There have been several moments in my career that I could call defining moments. These are moments that led to personal and professional growth, or just helped me shape my perspectives. What I am about to share is one of them. It was a reminder that looks do matter, my skin color matter. It was and still is a reminder that for better or worse, perceptions shaped by society do matter.
Years ago, I had personally invited a vendor to do a presentation of their product to our campus. The moment he entered the room, it immediately struck me that he clearly did not make any effort to paying attention to me. He wouldn’t look at me, just focusing and being friendly to my colleague and my boss, both white males. Throughout the hour presentation, he barely looked at me, seemed to favor the questions posed by my two co-workers. When I did ask, he was very abrupt in his answers and very dismissive. At the conclusion of his presentation, he asked my boss who was leading the project and if we were to choose his product, who would he be working with. My boss told him it would be me. At that second, the vendor immediately focused his attention to me and completely changed his attitude. All of a sudden, I mattered. We went to lunch after the presentation and he spent the whole time trying to gain my favor back. We ended not choosing his product.
I am left to this day thinking why the vendor acted the way he did. I can only guess, but who knows. Here’s what I do know, to this day, I feel the need to work harder, prove myself more than those around me. I have the need to be always presentable in how I dress, how I act, just to be considered to be at the same level as those around me. How I look and dress shouldn’t matter right? I wish that was the case. For those privileged enough to not have to worry whether their skin color, their look don’t matter, this obviously isn’t an issue for them. Maybe I’m wrong, what do you think?