“Be Anything” story transcript
Mathew Zeig: All right, so we have Brittany Thomas here [uh] with us regarding our diversity project. So, I’m gonna ask Brittany a few questions [uhm] that she wants to share some answers with us. So, starting off, Brittany what is diversity to you?
Brittany Thomas: Diversity to me is a [uhm] a mixture of many differences, differences of perspectives, difference of race, religion, and sexual orientation and it’s not only a representation of those differences but also a respect of those differences as well as inclusion of those differences into society, because we can’t have diversity without inclusion. Because [in the] days of segregation, there were no talks about diversity, you know. So, we have to have all of that coming together so that we can not only have a more just society, but also so that we can realize that, though we have these differences, we do have many similarities within our diverse society.
MZ: Ok, thank you. So, where have you lived? And how have those places affected your life?
BT: So, I grew up in Detroit. In our city, Detroit [uhm] is a pretty much all black area. So, from elementary through middle school I only knew black people. I was surrounded by black people every day, that was my normal every day life. Right after middle school I moved to Browns Town, I went to a high school was predominantly white, so I went from an area where it was pretty much 80 to 90% black to an area where it was 80 to 90% white. It was a culture shock and it was the first time that I really noticed my race. It was the first time that I felt marginalized because of my race.
[Uhm] Growing up I was always at the top of my class, I was always in honors programs, I did summer camps. And when I got to high school, I went to a mostly white high school, and it was the first time that I heard someone say: “Wow, I didn’t know that people like you was smart,” and it was SHOCKING! IT WAS ABSOLUTELY SHOCKING! Because before I proved that I was smart, no one wanted to be in a group with me, no one wanted to include me in those things, and then after it was realized that “black people can be smart too.” Then people were like, “do you wanna join my group?” Even up until the day when I was graduating from high school – I graduated as valedictorian – and no one really talked to me about college, unless they were asking me, “Are you going to run track in college?” (I ran track in high school). Other people would ask me, “Oh, so, if you go to college, you can find a nice man to marry,” and that was really interesting. So, to me [it] felt like, you know, looking at me as a black woman, that I wasn’t necessarily viewed as intelligent and I wasn’t necessarily viewed as someone who would truly value education, and that was truly surprising to me in an educational setting.
Those instances, they really influenced me because they kind of showed me that I really have to prove myself in a lot of situations, and I wasn’t okay with it, but I accepted it, and that’s something that I continued to do and continued to accept – the fact that I have to prove myself and there is that constant struggle with trying to figure out how to fight that, how to fight having to prove yourself, because we are all worthy. In education, we are all worthy of having that chance to show that we can do any and everything, without having to prove necessarily that we can do any and everything. No kid should grow up [sic!] having that idea that I am powerful, I am powerful beyond measure, and I can do whatever it is that I want to do, that I could put myself to – without having to be questioned about their intelligence and being questioned about their merit when they’re saying things that they truly believe that they are able and capable of doing.
MZ: Ok. Thank you, thank you for sharing. Uhm, last question that we kind of talked about, what do you want others to understand about your identity?
BT: So, I want others to understand that my identity is very complex. As a black woman, I feel that there’s no situation I can go into where I’m just black or I’m just a woman. But there are also many other things that come in with that and I have privileges, but I also have many things in my life that do marginalize me – such as being a black woman. But by being educated, that is a privilege that I do have and that I’m able to recognize, and I want people to recognize. I want people to understand that you know that my upbringing, my relationships that I’ve been through, my learning experiences, those all coming together, my family, those all come into play when I say who I am and when I truly feel who I am. Who I am is ever-changing, it is, it is always something that I always want to be able to grow as a person, and I never wanna be complacent and put into a box. I never want people to say… you know, I went through a time where I wanted to be vegetarian [laughs] and I felt like when I told people that I wanted to [be] vegetarian they were always, like, “oh, now you’re eating meat,” and you know you say one thing and people say and people think that that one thing will define you forever; and you know identity is fluid, it can always be fluid, and it’s okay for it to always be fluid.
MZ: Ok, Brittany, I appreciate your willingness to come on camera and talk about diversity and what it means you, and kind of give some of your background for this project, so thank you very much.
BT: Yes! Thank you Matt.