The Perils Of Professionalism and Diversity

The Perils Of Professionalism and Diversity

The truth is the workspace is not a safe space. It is another space where survival becomes the default mode for oppressed people.
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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what “professionalism” is. This is a phenomenon that I have thought about in the past, but that hadn’t really affected me. I was fortunate and privileged enough to work jobs that are inclusive to a degree where I didn’t feel a need to censor myself — or at least censor myself to the point where I felt severely silenced. I knew I was lucky when I worked these jobs, but I didn’t realize how lucky until recently.

As I transition into different kinds of jobs that require more leadership out of me, I am coming to terms with the fact that professionalism is actually a white male-centric agenda. Again, I knew about this. The problem is that I knew about this intellectually and not in practice. So now that I am realizing how strenuous actually is, I have to reconcile it with the silencing I feel as a Muslim woman of color.

The problem with professionalism is that it alienates those who do not abide by the tacit rules it creates: poor people who do not have the access to the necessary clothing professionalism demands; woke people of color whose voices are silenced in the work space for the benefit of a “comfort” that makes it easier for others to digest their perspective; LGBTQ people whose presentation is deemed “unsuitable” for the workspace; hijabi Muslim women who are told that their veil or apparel is not in accordance with the dress code of a particular setting. These are just a few examples. All of them show how professionalism is just another way to silence and alienate those who are different— either because of their identities or their lifestyles.

This can be incredibly oppressive for some marginalized people. While some may find a way to tread the fine line of codeswitching, where they learn to give their bosses what they want while simultaneously maintaining a sense of self, for others the workspace becomes a dreaded space where a marginalized person has to further confront their oppression. As a result, one is given few choices: assimilate or be rejected. And when these jobs put food on the table and pay bills, what options does one really have?

A cycle of constant anxiety and stress is created. There are no safe spaces. Silence becomes the only option. And the irony of all of this is that we live in a time where diversity and pluralism are supposedly valued. If that is truly the case, then why are so many people silenced? Is diversity really the objective, or the affectation of it? Because in my experience, when I became “myself” as I was encouraged to be by my supervisors, this quickly became a problem and when these same supervisors called me into their offices, I was asked to find another way to say what I wanted to say. So is diversity really valued? Or simply the image of it?

The truth is the workspace is not a safe space. It is another space where survival becomes the default mode for oppressed people. If true inclusion is to be sought, then professionalism needs to be debunked, or at least accessed for its underlying white supremacist, hetero-patriarchal values. We must be willing to give those who are not well represented a space to be themselves as much as we would a straight white man. We must be willing to let people present themselves and to simply exist in the way that allows them to perform at their best.

After all, everyone can benefit from a genuine person. If certain voices are denied, that’s one more unique opinion that will not be contributed during staff meetings and conferences. Comfort for the privileged should not be the end goal; it should not even be seen as a concern when attempting to create a more inclusive working environment. If it is considered, then everything becomes a free for all--another opportunity to silence the marginalized.

We all lose when we police certain perspectives and when the workplace becomes another lie told to marginalized folks about their supposed progress when in reality, it is merely oppression taking on a new form. We must be willing to have a conversation about this stark truth so that all voices can be received with consideration. When we frame dialogue within the lens of a “proper discourse,” what we are really saying is that, if you have something to say outside of that propriety it’s not valid. We must find the courage to face these preconceived paradigms of presentation and behavior so that people can be their authentic selves—or at least as close as possible to them.

Cover Image Credit: startupstockphotos.com

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14 Signs You Go To A Small School No One Has Ever Heard Of

"Your class size is what?!?"

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When most people are in high school, they look at all of the big schools that are known around the country. Schools like Rutgers, Ohio State, UCLA, University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University are often at the top of peoples' lists. Believe it or not, some people don't want to attend a huge college. If you're like me, you like having small class sizes where your professors get to know you and you always see someone you know when you're walking on campus.

Once you decide where you're going and become a student there, you constantly hear the same comments from people, whether they be good or bad- but you wouldn't want it any other way. Here are signs that you go to a small school that no one has ever heard of:

1. People always mess up your mascot

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"Broncs? Like the Denver Broncos?"

"No. Just the Broncs."

2. "Oh I've never heard of that. Where is it?"

3. "Wouldn't you rather go to *insert huge state school here*?"

The answer is always the same — nope.

4. You find people all the time who know or is related to someone who went to your school

"Oh, my cousin's friend went there!"

5. "Your class size is what?!?"

6. You've never had class in a lecture hall

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Or class with more than 50 students.

7. When people come to visit, they can't believe how small your campus is compared to theirs

Well, at least we can get up 10 minutes before class starts instead of an hour to catch a bus.

8. Dining options are limited

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But you joke around and make the most of it, secretly hoping your campus will open a Panera or Chipotle like every other school.

9. People are amazed that you actually get to know your professors and the people in your classes, and that they get to know you

Not to mention that professors are a great reference for getting a job after graduation.

10. If you went to a big high school, your college isn't much bigger

Rider University

There are about 1,000 students per class, so only around 300-400 more students than you graduated high school with.

11. Your school doesn't have all of the big sports, like football

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But hey, at least we're still undefeated!

12. When you get into your major classes, you always have the same people in them

13. You can't find anything with your school's logo on it, so constantly buy more apparel from the bookstore

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You walk out of there $100 poorer with a new sweatshirt, mug, and sweatpants that you didn't need.

14. You get really excited when someone has actually heard of your school

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I Don’t Want To Admit It, But Math IS Important

Liberal Arts majors, this one is for you.

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I hate math with a passion. But I think it's necessary.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about confusing trigonometry or calculus. I'm talking about basic algebra, geometry, and other everyday math functions.

I was never an A+ math student. My dad used to be a high school math teacher, so luckily for me, if I was struggling in my math classes, I would just come home and ask Dad to "tutor" me or prep me for my tests. I feel bad for anyone who had/has a hard time with math and doesn't have such a resourceful person in their life, because I don't think I would've passed my classes without him.

Now, I haven't taken a math class in at least three or four years, but I know that being out in the workforce requires at least basic math skills. How come they teach us how to divide square roots and not applicable things like how to calculate a good tip (shameless plug - always tip your waiters at least 20%) or discounts?

There are so many necessary skills you'll use for your entire life that are not taught in schools.

Long ago when I was in 3rd grade, one of my teachers read us a book called "A Day Without Math." The book basically went through a school day where there was no math. People couldn't see what speed their car was going, cash registers didn't work, clocks were nonexistent...basically, the entire world shut down. Whenever I was frustrated and angry about my math class or a certain problem, I tried to remember that book. As much as I despised going to a math class only to leave in frustration, I knew it was for my own good.

Because when you think about it, our world really wouldn't function without math!

I wish math classes would've focused on the usefulness and practicality of their teachings instead of what was written in the textbook. Having a dad who worked in the school system, I understood that the teachers had to follow a certain curriculum, so in a way, their hands were tied. But then the issue simply gets passed higher and higher up until you reach the people creating the textbooks and curriculum school systems buy and use.

Maybe there's something we can do, whether it's petitioning for more teaching kids more usable math skills or continuously asking your teachers why you're learning what you're learning. Advocate for yourself and for future generations to learn the skills necessary to survive in our modern world, but at the same time remember that the problem doesn't necessarily stem from teachers but the curriculum being decided at levels far above their pay grade.

Moral of the story - even though I know a good majority of us (especially us liberal arts majors) are not fans of mathematics, let's work on learning and remembering the basics so our world can keep on turning.

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