Don’t miss this utterly gorgeous piece from friend of the site Jamia Wilson, at Rookie. It’s about how her experience as Black woman with a disability – she was born legally blind in one eye – have shaped her understanding of what it means to conform to and defy expectations:
I was supported and cared for at home, but my overachieving family feared laziness more than bullying—the main instruction they gave me about my eyes was not to use them as an excuse not to excel. If I was going to have only one eye that worked, I remember my mom telling me, I had better use that eye to do exceptional things, and to make sure it and I looked fabulous doing them (this may have contributed to my hatred of those glasses). It’s like what Olivia Pope’s father says to her on my favorite show, Scandal: “You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have” if you’re a black woman—or, in my case, a black woman with a disability—who wants to be successful in a world that isn’t always receptive to you.
As soon as I started school, I pushed myself constantly to work extra-hard at everything I did, even when it was time to rest or ask for help. I studied for inhuman hours and still received less-than-stellar grades in geometry instead of confessing that it took me longer than most people to read math problems, and I regarded every mistake or average mark as a sign of defeat. When I did well at my work, well-meaning family members or teachers often made comments like “Wow, look at all you’ve done with [insert whatever academic achievement here]. Just imagine what you could do with two perfect eyes,” not knowing I was tormented by that very idea—that I was missing something that I was convinced would make me stronger, faster, and more efficient.
It’s a courageous and compelling piece of writing, and one that really got me thinking about how we internalize the way other people look at us, speak to us, and project their expectations of what an “excellent” person is or does onto us. You can – and should – read the whole thing here.
Chloe Angyal came out of the womb opinionated.