By Daniela Luzi Tudor
WARNING: This article will make you queasy, uncomfortable, and induce you to reach for any distraction. These will include but not be limited to: your Instagram feed, the news (which at this point is the same quality as your personal social media feed- and no, that’s not a compliment), your pet, or staring at the same text box of the guy or girl you have a crush on but you’re not sure what witty thing to say next to get their attention.
With that, I promise you this is with the intention of opening up ACTION, not discussion, so that we can move towards a better world in our communities, so that the fabric of our lives will cease to be corroded by our well-intentioned yet ignorant actions.
I was born in Romania during communism and when my parents decided to flee, we moved between immigrant asylums and luxurious homes throughout Europe. My parents are both engineers by trade, however during those times in Germany in the late 80’s and early 90’s, immigrants did not get the opportunities to work within their fields of study. Rather, my parents took jobs such as doing yard work, working in restaurants, housekeeping, cooking, and cleaning. Throughout those years, at times we lived in immigrant asylums that were overcrowded as well as the mansions and lavish homes of those that my parents served. Their goal and dream was to one day make it to America, yes, the land of opportunity.
During that time, Romanians were looked down upon as a lesser ethnicity. I experienced prejudice from a young age, bullying and dirty looks. Opportunities in the workplace, socially, and in education were not the same for us as a Romanian immigrant family. As immigrants we were not even permitted to travel to certain parts of the country given our visa statuses.
Even though Romanians have varying colors of skin, and mine is white as it gets, the remarks often involved making comments about being brown and dirty. Yes, that was a term that had negative connotation. Being a young girl just starting school and experiencing these behaviors from my peers demonstrated how these behaviors and attitudes were passed down through the families.
Given these experiences, though, I simply do not desire for anyone to experience the things I experienced. Those years allowed me to love, embrace, and vocally advocate for diversity. Or so I thought.
Fast forward to moving to the U.S., where once I lost my accent and learned English I became a “hidden immigrant”.
anyone who looks like everyone else on the outside but is more like the foreign host country on the inside.
I am also a person in long term recovery from drugs and alcohol addiction. I point this out, because going through my journey with addiction in the U.S. granted me the unique experience of moving between poverty circumstances, counteracted by the opposite circumstances at a very rapid rate that I attribute largely to one thing: white privilege.
During the height of my chronic illness of addiction, I spent time in neighborhoods and circumstances in both Los Angeles and Seattle that ranged from the most impoverished areas to the fanciest neighborhoods. In the former I felt comfortable because it reminded me of early childhood, and the latter was the given circumstance due to the college education that my parents invested in and the career I built in technology.
It is because I am a white, relatively young woman that certain things come easier to me. I was able to pay off court fees, because I can much easier get shelter that allowed me to be close enough to a workplace that provided me the funds to continue to build my life back up along with the aid of my family. I feel a stark difference in the ease of networking, meeting people and moving through the world where I am perceived as another white American in contrast to the perception that I was of a different, lesser race in Europe. Do I experience other kinds of prejudice as a woman in tech? Absolutely, and yet I also believe that being white alone has given me opportunities that others do not easily acquire.
Nevertheless, something painful and shocking happened to me a couple of months ago: I took this peer reviewed research backed test that exposes whether you have a preference over one race or the other.
You can take it too:
And I proceeded to read “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Banaji + Greenwald.
As I sat down to take that test, I felt self-centered pride kicking in and I was SURE that I would just come out as the fairest of the fair given my deep seeded personal experience with prejudice growing up.
I WAS VERY WRONG. It turns out that somewhere deep in my psyche, the corrosive and subtle thread of prejudice that is surfacing and being exposed in our media recently, lies within me too. The test results showed that I have a moderately high inclination towards associating good with White Americans and bad with African Americans.
The book outlines that this is the case for just about every person surveyed. That we fall into these traps called “mindbugs,” where our minds form disassociations, parallels, and assumptions that lie beneath our conscious beliefs about ourselves and how we show up in the world.
So then I took a deeper look and recognized that I do sometimes laugh at jokes that are offensive and propagate these attitudes. I do sometimes give money to homeless folks that look more like myself on the outside. Even though I am FULLY aware that race is a construct and I have been passionate about speaking on equality for my entire life.
So what NOW?
Recovery has taught me that you can not control what life throws at you, but you can control how aware and conscious you are through these experiences and the actions you take as a result.
I am taking the same attitude towards this topic. Instead of just being a noun: immigrant, woman in tech, entrepreneur, I choose to do something about it. I will show up as a verb and be conscious and aware of my words and behaviors, and change them in the moment at a granular level so that I can change my unconscious psyche one moment at a time. I believe if we all did this, one coffee shop trip at a time, we would start seeing a behavioral change that will lead to larger scale impact on a societal level.
I am also aware, though, that since I am part of the problem I can not have all the answers. So I open myself up to suggestions of what can I DO as a member of the global community with my monetary and time resources that will ACTUALLY make an impact.
Please share below and share with your friends. I hope this inspires you to evolve from a noun to a verb and take an action towards doing something different for our fellow men and women.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself” - Anonymous