Let’s Get Real About Why Women of Color Are So Tired
Playing by the rules in capitalist America comes at the cost of our mental, physical, and emotional health
Women of color leaders are guarding a dirty little secret: Our work is eroding our mental, physical, and emotional health. We are slowly wrecking ourselves as we try to transform political organizations, foundations, media rooms, nonprofits, and the publishing industry. In the first few weeks of 2020 alone, every conversation I’ve had with my colleagues revolved around how we’re exhausted and struggling at best, or suffering from a specific illness at worst.
For nearly three decades, I have worked in the nonprofit world, which I thought was focused on justice and love. So have many of my peers. But we have also, often unknowingly, become complicit in a capitalistic system that encourages competition and compromise.
With rare exceptions (like Ayanna Pressley’s recent revelation of alopecia), we’re not talking publicly about our deep exhaustion for many reasons, including our own shame and sense of failure. It’s time for us to confront some of the core reasons for our suffering: the scarcity mentality and a culture of celebrity and competition that underpins even the most progressive spaces. Women of color experience this culture in particularly challenging ways.
We’re not talking publicly about our deep exhaustion for many reasons, including our own shame and sense of failure.
We are conditioned to do more with less
The scarcity mindset tells us that there’s only so much to go around. Only so many leadership roles, only so much money. Therefore, we hold tight to the opportunities that come around.
Scarcity is built into our lived experience as immigrants and people of color. We may have enough love to go around, but often we don’t have enough funds to make ends meet, to build a nest egg, to own an extra pair of shoes. When we come into leadership roles, we can easily build on our lived experience, learning how to do more with less, underpaying ourselves for the greater good, feeling like there’s not enough…