As I sit and type this letter, I think of you. I think of the hope that swells inside of me that I have for you and your children and their children. At the time of writing, it’s Fall in the year 2020 and your ‘GramMa’ is feverishly working to prepare a better world for you. A world where you are afforded resources, relationships and representation regardless of the pronunciation of your name, the texture of your hair or the color of your skin. I’m doing this with the help of other like-minded adults at my workplace, Blue Yonder, where our objective is to have a workspace that is inclusive of culture and rich in diversity with respect to gender, ethnicity, color, religion and sexual orientation.
I know you’re probably wondering how the pronunciation of a name affects a person’s access to resources or representation; however, research shows that in the workplace, applicants with “white-sounding” names are 50% more likely to get a callback than applicants with “black-sounding” names. But do not worry, my beloved. We are working to change that narrative by implementing effective strategies to address the results stemming from these institutional practices. And so, I challenge you to require others to respect you enough to learn your name. One of my favorite actresses, Uzo Abuda, said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky, Dostoyevsky, and Michelangelo, they can learn to say yours.” You are worthy of others calling you by your chosen name.
Even still, aside from the derivation of the pronunciation of a name, inequities in society and the workplace are also driven by how African American women wear their hair. In 2019, the CROWN Act was created by Dove® and the CROWN Coalition “to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending protection to hair texture and protective styles in the workplace and public schools. Research shows that black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair.” In 2020, the CROWN Act was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and in seven states! Whether you decide to wear your hair in cornrows, afro puffs, dreads and locs, twists or straight, how you wear the hair that naturally comes from your scalp has no bearings on your intellect and is not indicative of professionalism in the workplace.
Finally, my beloved, I pray that a man’s dream from 1963 has become a reality in your time. The dream that you will live in a nation where you are not judged by the color of your skin but by the content of your character. I know that unconscious biases are stereotypes that individuals form about other people outside of their own conscious awareness. I know that there is systemic racism within our educational systems, housing markets and employment opportunities. I know dreams promised are sometimes deferred. And yet, I stand resilient and strong so not to give up because it’s not about me, but you. I will work to cultivate a legacy for you where division is bridged by inclusion, safe spaces and belonging.
There were many before me that paved the way to make the world better. Now it’s my turn to make the world richer, better, safer and more fulfilling for you. I am excited about leaving you a legacy of resources to help you maneuver through this world.
You may encounter times when you want to give up or days when things don’t go your way, but remember and speak this mantra my mother told me, “keep living.” Despite disappointments, distractions and discouragements, keep living! If you haven’t reached a goal, keep living – you will! Failed today? Keep living – tomorrow you will succeed! You were born to be great. Keep living until those around you know the same!