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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10 Things Someone Who Grew Up In A Private School Knows

The 10 things that every private school-goer knows all too well.

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1. Uniforms

Plaid. The one thing that every private school-goer knows all too well. It was made into jumpers, skirts, shorts, scouts, hair ties, basically anything you could imagine, the school plaid was made into. You had many different options on what to wear on a normal day, but you always dreaded dress uniform day because of skirts and ballet flats. But it made waking up late for school a whole lot easier.

2. New people were a big deal

New people weren't a big thing. Maybe one or two a year to a grade, but after freshman year no one new really showed up, making the new kid a big deal.

3. You've been to school with most of your class since Kindergarten


Most of your graduating class has been together since Kindergarten, maybe even preschool, if your school has it. They've become part of your family, and you can honestly say you've grown up with your best friends.

4. You've had the same teachers over and over

Having the same teacher two or three years in a row isn't a real surprise. They know what you are capable of and push you to do your best.

5. Everyone knows everybody. Especially everyone's business.

Your graduating class doesn't exceed 150. You know everyone in your grade and most likely everyone in the high school. Because of this, gossip spreads like wildfire. So everyone knows what's going on 10 minutes after it happens.

6. Your hair color was a big deal

If it's not a natural hair color, then forget about it. No dyeing your hair hot pink or blue or you could expect a phone call to your parents saying you have to get rid of it ASAP.

7. Your school isn't like "Gossip Girl"

There is no eating off campus for lunch or casually using your cell phone in class. Teachers are more strict and you can't skip class or just walk right off of campus.

8. Sports are a big deal

Your school is the best of the best at most sports. The teams normally go to the state championships. The rest of the school that doesn't play sports attends the games to cheer on the teams.

9. Boys had to be clean-shaven, and hair had to be cut

If you came to school and your hair was not cut or your beard was not shaved, you were written up and made to go in the bathroom and shave or have the head of discipline cut your hair. Basically, if you know you're getting written up for hair, it's best just to check out and go get a hair cut.

10. Free dress days were like a fashion show

Wearing a school uniform every day can really drive you mad. That free dress day once a month is what you lived for. It was basically a fashion show for everyone, except for those upperclassmen who were over everything and just wore sweat pants.

Cover Image Credit: Authors Photos

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22 Things Parents Should Send Their Children At College, If They Love And Miss Them

We're getting to that point in the semester, y'all.

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Even though college students are just a little over a month into the spring semester, we are already feeling high amounts of stress over tests and papers. Nobody said college was going to be easy, and this statement is ringing truer and truer each day. So, to the parents, grandparents, or anybody else who loves us and cares about our well being, here are 22 things you should send us if you love and miss our presence.

1. Gift cards to the local grocery store. 

Preferably Walmart or Food Lion, since that's all we have here in Farmville, VA.

2. Room decor from the Target dollar section. 

Or anything from Target, for that matter. Some college towns don't have one of these glorious establishments, and we are experiencing withdrawals.

3. School supplies. 

You can never have too many sticky notes or colored pens.

4. Mints. 

Because some people need it after lunch, and gum is disgusting.

5. A cozy blanket. 

For those cold nights spent in the library until 2 in the morning.

6. A handwritten letter. 

These are one of my favorite things to get in the mail, and there is always something so sentimental about snail mail.

7. A giant box of fruit snacks...

Definitely one of my favorite grab and go snacks.

8. ... Or candy, in general. 

Preferably, gummies. But, I won't refuse chocolate candy either.

9. Cash. 

For those late night Taco Bell runs, or just to make us feel a little bit better about ourselves.

10.  A funny movie/DVD. 

There's something so simple and serene about watching a funny movie on a DVD player that brings us back to the less stressful times of our childhood.

11.  Hot chocolate mix. 

I always get random cravings for hot chocolate, but it's never enough to make me want to go buy a box of mix.

12.  Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts gift cards. 

Because the majority of our lives revolve around coffee, and sometimes our Keurigs just don't cut it.

13.  Peanut butter crackers. 

These are so quick and easy to eat between classes (or if you're like me, IN class).

14.  Scent diffuser. 

This can be even better if you send a scent that reminds us of home.

15.  Hair ties. 

For some reason, I only own about five at a time because I am always losing these!

16.  Homemade cookies/brownies. 

These always make me so happy knowing my mom took time out of her busy day to think of me and bake yummy treats.

17.  Gift cards for our favorite online shopping stores. 

What better way to relieve stress than buy clothes you don't need?

18.  Nail polish. 

You can never have too many bottles of the same shade of pink.

19.  Mug warmer. 

These help keep your cup of coffee warm for long periods of time so you don't end up wasting such a sacred drink.

20.  Lysol wipes/hand sanitizer. 

I go both of these things at an alarming rate because some places are just plain disgusting.

21.  Band-aids. 

No one ever really thinks of buying these, but they work for so many more reasons than their typical use.

22.  iTunes gift card. 

For all those "educational apps" our professors tell us to buy. *wink wink*

Every college student loves getting a care package in the mail, so if you really love and miss us, please send one our way!

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