As time progressed and more interns joined the team, I began to realize that even though I was the fist intern to emerge on the scene, I had somehow become an afterthought and actually ended up being the underdog. I began to look at myself in the mirror and wonder why God hadn’t made me one of those blacks that white people found non-threatening. Maybe then they would be able to see past my race and realize that I was actually intelligent and was good for more than just my creative abilities and was capable of more than discussing what came on BET last night. Instead, I was treated like I was incompetent, incapable, ignorant, and unreliable. This was a difficult pill to swallow since I had always been an extremely hard worker as well as an overachiever.
There were days where I wanted to flip out on everyone from the department director to the interns, but my mother just would not allow me to. “You walk in there with your head held high,” she’d say to me before dropping me off in front of the building in the mornings. “Never let them believe that they’ve broken you. You come from a lineage of women built to weather the storm and you will not give them what they want.”
Eventually the internship ended and I remember walking away feeling down at first. I had somehow internalized the untrue assumptions they had made of me and wondered what if I really was incompetent and not good enough for this industry.
I mean, I had tried my best and even that was viewed as not good enough. I then reflected on the scene from The Green Mile just before John Coffey is put to death by electrocution and his last words were, “I’m sorry for who I am.” This simply put six-word quote summarizes the entire issue of race relations in this country.
No matter how much of a good person John Coffey was and despite the fact that he did not commit the crime that he was accused of, there were still people who had images of him in their minds in which they refused to budge on. He understood that he wasn’t looked at harshly because of the crime he allegedly committed, but because of who he was. Instead of looking past his color to the person he was and what he had to offer, they clung to stereotypes. And instead of giving me a fair shot and realizing all I had to offer, those at my internship clung to stereotypes as well. I could have continued feeling bad about the fact that they chose to overlook my potential, but in the end, that was their loss. I might not have been a good fit for their company, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be stellar somewhere else. So with that in mind, I remember exiting the office building on the last day of my internship thinking, “I am not sorry for who I am, and I refuse to be broken.”
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