By Elisabet Medina
When I was in high school, I had a teacher who told me that I was better off taking trigonometry than I would be if took pre-calculus. She was concerned that I couldn’t handle the rigor of pre-calculus. I remember that she was a teacher that would tell us to open our books, read the chapter and do worksheets. When I had a question and would go to her desk, she was on MySpace.com. This teacher basically telling me that I couldn’t do it, forced me to petition to get into pre-calculus. I worked twice as hard getting an A- and then B+ both semesters.
At my first job as a social worker, I once had a supervisor tell me that I was not management material. This supervisor told me I have an inability to make the tough decisions, that I’m too emotionally invested. Now I am a Program Manager, responsible for oversight of all of the Family Shelters in the City and County of San Francisco.
Whether it is because of age, gender, race or other identity, people can underestimate our abilities. The truth is that potential is not boxed in by identity. As women of color we have to break out of the boxes of others’ expectations of what we can achieve.
Let’s put our talents and energy towards efforts that acknowledge all we bring to the table. Look for people and opportunities that believe in you and see your limitless potential. Be on guard for people and environments that are toxic and only serve to tokenize. There are environments that preach diversity, equity and inclusion but in practice do not give opportunities for people of color to be in positions of power. And if there are people of color in decision making roles they are often undermined and discredited.
Be thankful for the people that don’t think you can do it, go out prove them wrong, learn from those opportunities and grow where you are planted. Let’s put our time, energy and talent towards what matters- making a difference in our communities and empowering others.