My skin is a map of my life.
It bears every scar, blemish and wound ever inflicted upon me. It holds the stories of the generations that came before me, all the different crossroads coming together to form me.
My skin is the final outcome of the harmonization of distinct languages, first loves, and heartbreaks, the bloodshed of wars, of diaspora caused by colonialism and imperialism.
I am the conclusion of untold stories, the result of a time long gone but not forgotten. I am the product of my ancestors’ toil.
We are taught to love ourselves, to embrace our differences, to accept our flaws. At the same time, we are commanded to adhere to all of society’s expectations. In the process of enacting such ideas upon ourselves, we lose a pertinent part of our self-identity. We become one of many, no longer one of a kind.
We recognize the role our appearances play in how we are treated in daily life and understand how this feeds into our own insecurities and mindsets.
If we acknowledge the diversity among women, we pull back the metaphorical curtain that hides us from the face of society. We open up new opportunities, new experiences, new abilities -- even chances at a better life -- for women of color, some who have never encountered such freedom before.
Words will always be too limiting in a world so accustomed to categories. We must try our best to break all of this apart.
Despite enormous strides in recent years, women of color still face hurdles when it comes to education, employment or even just being accepted for who they are. Whether it is discrimination against the color of our skin, the shape of our bodies, the texture of our hair or any language barriers, we take a backseat when it comes to many of life’s opportunities.
Center for Women Policy Studies found 21% of women of color surveyed did not feel they were free to be "themselves at work." The same study found more than one-third of women of color believed that they must downplay their race or ethnicity to succeed.
In the world of STEM, women comprise only 8.5% of the country’s engineers and earn 13% less than their male counterparts. Less than half of Ph.Ds in a science or technology field are earned by women. Such stigmas are only manifested and fueled by our often distorted perception of the society around us.
We should be enough as we are. Our intentions should not be questioned and our abilities should not be doubted. We want to be seen for who we are, past such segregations, to only our inner selves existing in whatever kind of body we wish to be in.
There is a significant pay gap that exists between men and women in the workforce, which detaches even further when women of color are involved. While women overall make 77 cents for every dollar the average white male makes, African American women and Hispanic women respectively make 70 cents and 61 cents.
This leads to women of color facing lower wages and high rates of unemployment, a perpetual downward spiraling machine. Depression and anxiety become too prevalent. The issues of wage disparity, gender stereotyping and underrepresentation in the workplace leave women of color grappling for solutions we cannot seem to find.
In the meantime, in many sectors of the economy, the “glass ceiling” continues to stay intact.
The growing amount of fallacious views towards those who do not fit societal American norms -- whether it is because of appearance or culture -- proposes that the solution lies not in ostracizing and pointing fingers, but in working side by side to dismantle fabricated beliefs.
Diversity makes us stronger as human beings because it is a collaboration of new perspectives. Diversity recognizes that women with different backgrounds, skills, attitudes, and experiences can bring fresh ideas and perceptions. Therefore, we should learn to value these differences.
I believe that what is missing is a lack of understanding between cultures, and that acceptance of our differences will come only with a greater knowledge we can pass on to future generations.
That is what makes up the very core of us as human beings.