For some time now, I have questioned how to best fit into the trajectory of my future without losing the undercurrent and authenticity of my past. As a Black female navigating the legal sphere, every progressive step is marred with questions of imposter syndrome and anguish over a loss of identity.
Every Black individual exists in a duality of realms. One in which they are continuously challenged to navigate the spheres of their peer relationships and another where they are challenged to succeed beyond the stereotypical notion of what it means to be “black”.
The educational environment, in particular, propels Black individuals to look at the world under a new guise and determine for themselves who and what they ought to be in that space.
In my journey, I have found that the notion of imposter syndrome becomes a reality each time that I question my worth in different spaces.
The idea of fitting into a preconceived box of blackness goes against the very essence of being Black. As a nation and as a people, we have overcome every obstacle and defied the odds time and time again.
As a collective, we have decided that to be Black is to be powerful.
To be Black is to be strong.
To be Black is to thrive against all odds.
To be Black is to fear and yet act despite the fear.
As was once articulated by the late James Baldwin:
“You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.”
As a young female navigating the many spheres of the legal world, I have found that, at times, I am faced with situations that shake my reality and cause me to question who I am and what I stand for.
When racialized discussions are raised in my educational setting and amongst those whose voices carry weight in the academic sphere, and are met with tolerance instead of outcry, it causes me to question where I stand in such an educational setting. When these discussions are cloaked under the broad and vague concept of “freedom of expression” instead of being tackled with a stance against injustice, I cannot help but question where I stand.
Yet, in these moments, I am once again reminded of the words of James Baldwin:
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced”
It is in being pit against a system that questions your ability to succeed and dares you to excel that I find myself challenged to succeed.
Although the imposter syndrome remains and exists as a silent whisper in the decisions that I make, I am comforted in knowing that my actions and decisions to foster change will cause the spaces of representation to widen for the generation of Black people who will come after me.
I am comforted in knowing that despite my current discomfort in rooms, my boldness to effect change will reverberate for others.
What is it like to go into a room and not be keenly aware of your difference? What does it feel like to obtain a position in life after years of hard work and not be referred to as an anomaly? These are some of the questions that my colleagues from other races will never have to ask themselves. Truth be told, these questions raise issues that will have likely never occurred to some of my peers.
Although these questions plague my mind now, I am comforted in knowing that by reason of my presence in these historically non-black legal spaces, years of systemic barriers and oppression are slowly fading. This comfort, however, is not synonymous with complacency.
There is more to be done and more change to be effected.
True change is a continual process.
Eunice E. Dapaah