For today’s blog, Crystal Lay weighs in on her experiences with social media. Crystal is an Assistant Director of Residential Education at UC Berkeley. Her life motto is God first, family second and career third. She has been in residential life for 15+ years. Crystal’s professional passion areas include Residential Curriculum, Social Justice and Inclusion, and Professional Development. When she isn’t working she enjoys spending time with her husband Jake and their two children, cooking, and traveling. You can find more of her writings at https://clayonlineblog.wordpress.com/
I am very selective with how I manage my facebook profile and postings. Very rarely do I post anything publicly. Very rarely do I post anything unsavory in my status updates. When it comes to who gets to be a part of my facebook world; I usually only add people who I have met in person which includes family, former colleagues and students, and folks who I have met at conferences. Generally I post things about my family and my values, along with the occasional memes and political rants. There are times when I post more personal things out of wanting to vent or wanting prayer or advice. When you look at my page I think it is safe to see what my values, priorities and passions are; what you see is what you get. I am very comfortable with my online presence. If you have a question about what I have posted I am fully prepared to respond.
I remember the saying, “if you do not want anyone to know it, don’t write it down”. I also remember being asked the question, “would you say that in front of your Grandmother?” I use these things to guide most of the things I do in my life. I am also finding that I use this when it comes to how I manage my social media presence. I think my brain is on automatic filter because it wasn’t until I began writing this that I realized how this factors into my facebook presence. I am also a Mother and I think about what would I want my kids to think of the things I am saying. And lastly as an Administrator, a black Administrator, what example will I set. So, today I feel pretty good just being me; a black Christian Mom who is an administrator who is comfortable in her skin. I also think being myself has come from being at the point in my career and my life where I am confident. I know that I do good work and I also know that worrying and stressing over what people think of me is unhealthy. Don’t get me wrong, I need my job! I have a family to support BUT my wellness is tied into pleasing God and taking care of my family. When I go to work I remind myself that I work for God. I use the phrasing, S.T.O.P; Spirit Take Over Please, before I enter situations where things may be difficult because like I said, I need my job.
You see I used to live my life differently. I was told that I had to walk better, talk better, and dress better than Whites. I was told that I needed to work twice as hard. These are the messages that I received for quite some time. In my workplace I noticed several things that reinforced that idea. I got a masters and that wasn’t enough, then I got a second masters, nope. Then I started my Ph.D. because I was told that I would then get a bigger seat at the table. But it seemed I did all these things and I felt incomplete. As a Black women, who at times identifies as Multiracial, I am very aware of the fact that my tone or my facial expressions somehow mean something different than when my white counterparts speak. My tone can be perceived as angry, aggressive or as challenging. Early on in my career my evaluations from my students would say, she is unapproachable or aggressive. Somehow I was always the problem. When did asking someone to do their job or providing them with feedback become a problem? I remember crying in my office after several evaluations. I remembered the evaluation where my staff said that I talked about race too much. I addressed the issue with my staff but that wouldn’t be the last time or staff. I also began to notice how I was often confused with the other black woman in the office. This has happened at 3 different institutions whether it be through face to face name mix ups or receiving each other’s mail. And then there are the parents who wanted to speak to someone above me and you could see the relief whenever my supervisor was white.
When I read posts on social media where folks voice their frustrations, confusion, and pain; I get it. I have had facebook since 2005 and I have watched it turn into a place where folks share everything. At the time I did not post things, that I can recall, on facebook about the racist things that were happening to me but I found ways to turn it into an article or I would send it out to a listserv to folks who would get it and me. I did not think that me speaking my mind or sharing my experiences would equal me not getting a job. Or that employers would question my emotional intelligence or professional maturity. At some point I realized that yes, it could have an impact and I had to be okay with that. And guess what? I was and I knew that if I had a story to tell then it had better be founded and worth a listen. I began to think about data, experiences, and also solutions. The average person struggles when there are problems listed but no solutions. I became a part of people of color focus groups and we were focused on addressing the issues and concerns. But the one thing that was constant was the awareness that there could be consequences for our actions.
I want there to be space to share our experiences and our voices. Safe spaces to really be who we are should and need to exist. Social media can be that place but know that one of the risks of showing up authentically is people may not like us. People may not want to hear us BUT that is about them; not us. We may be put on a “blacklist,” but there is more than one list. On my list I remember that people make rookie mistakes and I also remember that there are some people who are sharing their stories about being marginalized, oppression. There are people who are tired of feeling defeated and unheard and they are desperate for hope and for action.
The sad and unfortunate reality is that there will be a different set of consequences for brown people. The stakes are different. Some people aren’t ready to deal with all that comes with my black face. I love my black face. I love being myself. I own my words and my actions. It took some failures, some reporting, and a whole lot of courage to take off my mask. So, please just remember that you need to be able to own what you have said and to be prepared for folks to ask for an explanation.
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