Let me start out by saying that I am a woman and I am African American, meaning that I have two sets of stereotypes against me.
As a woman, I should fit into certain gender roles. Because I am black, I ultimately have to live with the fact that I am considered by others to be a minority. Just because of my physical aspects, society would lead me to believe I already have the odds against me.
People may want to sweep the dirty facts under the rug and say that we live in a world where there is no more fear of diversity, and that everything is okay now. This of course is false.
If it was concordant with the facts, all women would be able to pursue their dreams without expecting any unfair limits in their way.
Take Misty Copeland, for example. She recently became the first black principal ballerina in an international dance company and is starring in the ballet “The Sleeping Beauty” in its debut in Detroit. This wasn’t without hard work and pushing past the obvious fact that she looked nothing like her dance counterparts. Her skin and body type was different than other dancers. African Americans just weren’t a part of the ballet world. But Copeland had a dream.
In a PBS News Hour special, Copeland read from her memoir, saying that she imagined herself “on the stage, not as a member of the corps, but as a principal dancer.”
“It felt right,” she read. “It felt like a promise. Some day, somehow, it was going to happen for me.”
Zendaya also recently became another strong young woman to look up to in today’s culture. At the 2015 Oscars, she was ostracized for her hair. In African American culture, locs are considered a beautiful hairstyle. But of course, she was made fun of and stereotyped for her hair.
Instead of reacting in a harsh way, Zendaya chose to reply in a dignified manner, stating that the reason she decided to wear locs is because she wanted to showcase them in a positive way, and “to remind people that the color of our hair is enough.” Fast forward a few months, and Zendaya now has her own beautiful Barbie doll that represents to women, young and old, that we are indeed enough.
To be clear, I feel that all women can look up to Copeland and Zendaya, not just women of color. They represent what it means to be strong and accepting who you are despite what others say about you. In 2015 and as a young college woman coming into her own among thousands of others doing the same, it’s important that we remember what it means to love ourselves and fight for our goals no matter who tries to slam the door in our face.
Life isn’t fair, and breaking the barriers of discrimination is not easy. But it can be done with determination. The end result, as we’ve seen, can be priceless.