation, faced/facing now.

I find it especially disheartening when I hear black people, and other minority groups use the “victim” concept. If it weren’t for black people throughout history, in your words, “complaining” and “being a victim”, you wouldn’t have the rights you have now as a minority, or it would’ve taken you longer to obtain those rights.

No one ever said that black people are the only group that were slaves and oppressed. What IS being said is that black people are still struggling not only physically, but mentally as well. The negative ways we were made to view ourselves during slave trade, colonialism and imperialism is still strongly present in our communities, and society. Black people were enslaved, oppressed, and treated unequally longer than we have been “free. Slavery may have been 150+ years ago but colonialism and imperialism is not that far off.

Instead of learning why these things are offensive to our culture, some of you remain unempathetic, not willing to understand, and/or act as if black people are somehow at fault, the problems we speak of don’t exist, and that you and this current generation plays no part in trying to solve the problems created in the past.

In the end, it’s as if society is saying, “Let us discriminate against you in peace! And if you speak up, you (black people) are keeping racism alive, not us!” To all the black people who aren’t afraid to let their voice be heard, don’t let anyone try to shut you up, and call you a “victim”, because when you don’t educate yourself on the past and how it affects the present, and you don’t educate those who speak negatively of black people (even if they are black themselves), that’s when you are a true “victim.
You don’t fight fire with fire (racism with racism, discrimination with discrimination, prejudice with prejudice, etc.) because the fire will only burn hotter, and you also don’t cover it with a blanket “of ignorance” (not talk about it, act like everything is settled, etc) because it will only catch fire as well. The only way to extinguish a fire is with water (education, empathy, and respect).

Monday, 4 December 2017

Racism is for real


“You’ve become darker”

‘’Don’t stay too long in the sun otherwise you will get darker’’

‘’Dingy lips’’

Those are some statements I have heard so many times. Apart from these undertones, I, and every other black child had been conditioned from birth to feel inferior about our features.
Every supermarket carried bleaching brands: from covert ‘toning’ creams to straight up ‘get rid of your blackness because it’s ugly’ creams. Every black celebrity was unbelievably light skinned, with slim noses and small lips.
The most painful memory I have of the effects of colourism I remember was when my nephew asked me, ‘’ what is actually wrong with this black skin?” This is a question that I suspect majority of black kids have asked. It is a testament of the destructiveness of the colourism that takes place in the society, so much so that the word ‘light skinned’ is synonymous to attractive.
Blackness is regarded as an affliction that should be corrected if possible. And corrected it is from the thousands of women who apply bleaching creams (although they are aware that it may potentially destroy their skin. To them there is nothing worse than being black), to the thousands who relax their hair (I’m guilty of this as I used to do this but I understand some do it for easy maintenance, but….), from the makeup tutorials that show blacks how to slim their noses, to the filters that lighten pictures
ON THE BRIGHTSIDE, this is not the time to dwell on negativity. Instead I wrote it to exalt at the new found love and acceptance that I and many other black women have discovered. The eschewal of self-hate and skin negativity is the direct result of knowledge and awareness: The knowledge of why colourism, which is concomitant to racism, exists. It has been a journey for me, especially coming from Africa where I didn’t need to think about my skin colour in the same way I am doing in Europe.

No skin colour is better than the other. No physical feature of one race is more attractive than those of another, there are only standards, put in place by the white man. But why were they created, why was so much effort put in depressing all coloured races. To stroke their egos perhaps, or just because of their spiteful nature, but it is neither. Money and power are the strongest incentives for the most of the despicable acts committed by humans. The case is the same for racism.
Through the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries blacks were taken to America to work without pay, with little food and water. They worked for ungodly hours and were whipped at any sign of fatigue. Back in Africa the whites stole our resources and exploited our labour. The perpetrators of slavery and colonialism knew that blacks were equal to them in every way; they were logical, intelligent beings and would eventually revolt against their oppressors.
Any human put in such intolerable conditions would before long seek freedom. In order to prevent this for as long as possible, these individuals inducted racism. Make the black man feel like an animal, make him hate himself, hate his colour, and detest his heritage, and he will become submissive like a dog to his master. Make the average white man feel superior to blacks, give him the mentality that blacks are merely monkeys, and he will whip and oppress them with no mercy or compunction. After all they whip their horses.
So it is: centuries of oppression, vituperation, and self-hate all for fiscal gain. Discovering this truth, realizing that there is truly nothing wrong or unsavoury about you, that all your insecurities were just a result of human greed and callousness , is just…… Well everyone deserves to feel it. It is the first and most important step in dismantling racism. Of course there are other challenges: Wage gaps, exclusion of BME men and women in taking positions of power, racist police officer who do stop search on young BME men and neo-colonialism to the killing of black youth through police brutality- the list is endless, but the first step to being equal is feeling equal.

The second step for me after accepting myself was the normalization of black features, and other features considered as exotic. Another strategy adopted by the whites to further disenchant us with our features was the normalization of Eurocentric ones. Apart from emphasizing the beauty of white men and women and their lookalikes by featuring them on TV, they also sought to standardize these features, putting them on screen so often that anything contrary seemed unnatural. And we all know that unnatural or odd to humans means bad or in this case ugly. Thus, the blue black skin, the wide nose the full lips, the voluptuous body became anathemas.

The process of demolishing this particular vein of racism is pretty straightforward. Appreciate blackness! Normalize extra dark skin, 4-c hair, wide noses, full lips and they will lose their anchor weights of racism.

 It is ironic how resilient, yet fragile racism is. It has thrived for so long enduring, and permeating every aspect of life around the globe, yet with the slightest consciousness of it and its workings, it falls disintegrated and wingless to the earth. It simply takes a few twitter/Instagram pictures and some reflection on history to its annihilation.

Food for thought

 

 

 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Policing of Black Women’s Bodies

 
Last Friday I was on the bus on my way home when I sat next to a lovely, lovely elderly white lady and we started chatting. We ended up talking about shoes- winter boots to be specific. She had bought two pairs and had actually changed into one of the pairs. They were very nice and I told her I always struggle with getting a perfect fit as my legs are a bit thin.
Quickly she said, ‘Oh black women have thin legs’. I was left speechless and froze. There are times when saying nothing helps but I am still laughing at the level of ignorance around.
Now I am sure you have all heard or are familiar with the phrases, ‘She doesn’t have a body like a normal black girl’, ‘why don’t you have a big bum?’ or even, ‘where is your bum?!’ These are just a few examples of typical everyday comments and questions that are casually thrown into the mix when addressing and policing what is perceived to be the average body of a black woman.

Now before I begin, I am in no way discrediting any one type of body, and this entire article hopes to shed light on the fact that the way we look does not articulate who we are in any way, shape or form. There is a common association with what I like to coin, ‘the African physique’, and the way many view that black women’s bodies should be built.
Like many things of African origin, favourable parts of this physique have been borrowed and merged into popular Western culture for the purposes of exploitation and reinvention. But before I draw off track, allow me to elaborate on what this has to do with the way that we police black women’s bodies.
In addition, with the integration of hip hop culture into popular culture, all of a sudden we are seeing the African physique along with its appraisal being thrust into the lime light, and hurled into our faces, and on to our screens at a thousand miles per hour , what with the Kim Kardashian etc!  All of a sudden the whole world has once again gone absolutely mad for women with large derrieres!

Now where does this leave my argument? Well being constantly bombarded with images in the media of what a certain type of black woman looks like, only propels the notion that there is a standardized look that all black women should aspire to measure up to. If we are viewing this from a purely biological standpoint, the African physique no longer encapsulates the frame of black women on a larger scale.
Considering the variation of the Diaspora, centuries of multi-culturalism, migration, slavery and colonization, the genetic make-up of black women’s bodies has changed. In other terms, the women that we perceive to be black women, are not necessarily restricted to women of African origin alone.
This does not mean that every woman of African origin automatically inherits this physique, but you can imagine how the scale of inheritance is ever fluctuating and complex. There has existed a long standing stereotype and association among the way that society views black women and the certain behavioural, or physical attributes that they should possess.

Get it.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

What My Blackness Means To Others


As a black woman I’ve often found myself working very hard to not fit stereotypes imposed on me, which was difficult seeing as many stereotypes can fit any human of any race. For example, I can be loud- but only in social situations. I can be angry-but only if I’ve been upset or I’m passionate about something, I can be opinionated- because I don’t want to sit on the fence, but these things are only a part of who I am. People need to realize that black women offer a lot more than what other’s preconceived notions of them include, and we shouldn’t be defined by a caricature stereotype.
Many times I’ve met people and their comments suggest their opinions are based on stereotypes. I don’t recall every occasion, but there are definitely some standout moments.

 “You don’t seem like the type”
Many moons ago I went to a job interview for a role that required me to be upbeat and outgoing. It was an assessment day where they observed people’s personalities to see if they fit what they were looking for. One activity required us to stand up and state two truths and one lie about ourselves.

When it came to my turn I stated that I had spent a day with Nelson Mandela, I play the violin, and that I had two published books. I was the only black woman going for the job and the rest of the room was made up of white men and women. They decided the lie was that I played the violin; their reason for this was I “didn’t seem like the type”.
I translated that to mean, “you couldn’t possibly play a classical instrument because you are a black woman”, although, I wasn’t aware there was a particular type of person that played a musical instrument! I didn’t know whether I should be flattered or concerned that they thought it was more likely that I’d spent a day with Mandela. Black women can do the same as their white counterparts; race doesn’t limit people’s capabilities!
 “Teach me how to twerk”
Why do people assume all black women know how to twerk? And why do they think black women are their designated twerk coaches? I’ve had many people come up to me at parties and other social settings asking me if I can twerk and to teach them how to do it. Believe it or not, this is not how I like to spend my spare time, I do many other things-twerking isn’t even my preferred dance move!
 “Black girl attitude”

I wasn’t aware there was a label that described every single black woman’s personality, but apparently it is a universal description of a particular attitude. Unfortunately, I’ve heard this on more than one occasion. Although I realize it was used not to cause offense, I wondered why people felt comfortable to assume I understood exactly what they were describing.
I remember in some place I worked, my non-black friend, who was describing one of her other friends and stated she had “a typical black girl attitude,” and continued on with the story as if she perfectly explained what the girl was like.

When she finished the story I realized that a “black girl attitude” described someone who was self-absorbed, aggressive and obnoxious. While incorporating many negative stereotypes attached to black females, it fails to acknowledge other aspects of their personality. There was obviously more to the person she was talking about, however it wasn’t mentioned. I didn’t know what to make of the situation as it made me question what does she think about me? I’m assuming she didn’t think I had a “black girl attitude”. But I do, I’m a black woman, who has an attitude- just like everyone else!
These are only three examples of several incidences I’ve had throughout my life. I’ve been conscious of how I come across to others; there have been times where I thought to tone myself down due to fear of being labelled as obnoxious. I’ve made the effort to being cheery but not overbearing, serious but not miserable and forthright but not rude. I shouldn’t have to edit or censor myself because of negative stereotypes that are ingrained in people’s subconscious, but that’s the reality for many black women. Black women are considerate, intelligent and understanding; we are more than a person with a bad attitude who likes to twerk everywhere we go.
With all this said, my advice to you would be to educate these people and then ignore them! It’s easier said than done, but take a deep breath, find your patience and gently remind them you are more than they think you are. This isn’t something to be angered by, think of it as ignorance and assume if they truly understood the impact of the words they said then they would reconsider these exchanges. Unfortunately you will encounter this for the rest of your life, so the sooner you find a way of dealing with it the sooner you will find peace.

Remember the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete. They make one story the only story.The problem with a single story is that it robs people of dignity. It emphasises how we are different rather than similar.