Black is My History

I didn’t quite feel comfortable letting the last minutes of February slip by without saying something. As busy as life gets, and the farther we get from elementary school programs and poster boards, the more we have to attune to the real black history – not just the history that made us, but the history we’re making for generations to come. 

I know that for myself, there are two things I’ll always take pause for – race and religion. I’d say, smelling the roses isn’t quite the appropriate phrase, unless you imagine holding the thorned stem in clenched fists while breathing in what good the aroma that opposes the pain brings.

It’s taken all of this short month, but today is my turn to remind myself of all the subtle ways we put “power” into being Black.

Being a Black speech-language pathologist, a Black Latina, a Black Master’s grad, a Black writer, a Black snowboarder, a Black business, a Black … anything.

While it means so much more that we acknowledge how important it is to be Black in just about any space, we also acknowledge that the space was for some reason not made just right for us.

… or so it may seem.

If I were to describe my Black experience as an SLP, I’d say it’s been great.

Great?

Great. More than great. And it’s quite the surprise. I remember sitting in a white-dominated classroom in undergrad being taught about AAVE (newly referred to as AAE) and while my tongue usually prefers a more standard English, I was the professional on the topic with many blue and green eyes and dropped jaws unable to grasp the topic for what it really was.

I remember punching the air in grad school when I nearly failed an in-house clinical rotation, and a black supervisor gave me “the eye” and reminded me of what I needed to prove.

I remember being rejected reference letters because of my “demeanor”.

I thought for a while SLP might not offer much but proving myself time and time again.

Yet… somewhere along the way I was a little more self sufficient. I walked a little more confidently.

I embraced people in employment and academic settings that made me feel at home around them, which were not many.

I embraced mentorship that pushed me to be great because I needed to be great, and not because I needed to be great for a black person.

And now, I can say I have not worked in a single place that put me under the kind of pressure I was most afraid of: a place where the pressure rises around me each day to not be an outsider, to rise above each occasion, to be a socialite in the effort of accomplishing these things effectively.

Have I experienced any racism? Yes, once or twice with 95 year old dementia patients that loved me just as the hard the following day.

But, I have felt systematically safe. I’ve ensured, in my own way, that an imbalanced demographic would not stand in my way. Going back to my “interview tactics”, you don’t just bring YOU to the interview, you bring YOU to work every single aching day. I’ve turned down jobs, school acceptances, and anything else that I felt would lead to my discomfort or distraction with things other than what I came for.

I’ve realized with time, that I don’t have to do that. SLP has offered me something much greater than simply avoiding an uncomfortable situation – it’s given me peace in turmoil, resilience in chaos, the motive to serve, and the why? I am persistently trying to satisfy.

It’s still great to have the ability to see many people that look like me in high places – it’s a Black girl’s forever dream to have a Barbie doctor, dentist, or model with an afro. 

I’m somebody’s Barbie speech therapist – just with shorter legs and dreadlocks. I move at the beat of my own drum here. I take the roads less traveled. I follow ALL of my dreams.

So, when someone complains that they’re out of place in a white-dominated space… I just reflect on my own path and realize that community just makes us feel ourselves. It isn’t the source of power, though – that is from within.

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