First, let me shout out the amazingly dynamic Shonda Rhimes for todays’ title. She has been quoted and made the term “F.O.D” infamous. The acronym speaks to a person of color being, the first, the only, or the different one in any situation. For me it mostly speaks to my education and my corporate life.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been the F.O.D. From the time I was in grade school, until and after I left the corporate grind. Today I still find, in many networking sessions I am the F.O.D. Somehow, being the F.O.D., I inadvertently became the representative or the spokesperson for everyone who has the same or similar skin color to mine. How fair is that? NOT AT ALL!
Being the F.O.D. is hard. The pressure that you’re under is extreme. As a child I was always told that I “had to work twice as hard to get half as much’. That was my unfair reality. I learned how to code-switch in order to make “them” feel comfortable. I learned how to play “their” game and at times dulled my shine in fear of showing up as the ABW (Angry Black Woman)
It wasn’t until my college years that I finally found my voice. I learned to be proud of my strength, my gifts, and the color of my skin.
I recall a time in my early corporate life where a senior leader pulled me aside to tell me that I needed to “tone it down”. He awkwardly approached me to say that I was not approachable and made the other people in leadership uncomfortable because I was perceived by them as “cocky” (trust me I know the difference between being cocky and being confident). He said ” Tara, not everyone has had the advantages in life that you have. Not everyone was afforded to same experiences”. He said “Some people are intimidated by you because you walk with your head up and you look people in the eye” THE AUDACITY!!! What he did not know was that I don’t look like what I have been through.
My blessing was that I had parents who knew that we were not our circumstance. They taught me that I deserved the same opportunities as everyone else. That although society didn’t (and in many cases still doesn’t) believe that I am equal, that I should and could be judged by my merit. That I am not the label that someone else has put on me.
How dare, this “superior” tell me to dull my shine so that HE could feel more comforatbale. The privilege he had still stuns me to this day.
I could have played his game or could I create rules to my own game. Thankfully, my rules afforded me the ability to progress and succeed in Corporate America. Can you imagine what the outcome could have been if I had taken his advice? BOY BYE!!
After that incident, I was hell bent on getting a seat at the table. I was focused and determined to be the F.O.D. and to be damn good at it. Not only would I earn a seat at the table but I would be a valueable asset.
Let me tell you something, as Maya Angelou said, ” Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. I am no longer interested in having a seat at the table. I left the corporate grind because I am more interested in building my own table.
This past week I had the extremely pleasure off meeting Elaine Welteroth – Author of “More Than Enough”. Elaine too has been the F.O.D. many times in her life. It so happens that I was introduced to her through mainstream media congratulating her for being the F.O.D. as editor-in-chief at Teen Vogue.
In More Than Enough, Elaine talks about her life and journey as a black woman and mixed-race woman. Her commitment to uplifting and supporting the under represented and woman of color spoke to me because I too am committed to be an inspiration for woman.
I am a strong, beautiful ,intelligent, black woman, who has identified her gifts and her purpose in the world.
“ I am a GOOD WOMAN who is consistency working on being a BETTER woman so that I can help inspire the NEXT WOMAN” -ME
I am the Kool Auntie and Sister-friend who is a supportive, non-judgmental, sounding board for woman. I am:
- Here to support you as you reclaim the life you were born to live.
- Here to remind you to never dull your shine.
- Here to help you break the generational curses that have held you back.
- Here to help you change your inner dialogue that is stopping you from being successful.
” I am inspired to be an inspiration” – The Kool Auntie