Updated: Jun 10, 2021
As humans, we have always looked to external influences for guidance on what we can become. It could have been our teachers, parents, the media or other sources but an outside voice plays a great part in what we believe we can be and how we go about pursuing this belief.
The level of negativity immigrants of color have had to endure (in and out of the workplace) especially in the last 6 years emphasizes the importance of our voices. Muttered complaints and silent laments will no longer suffice.
It is time to take responsibility for how (and how often) we are represented in the workplace, leadership and in the Media.
Here are 5 reasons why representation is essential for a thriving African immigrant community:
To counter beliefs and debunk myths that immigrants are a burden to society and that we make no significant contribution. This is a lie that’s really widespread. This idea that people come to this country and sit in their homes, twiddling their thumbs and collecting welfare checks is so far from the truth that it’s stunning.
It's time we start paying attention to how we’re represented and how often it happens. Many of our immigrant communities still operate in a mindset that desiring recognition for your achievements is arrogance and as long as we allow this sort of modesty to silence us, we’ll always be seen as burdens to the society we’re actually invaluable to.
Representation in leadership means that someone in rooms that truly matter is thinking about us. That someone knows the immigrant struggle and is aware of how racism and the absence of diversity and inclusion affects us in every way from how we are paid to how often we get promoted or even hired.
The younger generations need to see this representation to help them understand who they are and all that they can become. Representation helps them see that it’s all possible and nothing should keep them from attaining their dreams. It’s one thing to hear it and it’s another to see it actually happen. It takes away every excuse the mind can come up with in those moments when doubt creeps in.
Looking inward, it will finally put to bed another common conviction among Immigrants which is that we are not welcome in certain spaces, industries to be precise. That’s not saying there’s no truth in it - the majority may prefer it to remain a non-diverse space. It’s a sort of internalized oppression - hearing that you are not welcome to certain tables and that you will be bullied is not exactly encouragement to pursue that goal. So how can we change this?
The power of community and mentoring can’t be overemphasized but representation holds the door open for others to come in.
Sadly, racism is still a major deterrent to getting all of our flowers, coins and respect as human beings and major contributors. It also doesn’t seem like there’s enough of a buy-in at the top. Leaders aren’t currently being held accountable for their lack of consideration or strategy to Immigrants. Still, representation and Immigrant voices have a major role to play.
I'm not asking us to yell our way in. At least not yet. I'm asking that we realize the downside of complete assimilation that has us totally believing that we are like everyone else even when we aren't and shouldn't be.
How do you think African migrants can be better represented in the spaces you frequent?
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