When Race, Ethnicity & Class Collide
The holidays are always a time of reflection; this year, that sentiment was a lot heavier than usual for most. While many were prevented from gathering for the traditions they most look forward to, I decided to take a step back, and recreate the ones from my past. And that meant a low key Christmas with my new wife, making my mom’s famous pepperpot, a mixed-meat stew — served hot and humbly.
My parents were immigrants Guyana, South America. We grew up in a traditional Caribbean household, rich in family and filled with love. As I got older, went to school, got a job, and started making a life for myself, my upbringing has had an unignorable influence on my thoughts, feelings, and choices.
The farther I get from the humble beginnings I grew up in, the more I realize the factors that cause the disparities I experienced as a child. From the outside, I assume the type of echelon expected of any type of executive role but through a very different perspective — one that makes me much more in tune with the privilege I lack — even at this stage in my life.
I know the success I’ve experienced in my career is distinguishable — I am fortunate enough to be the VP at an incredible agency with boundless talent and potential. And I recently accepted a new promotion, managing a second team from our Los Angeles location. But with my excitement as my career progress comes unique anxiety to which many of my colleagues cannot relate.
With this new opportunity, I’ll be leaving the comfort and familiarity of Kingston, NY to embrace the unknown of Los Angeles. An exciting challenge to face, but not quite the same for me as it is for my colleagues. The security of intergenerational wealth is something I’ll never know, and so every new opportunity carries more weight than many in my position have to consider.
I constantly live at an intersection of race and class; two worlds continuously colliding not nearly as cohesively as we like to pretend they do. No matter where my career takes me, I will always continue to see affluence through a different lens as my world teeters on both sides of the spectrum, consorting with a different level of status within my close professional network.
So this brings me back to that soul-warming bowl of pepperpot. As I prepared it just the way my mom would have this year, the focus of my reflection was on the types of experiences that aren’t usually discussed. They may be slight in the eyes of others, but they impact my life every day. I see this single dish, made up of so many stories and memories as much richer than anything I can order off a five-star menu. In a world of filet mignons, it’s the simple reminder of who I am and what’s really important that I truly needed.