Los Angeles — Last summer I took a big step for myself and entered the corporate realm, finally leveling up tremendously. I had finally gained confidence and had the groundwork to move to achieve a goal of mine which was to enter the field of Information Technology (IT).
I heard incredible things about IT on social media, about how people of color with or without degrees were able to utilize their technical skills to flourish working with top companies in the tech departments, with or without the use of degrees relevant to the field or any at all. My aunt informed me about a nonprofit that offered a program that I felt was ‘’too-good-to-be-true.’’ They would ideally connect underrepresented people of color from low-income communities to opportunities in a few core fields or ‘’tracks,’’ as they called it, of their choosing. Then perspectives would ultimately be partnered with remote or onsite work across top corporate companies.
I did my research and felt overall that I had nothing to lose.
According to ciodive.com, about 3.7% of professionals in technical roles at large tech companies are Black Americans; a 1% increase in seven years. I am aware of the discrimination that my people face in general with our existence. Add that to the fact that there are so few of us in the technological field, creating an invisible yet tangible ceiling that doesn’t allow us to know our worth in the IT field due to belittlement and redundant questioning of our place and skill set.
Most of the tech info that was covered and demonstrated I felt I already implemented in my life were reinforced and elevated for me to enter in my internship. However, there are some things that even the most comprehensive textbooks or sensitivity training won’t teach you.
I requested to meet with one of my supervisors. Everything was going well until my supervisor made a comment that he was “going to crack the whip on ya boy” — in reference to him ordering tasks. I found this very strange considering that me and the other intern were Black. I brushed it off, yet uncomfortable, and went on my way until later on when it turned out the statement wasn’t an isolated incident. I was working with my colleague when this same supervisor made a very off-color joke about himself being a “like a slave driver,” with a motion of his wrist like he was cracking a whip. This to me, coupled with the belittling nature of one of the other supervisors that I had, disgusted me, and I went straight to the leaders of my program that helped me land this internship.
I am very appreciative about the quick response and that they were equally just as appalled and frustrated as they advocated for me every step of the way. Thankfully, instead of having to be in that workplace that was unprofessional, I managed to gain a certification online for IT, while still being a part of the internship, maintaining and broadening my skills and keeping my mind sharp.
As this is something no one in the corporate or even in a society should experience, I was distraught, but I know that I am not the only one. While racism is still alive and well in our society, there is still hope. No one should deserve to be treated as I had. And to the ones who have not spoken up yet, know that you are not alone and that you are strong and worthy of support. No one deserves to feel the pain that our ancestors felt, and no work should be described as slavery.