“One day you’ll see..when you see who your friends really are, they won’t be English”
Flashback to 14 years ago. I was discussing life in the U.K. with a black, braid-wearing fellow IT student and could feel him growing more frustrated by me not joining in with him saying he felt like and outsider. Then he said the above.
At the time, I thought I was being the rebel and daring to see beyond limiting labels and excuses. Seeing the path of opportunity.
This was partially enabled by the fact that the U.K. was factually treating me better than my home country. Firstly, I wasn’t receiving daily verbal abuse or a parade of stink eye as I walked down the street.
And secondly, because I believed in the following:
- Integration would lead to acceptance in the U.K
- Meritocracy & hustle culture: that hard work and contribution naturally lead to respect and promotions
(It helped that I was ignorant on intersectionality and how class, education, and education privilege worked in the U.K., but that’s a different story)
If I wasn’t being fully accepted right now, it was because I was still a student. Not yet contributing to society and still learning to integrate.
They offload the burden of bias that exists within the system onto individuals affected by bias. Cruelly telling them to mimic, as much as possible, those who uphold the bias.Tweet
Why these beliefs don’t work “in the wild”
“Integration is a path to acceptance” is the POC/immigrant equivalent of telling women to “lean in”, or speak with less vocal burr and to use power stances. Meritocracy is the same, but applied everyone who isn’t already wealthy.
They offload the burden of bias that exists within the system onto individuals affected by bias. Cruelly, telling them to mimic, as much as possible, those who uphold the bias.
Here’s what I’ve since learned
- No matter how much you integrate you’re never quite doing it “enough”.
- Not every immigrant is expected to integrate as much. Irish, Americans, French, and Scandinavians, for example, are positively rewarded for their little “cultural quirks”.
- In the end, there are exactly two kinds of people in this world, for poc/immigrants in a new country. The same two kinds of people for women who work in male dominated fields:
- Those who will accept you
- Those who won’t.
And how you dress, stand, alter your voice pitch and which power words will have very little to do with it.
Mindsets Designed to Isolate
All it does is act as a distraction for YOU, to believe that you haven’t quite mastered the “formula” of acceptance or success or love. You are bringing your misery onto yourself.
Meaning, you busy yourself in more training and self-development. You find yourself lamenting your lack of “consistency”. Your morning routine that isn’t long enough or early enough.
You see posts like this.
They remind you that downtime isn’t an option. Making friends and building a support networks is the reason you’re “behind”.
So you put longer hours at work, trying to prove yourself. Work on your “mindset”. More “integration”; mimicking other peoples habits and tastes to such an extent that you forget who you even are at times.
These ideas keep us focused on our hustle, our flaws, our healing.
They keep us feeling ashamed and like failures despite trying and trying. When we could just be connecting and helping each other.
Meanwhile, the problem is external and unchanged.
These ideas keep us focused on our hustle, our flaws, our healing. They keep us feeling ashamed and like failures despite trying and trying. When we could just be connecting and helping each other.Tweet
How “Divide and Conquer” became “Divide and Market”
You may have heard the story about how everyday products became gendered even with it doesn’t make sense to do so.
Because it’s easier to make money off people that way.
Q: But how do you do that with knowledge products? Things that don’t sit on the shelf?
Answer: By getting us to believe that individual pursuit of self improvement is a virtue and that asking for help or support is lazy and shameful.
It’s easier to get us to pay for programming bootcamps and leadership courses, diets and workouts. Easier to sell us monthly access to support communities and programs with weekly mentorships as long as we believe doing so for money is a sign of ambition.
Actual organic community support, mentorship and skill-sharing would ruin that business model.
I have a growth mindset but..
1 . You can’t self improve enough to compensate for system that is collectively broken.
2. It’s unhealthy to think of yourself as a never ending project of things to improve, of goals of achive, until you are “allowed” happiness.
3. Happiness cannot be something you can defer for when you “make it”. Because even if you tell yourself “I’ll give this 12 months”, I promise you, when 12 months are over, you’ll find yourself saying “lol, obviously that didn’t work, but this new thing will.. I’ll give it 12 months”.
Happiness is something you deserve to have right now. Because your life is now.
4. You will spend a lot of money believing otherwise (like I have), because the conclusion of all these things is to “invest in yourself” with a link to a 500-2k dollar course and access to an “exclusive online community”.
So, what advice would I give to a younger version of me?
1. If you want to learn skills for work (soft of hard) you’re be better off with a linked-in learning account rather than a “masterclass” or “academy” from an influencer who’s always talking about how well they built their “empire”. For coding skills, freecodeacademy or treehouse (don’t have subscription fomo, cut them when you’re not using them anymore). Don’t sign a contract with an online school that makes you promise them a cut of your future pay check. Cos then you can’t afford to leave that job until it’s paid back.
2. My university education wasn’t a big factor in getting hired or even in finding freelance work today: my social network was. Don’t agonise over perfecting your portfolio if you have a presentable one; instead build your IRL social network and professional network and nurture it. Just be a decent person. Nothing fake required.
3. Being accepted by anyone, a community or a romantic parter shouldn’t be dependant on changing immensely or paying for access. It’s normal to be influenced by people (and a culture!) you love, so if there’s zero influence evident, then yeah, people/ your partner might have reason to be weary. But just like you don’t lose all your passions and adopt your new partners passions, you shouldn’t feel like “being you” is bad. Your accent is fine. Your clothing is fine. Your love of hot sauce on scrambled eggs is fine.
I feel bad when I think of the connections I didn’t make with POC who tried to reach out to me as a student because I was too defensive to understand what they were saying about their lived experience.
Mostly I feel bad that I unintentionally alienated them. The only thing in my favour was that I believed they lived that and experienced what they told me. And I remember their stories. I remember that quote.
And he wasn’t totally right, but when it came to sending out wedding invitations, he was reasonably close.