I am a brown girl with a Muslim name. And these two visibly obvious identities have cost me serious opportunities as a freelance writer. I am othered and dismissed for these perfectly invalid reasons. I am not offered fair pay or room for negotiation and my pitches are rejected only to show up as pieces by white writers. The sting is worse when their articles are borderline fluff pieces, pieces that were chosen over mine because white supremacy reigns supreme. And when I apply for part-time jobs or contract positions, the story remains the same.
I know the way I am treated is not a reflection of my writing skills. But given that it happens over and over again, it has negatively affected my self-esteem.
I have impostor syndrome so specific to non-white people that I call it People Of Color Syndrome (POCD).
Whenever I apply to jobs or pitch publications, I only do it as a chore because in the back of my mind, I know I’m probably not going to get it. It’s not like everyone is out to get people who look like me or those with the power to say no are bad guys. It’s just that unconscious bias and subconscious racism are globally palpable. Even when I get a freelance gig, I am often taken aback and sometimes, even wonder what’s wrong with the publication that they trusted me!
To be perfectly clear, I didn’t start off with low self-esteem as a writer. I used to believe in my ideas and abilities.
Sadly, over time, my confidence has plummeted instead of grown because my rejections have not been standard. For example, ghosting and talking down on the part of editors is not something my white counterparts have frequently experienced.
It’s easy to say dismissive things like “this does not define you, get over it” as these people have suggested. I would love to move on but how can I when even in the middle of a pandemic, people are hung up on racial differences? I am tired of being excluded, and I am done keeping quiet.
Diversity needs to be put in practice for real instead of being an act of tokenism.
Virtue signaling to appear woke is easy, being truly anti-racist is hard. But it’s about time more people stepped up and did it. Systemic racism impacts one’s dignity, opportunities, mental health, and even causes bodily harm and death. It’s taken us so long to stand up against such a widespread human rights violation. We owe it to the oppressed to end white privilege and closer home, the caste system.
I know there will be people who will think I am playing a victim or blaming someone for my shortcomings. But I also know there are folks who will get me because they are either aware of reality or have had similar experiences. I have two things to say to both kinds:
A) Educate yourself and put yourself in my shoes instead of invalidating my truth and victim-blaming. Make changes in the system if you can.
B) Hold on and do your best in spite of the prevalence of prejudiced gatekeepers. Also, as far as possible, choose businesses that respect people irrespective of the color of their skin.
To paraphrase the French, it’s time for liberty, equality, and fraternity to replace oppression, injustice, and hate.
Do you face discrimination at work because you are not white? How do you deal with it? Please share your stories in the comments below. This is a safe, judgment-free zone, and aliases are perfectly okay.