Last night, I met up with a friend in Union Square. I had just come from a poetry reading and he had just come from a bar in Brooklyn. I asked him how he was and he began to describe how horrible his work day had been. Apparently, his manager had been disrespectful towards him and he was ready to go off on her. This was third job where this type of situation had occurred--within the last few months. Again, I found myself listening as he lamented against spending all that time at his elite university only to have to put up with this type of treatment. Surely, all that time spent studying and sacrificing was supposed to lead to something better than this, right?
As I listened to his complaining, I began to smile to myself slightly. I too had been down this road after my first year of college. It was the first time I had had a job and the first time I really had to interact with adults in a non-academic setting. I soon realized that it didn't seem to matter to anyone that I had been given a scholarship to an boarding school and Connecticut. Or that I had attended a college that put more black students in medical school than any other university in the country--including Harvard. No. No one. Not one person cared. Not one person changed their estimation of me. I was just the weird girl who answered the phone. It wasn't long after that I realized that I needed to check my elitism and sense of entitlement at the door because it certainly wasn't doing me any favors.
I tried to explain this to my friend who, like me, was also a boarding school alumnus. We had bonded over our experiences as very "specific type of black people." We talked about all of our shared experiences with racism while at school and feelings of isolation within our own families. However, our opinions always seemed to diverge when it came to work. To him, I did too much. To me, he was lazy. Again, he would stress how much smarter he was than his boss. I would try to remind him that it didn't really matter if he was smarter than his boss, because his boss was still his boss.