7 Things Women Of Color Should Never Apologize For, Because We Deserve To Live Our Lives
As women, we're often made to feel as if we need to apologize for things that, frankly, we shouldn't be apologizing for. Things like our looks, our personal style, our ambitions, our goals, our successes, our failures — we have a right to own these things, without shame and without needing to seek permission. They are definitely aspects of our lives that we should be proud of. Apologizing means you're sorry for something — and you should never be sorry to own the space you're in. If men don't need to constantly say they're sorry, than neither should you. I often find that this need to apologize as a woman is often compounded by my race. As a woman of color, I'm constantly trying to make myself appear as non-threatening as possible to avoid fulfilling the expectations that people put on me based on media portrayals.
To counter that, I find that I usually swing in the opposite direction: I come across as meek, shy, apologetic, and ultimately, just not myself at all. I violently swing between two extremes that I would rather avoid altogether. On one end, I end up coming across as angry, sassy or bossy; On the other end, I come across as quiet, timid, and unimpressive. Where is the freedom to be complex, filled with subtleties, variations, and grey areas? Why must I be pushed to one of two extremes in the perceptions of other people?
It's difficult trying to navigate spaces when you're looking to be welcomed and accepted, but at the end of the day, that is never worth sacrificing your best self. Here are some examples of just some of the things you should never apologize for as a woman of color:
1. Speaking our minds
There are times where I will be frank and honest, and there are other times where I will purse my lips and hold my tongue. I almost always regret not speaking up. You have a write to express your mind and opinion, and you should never feel as if you have to apologize for being truthful. There have been times where I've politely corrected someone for something insensitive they said, and then apologized for it to soften the blow. What!? If anything, they should be the ones apologizing to me if you think about it. And yet there I am, saying sorry for daring to call out the problematic thing THEY did. It's not a crime to illuminate the mistakes of others, and yet, this is something that women of color are CONSTANTLY vilified for.
2. Being ambitious
People will try to tell you that you can only achieve so much as a woman of color—don't listen to them. Barrel right through that. Yes, it's hard, but don't let others telling you how it is bring you down. Don't apologize for working hard or putting in the extra work. You're doing this for you, and hopefully doing that will help to pave the path for others.
If you are a woman of color, chances are you've gotten at least one comment implying that you've only gotten to where you are, or achieved any degree of success, because of a quota system or handout. First, it's important to remember that racial quotas are illegal. Second, don't ever let people downplay your talents, skills, and the hard work you've put in. You've gotten to where you are because, despite everything else, you worked crazy hard for it. Don't apologize for it or let people tell you otherwise.
4. Rocking your look
Salwar-kamis, box braids, dhoti pants, whatever—it's yours and you have a right to own it. It's an unfortunate reality that, especially in the U.S., people will stare at you if being yourself doesn't happen to fit into the majority-defined status quo (or, in this case, Euro-centric beauty standards). It's another unfortunate reality that it's hard to wear your hair naturally in environments where people consider it to be unprofessional. (yes, that's right: The hair that grows out of your head is considered unprofessional in some places.) These spaces are the ones that need to apologize, not the other way around.
5. Telling other people how it is
If someone says something you don't like, TELL THEM. You should be able to live your life without someone spewing ignorance at you on the daily. Also, don't you dare apologize for correcting someone on something they should have never said in the first place.
6. Walking into a space where you feel unwelcome
Don't apologize for being anywhere that you deserve to be. Of course, that's much easier said than done. It's hard to walk into a room when you feel like everyone is staring at you, especially when it's not for the best reasons. It gets harder when you have to ask yourself question like, "Okay, why do I not feel welcome here? Am I crazy? Am I overthinking it? Am I imagining things?" Even if your identity as a woman of color makes other people feel like you don't belong in a certain space, you have to remember that those are THEIR issues to deal with—you just have to own it and constantly tell yourself that this is where you should be.
7. Doing things that people would not expect you to do
Cosplay, gaming, water polo, fishing, chess...I'm just listing off random things here, but the point is, don't ever allow other's expectations define what you really want to do. I've had so many people approach me and say I must really be a great dancer (lol what?) when what I really like to do is play board games and read graphic novels. DON'T LET THEM THROW YOU OFF GUARD. Always, always, always do you, and never apologize for it.
Images: Getty Images; Giphy(5); Instagram/wearewakanda; Instagram/vannie3000