Not only is it likely that someone (or several someones) are discriminating against you, it is also likely that you are discriminating against someone (or several someones). It is human nature that we like/trust/believe in/select those who are like us more than those who are different from us. So . . . Europeans choose Europeans, Americans choose Americans, young people choose young people. Then there is the problem of stereotypes. We believe them–without even being aware of them for the most part. We believe that ‘old’ people aren’t as capable as people our age. We believe that young people aren’t ambitious (at least the latest generation). Asian people are smart at math. Women aren’t ambitious because they’re going to go have babies. White men are more ambitious than black men. And on and on and on. These stereotypes cause us to discriminate, sometimes without our even being aware of it. Stereotypes are as wrong as they are right. In fact, those of us who are the subject of the stereotypes usually believe they are wrong–period. I say all of this to acknowledge that discrimination is alive and well in all of our behaviors. I’m not in any way defending it, just acknowledging it.
There are laws against discrimination. There are rules against discrimination. There are lots of reasons for all of us to struggle against discrimination by others and ourselves. There are people whose whole existence is focused on the struggle against discrimination.
Can you wait? Can you wait until everyone stops discriminating against you? I can’t. I think it’s time to take the battle on directly. I think it’s time to work around/through/over and under discrimination. Just because the decision makers at your organization think you are too old or too young, that doesn’t mean that that is the case at other organizations. You have a responsibility to yourself to find a place to work that values you for who you are and what you bring to the table. You need to find a way to make a living that values who and what you are.
I talk to people who are absolutely sure that they are being discriminated against. That makes them feel like there is nothing that they can do about it. They are the age they are. They are born black or Hispanic or Asian or female, and nothing can change that. True. There are places, organizations, friends, decision makers, and opportunities where it doesn’t matter. Go find them. You are not sentenced to the status quo. You choose it.
Do something different.
You are not stuck. When you graduated from high school you didn’t think about this the way you do now (unless, of course, you just graduated from high school). Life and your experiences have made you believe that people are discriminating against you. Wipe all that experience off your radar and ASSUME that someone out there can and will believe in you and what you can do. Go FIND them! Where are they? Make people prove that they don’t believe in you instead of assuming that they don’t. To be clear, I’m not saying they AREN’T discriminating. I’m saying, don’t let that rule your life. Go work someplace else. Go work for a different boss. Find a way to make a living (including working for yourself) that doesn’t let those who discriminate against you prevent you from doing/being/having what you deserve. I know that it might be hard. I know that it would be a lot easier for all of us if discrimination wasn’t a factor. Don’t let it prevent you from living your life, making a living, being successful.
And then focus on your own discriminatory behavior.
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