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The Obstacle is Often the Way

By: Joshua D Lyttle, Strength in Structure (SiS) Content Creator

The data has proven that Black people have to work harder and perform better at work and school as they are often more scrutinized than their non-Black peers. But how do Black people and other POC cope with the added pressure?

Through your child's eyes: When we are young, our Black or Brown immigrant parents drill into us the importance of hard work because they know that as children, we believe we can do anything as we have ALREADY put our minds to it.

As children, we are free to do so; we are not exposed to the harshness that exists in the world but solely think that things will play out accordingly. Our parents, wanting to see us do better than themselves, make the necessary effort to walk us through the required steps to success.

Growing up: Now we are older and starting to make decisions. Becoming aware of our environment makes it more apparent how much is required of us. We are now exposed to the increased level of commitment and effort needed to obtain the same things as our counterparts who are not Black, Brown or people of colour.

Whether it's a job opportunity or funding for our startups, the data has proven that Black people have to work harder just to be seen as equal.

Whether it's a job opportunity, entry into a program, recognition of work, funding for our startups or even winning a competition where one should solely be based on performance and results, the data has proven that Black people have to work harder and be better just to be seen as equal.

One can not merely be slightly better, let alone at the same level, NO! We have to be drastically better. No “close margins” or “almost a tie.” That way, even if we are denied the opportunity, it's indisputable why.

We are grateful that we are comfortable working hard. We enjoy being in an uncomfortable position for long periods. We welcome the challenge of having to be exceptional because we know the truth.

Facing difficulty: But what about when it's too difficult, when the game is particularly rigged or when the evaluator is too biased? And, most importantly, when our competitors are just as good, after all, we are not so arrogant to believe that we are the only ones that work hard.

There are genuine people that we will have to compete against, and along with being equally skilled, they will have the bias working for them. What do we do then?

Just accept second place or even third? We are not angry with our competitors; some are our great friends. They have been raised to be equal but are still treated unequally in a way that benefits them by the generation before.

As people of colour, what do we do? Ask them to step down to give us a chance? Of course not, It is not fair to them because maybe they would have won without the bias. And, it is not fair for this to be the only way we can win.

The problem is the solution: What can we do? The only way is to be novel and no one can beat you at a game where you alone compete.

I recognized this after hearing recounts about how Black people were denied entry on a platform or access to something new. What galvanizes me about these stories is that despite these barriers, Black people used the very obstacles meant to keep them out as the way in.

Like when Black-owned clothing brands and products couldn't make it on the existing shelves. We made our own because we grew tired of scouring the old shelves for things that worked for us. And now, we wholeheartedly welcome being able to pace through isles in stores dedicated to us.

When highly educated and skilled people couldn't get into specific workplaces, they started schools and companies that catered to their audience.

Undoubtedly, the areas we are being restricted from have been built with our help, and it is unjust that we don't have equal access. But that does not mean we can not create something again and for ourselves.


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